Uncritical Acclaim

Increasingly I am of the opinion that the muddled thinking in op-eds and ridiculous assertions in news pieces are the motive behind the fear that has prevented our local media from employing reader feedback systems like comments and forums. Especially given our people’s capacity for cheekiness. Knowing that comments will be made on their writing tends to have an improving effect on a writer as they seek to ensure they don’t make any claims they can’t defend. Or make statements that lend themselves to being misinterpreted. In Jamaica, ridiculous assertions are risk free.

Take for example PM Bruce Golding’s announcement to the Diaspora Conference that due to the ruling in the Dabdoub v. Vaz case, there can be no Senate representation for those in the Jamaican diaspora. In other words we can’t have representation for those Jamaicans that have sworn allegiance to a foreign power unless that representative has sworn allegiance to a foreign power (which is prohibited). It strikes me as strange, given the way our parliamentary system works, that he could make this assertion unchallenged. For one thing the current MP for Western Kingston wasn’t born  or raised in Western Kingston, doesn’t sleep in Western Kingston, and it is doubtful that this representative has spent 24 consecutive hours in Western Kingston. Yet this MP, named Bruce Golding, is in Gordon House ostensibly representing Western Kingston. Jamaica doesn’t have a tradition wherein you must be from a constituency in order to represent that constituency in Parliament. So why can’t we find an elder statesman (with no foreign passport) who has the bi-partisan credibility needed to represent the Diaspora in the Senate? Why can’t we take one of the Senate seats currently allotted to the governing-majority and use it in this way? If anything it could provide the person so appointed the opportunity to audition for Governor-General. The reason this is not done is due to a lack of political will, but the PM is too wily to say that so he is allowed to lie to the Diaspora delegates who sit and cheer the applause lines built into his speech a few paragraphs down.

Before anyone accuses me of lusting after representation in Parliament, let me just point out it may not be worth much. Western Kingston is represented by the current PM with no great reversal of fortune. And we have video of the conditions in Portia’s constituency to demonstrate being represented by her may be no great shakes either. What is upsetting is the ridiculous claim the PM has made, that stands unchallenged.

Then we have Golding’s predecessor in Western Kingston, Edward Seaga, using his Gleaner weekly column to compete with Butch Stewart for most prolific self-praiser. Perhaps the only comment on his column is the headline writer’s, whose sarcasm must be carefully detected in the bombastic headline “A prophet has no standing in his own country.”

Seaga’s column starts off noting that Nobel Laureate, and founder of the Grameen Bank, Mohammed Yunus recently made a  presentation in Jamaica. Then:

While we “ooh” and “aah” about the concept, it is worthwhile remembering that the novelty of lending exclusively to the poor started in Jamaica with the SOLIDARITY project as an off-shoot of the HEART programme in the 1980s. This project originated with Carla Vendryes (now Seaga) who developed the idea as part of her Master of Public Administration degree at American University in Washington.

Source: Jamaica Gleaner, June 15, 2008

In one paragraph: 1) Seaga slaps Yunus’ Jamaican admirers for failing to give Seaga props; 2) seems to take credit as the global founder of micro-lending with the ambiguous words “started in Jamaica”, and; 3) brags about his wife, his JLP administration, and his own magnificence. In comparison to Butch Stewart, at least Seaga is efficient in his egocentricity. But no comments are allowed since we live in a partisan country where Seaga is unlikely to be allowed to big up himself and spit on Manley’s grave without debate. Don’t we have proverbs in Jamaica about the futility of self-praise?

Of course JLP politicians are not alone in their ability to make ridiculous statements that go unchallenged. PNP politicos are equally odious offenders,  Dr. Peter Phillips is there to remind us. The Jamaica Gleaner’s consistent performer, Daraine Luton, covers this in her piece entitled “Phillips calls out Jamaicans against crime.” Phillips used his sectoral debate to decry the high crime rate and then added:

“The task is to rescue Jamaica from the clutches of criminality for our sake and the sake of future generations,” Phillips said during his contribution to the 2008-2009 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Phillips said Jamaicans cannot give in to criminals and charged that “we have to respond at all levels”.

Source: Jamaica Gleaner, June 11, 2008


“Each of us must begin by ensuring that we are not compromised by connections we may have, that we are unequivocal in our support for law enforcement; that we do not give lip service to bipartisan dialogue while at the same time fanning the flames of political tribalism; that we have the courage to isolate drug and crime bosses who seek coverage under our political umbrella,” Phillips said.

Source: Jamaica Gleaner, June 11, 2008


It would have been sincere and revolutionary if Phillips had pivoted into a confession of his knowledge about the Trafigura kickback/bribe or called on Portia directly to tell the people what she spoke about when she met with Trafigura executives. If Phillips would have called on Portia and other PNP bigga heads to publicly declare the extent of their relationship with Zeeks; and on Bruce to talk about how well he knows the Brothers Coke, that would be an excellent use of the Parliamentary privilege.

As it stands the same cliché tripe that we’re accustomed to was all Phillips had to offer. No wonder he is polling behind in popularity polls, at least Portia has personality.

Perhaps most disturbing though, and a personal disappointment for me, is the propensity of certain well-informed and highly networked commentators to jump on the bandwagon and enroll in the Shoot Poor People School of Crime Fighting. I am referring to no less than Kevin O’Brien Chang, Ian Boyne, and Mark Wignall. These gentlemen are the leading lights of Jamaica commentary, in American business parlance they are “thought-leaders.” Unfortunately each is misleading popular opinion off a precipice in recent columns. All three are co-signing the disastrous policy proposal to Lock-Up-Poor-People-Without-Charges.

Wignall feels we need to “declare a State of Emergency in certain communities/constituencies/pockets for specific durations.” Boyne co-signs this idea with reference to Wignall adding “The prime minister is right that the society has to be persuaded that adopting unconventional methods to fight the terrorism (my word) we face is necessary.”

Not to be left out Kevin O’Brien Chang adds that commentators are often derided for suggesting poor people be locked up without charges: “Increased pre-charge detention limits, so police can hold dangerous suspects while less easily accessible evidence is gathered? Nazi concentration camp fascism! What’s good enough to control crime in Britain and America is, apparently, too good for Jamaica.

Someone needs to inform Mr. Boyne that a political objective is a necessary element in the definition of terrorism. It is the political operative in Jamaica handing out guns in the inner city that has the political objective, there is the terrorist. Why doesn’t Wignall, Boyne, and Chang  promote longer detentions for them without charges? Why don’t we lock up those ‘area leaders’ in Parliament without charge and throw away the key? Because by his own prior admission PM Golding has been one such operative!

Someone needs to inform Mr. Chang that while these measures are good enough for the UK and U.S. there is a sufficiently strong rule of law to generally deter abuse in these territories, which no sane person would assert exists in Jamaica. In the U.S. Nancy Pelosi couldn’t spar with Zeeks and remain Opposition Leader.

This is how perverted the game of hand-wringing about crime has become in Jamaica, that the big guns in our media now train their fire on the poor, stigmatized, and oft-victimized. Why a ongle dem oono have strength fa?

Thank God the Observer and Gleaner don’t allow comments.

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One thought on “Uncritical Acclaim

  1. I generally agree with your critiques. However, I think it would be prudent to suspend any adulation of the columnists and take them one position, one column, one issue at a time. My reading of these columnists over time is that they, more often than not, line up behind the status quo. They may introduce ideas and even raise that seem critical, but by the end of their columns they often end up shredding any deep criticism for the easy way out. Their stance on this issue of (further) violating poor people’s civil rights is typical of how they move.

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