When one door closes

I always read with interest those editorial and op-ed writers in Jamaica commenting about the ongoing American election campaign. To me it is an act of bravery on their part, since being distant from the ground of battle, it is difficult for them to discern just what is true and what is false – much less make an original comment. The difficulty of making precise or original comments about a distant political election is exactly why I don’t make comments on certain political happenings in Jamaica, even though I have my opinions. For example I cannot determine which one of the two candidates for the PNP presidency is the more corrupt one; that is to say which one has the support of a majority of fictitious ‘paper’ delegates. What I can comment on is my surprise utter disappointment that these “national political leaders” are incapable of conducting a free-and-fair election with only a few thousand electors. Frankly the surprise on my part should be that Jamaica doesn’t have a history of fictitious voters participating in the deliberations at Gordon House; we really should check the Hansard to make sure no recent vote was decided by a margin of 32 MPs in favor to 31 MPs against for a total of 63 MPs.

Clovis take on the PNP delegate scandal   Copyright 2008 Clovis Brown
Clovis' take on the PNP delegate scandal. Copyright 2008 Clovis Brown

But seriously, as I digest that this is really the way which a president of one of our two major parties can be elected, I have one question rattling around in my head: Are these politicians, dem dey one dey, really the most adroit among us? Surely, they are not the best Jamaica has to offer.

I believe there is a direct relationship between the widespread prevailing political graft endemic to Jamaica and the many violent crimes emanating from under-educated youths (not to mention corporate graft.) You can draw a straight line from frequent political graft to the perception that there is no robust and competent law enforcement apparatus; and another straight line from that perception to a murder rate of 2,000 per year. Again I note that few important players are ever indicted AND convicted in Jamaica, such that the system of justice we have in place is one where merely to be charged with a crime creates the perception of guilt among members of the public à la the JCF’s Bungles or the PNP’s Kern. But in the end, save a little ignominy, there is no jail cell in the future of Bungles or Kern. None! So who, if anyone, will be indicted for the fraud that is alleged here, which is likely true? Will there be an investigation by an independent and competent authority? Will an important player go to jail as a result of these acts of fraud? Sadly we already know the answers to these questions. Yet despite setting the example time and again that “Nuh law nuh dey in Jamaica;” we think the only option we have to counter the violent and heinous acts of carnage engulfing the nation completely is via police brutality (“We need to shoot poor people”). Or at the other end of the spectrum are those that believe in slow-motion crime fighting via development and opportunity. Both these attitudes are wrong!

Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani got one thing right when it comes to crime fighting, and it a point that eludes commentators in Jamaica. I must note that despite my endeavors to be a charitable person who holds no malice for anyone, Rudy Giuliani is a man who continues to provide reasons for me to despise him. His coded racism with references to  Obama as a “community organizer”at the recent Republican convention is just a single addition to the list. Coincidentally it is due to police brutality that I began to despise Rudy. I already had passionate disagreements with his policies when a Haitian immigrant named Patrick Dorismond was murdered by the NYPD in March 2000. Giuliani, at that time the incumbent Mayor of NYC, released Dorismond’s sealed juvenile criminal record to disparage the dead Dorismond. In addition, Rudy declared famously that Dorismond “was no altar-boy.” Ironically, Dorismond had in fact been an altar boy, and an alumnus of the same school Catholic school which Giuliani had attended. So it takes alot for me to agree with Rudy, and he once made a rather salient observation which I am forced to paraphrase as I can’t find the exact wording. What Rudy Giuliani observed was that despite no tremendous/trans-formative increase in funding for social programs, crime in many NYC neighborhoods and even among several demographics (read: black-on-black crime) went down dramatically when the NYPD started to enforce the laws aggressively against everyone in the 1990’s.

Many people have heard of the broken windows theory of policing, as first implemented by former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton (even though Rudy takes all the credit.) And, indeed as the linked Wikipedia entry points out, there are several convincing arguments to be made that the zero-tolerance policies that grew out of the theory were not the only determinants in the decrease of crime in New York City. Yet I think only a fool would deny that the zero-tolerance policy has had a salutary effect on the quality of life in the City; it created the perception of a robust law-enforcement apparatus. This has been a crucial factor in sensitizing would-be criminals to the ability of the law to reach them and punish them.

I’m going to repeat that for emphasis: the zero-tolerance policy has been a crucial factor in sensitizing would-be criminals to the ability of the law to reach them and punish them.

Ultimately an analogy of what most Jamaican commentators are suggesting vis-à-vis the high local crime rate is this; now the cow has gone through the gate, our recourse is to slam the gate shut really, really violently. What they fail to realize is that not only will this tactic fail to bring back the errant cow, but it will also damage the gate such that slammed enough times the gate will eventually fall off.

These adherents of the Shoot Poor People School of Crime-Fighting were loud and obnoxious in their calls to capriciously abridge the right and lives of the poor and poorly-connected even if the perception of no law in Jamaica among the masses will only rise as a result. I note that these commentators have to date made no calls that the rights or lives of our political leaders be similarly abridged in the wake of the PNP delegate allegations. So let me step into the vacuum and call for the PNP leaders to be investigated and arrested and tried for fraud or other relevant crimes in the wake of this despicable episode. Let justice be done though the heavens may fall.

Oddly, many Jamaicans fail to understand how stabilizing the effect of arresting those in Cabinet ministers, Parliamentarians and political hangers-on that violate the law would be for the country. When you enforce the law aggressively and consistently in an even steady way (versus capriciously in selective fits and starts) you send a message to all citizens about the rule of law in the society. You make a statement about the ability of the law to reach and punish anyone, anytime, anywhere for any crime! Rather than destabilize the country, it would foster greater stability — assuming we’d still have a quorum in Gordon House.

I have an example for you. I recently tweeted that readers should Google Governor Rowland, Governor McGreevey, and Governor Spitzer. In the NY tri-state area all these Governors have been forced from office in that order. Fmr Connecticut Governor, John G. Rowland (Republican) was forced from office in mid-2004 for financial corruption — he admitted to accepting bribes. Fmr. New Jersey Jim McGreevey (Democrat) resigned in late-2004 as well, not as a result of being “a gay American” as he stated; but due to the fact he appointed his unqualified male lover to a sensitive state post. McGreevey put his Israeli boyfriend, Golan Cipel, in charge of homeland security for New Jersey; yet Cipel was so unqualified that the federal government refused to issue him a security clearance — long before anyone knew of their affair. And finally Fmr. New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer  (Democrat) resigned in March of this year when caught on a federal wire-tap getting a high dollar hooker shipped across state lines to a sexual rendezvous in Washington, DC.

Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell
Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell

That much most well-informed Jamaicans are likely aware of, what you may not know is this. In each of these cases, the person who became Governor as a result of these scandalous resignations was more liked and performed better than their predecessor. Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell became the second female governor of CT when she replaced Rowland and she was handily re-elected on her own mandate in 2006 due to her overwhelming popularity. NJ didn’t have a Lt. Governor, so the president of the state senate, named Dick Codey, became governor when McGreevey resigned. Codey was so beloved that several polls showed how easily he could fend off any Republican challenge in the subsequent gubernatorial election. The only reason Codey didn’t run was that the sitting federal senator Jon Corzine (with his investment banking wealth) pretty much bought the support of the state Democratic Party with big donations, thus Corzine is the incumbent Governor of New Jersey. But when Corzine is term limited out of office, I’m confident Codey will be the Democratic nominee and will likely be elected governor.

New York Gov. David Paterson
New York Gov. David Paterson

Finally the man that replaced Spitzer was NY’s Lt. Gov. David Paterson; who is both the first black governor of NY and first legally blind governor in all America. Born to a mother named Portia and a half-Jamaican father, Paterson is a delight to listen to on TV or in person. And his administration to date has been among NY’s most extra-ordinary, especially given the problems he’s faced with the recession and dramatic drop in Wall St. revenue to NY coffers. Given the chance to support Paterson’s election to his own mandate as Governor, I’d happily do it.

So what is my point: As Bob Marley says “when one door close don’t you know, another is open.”

Speaking of Bob Marley, Annie Paul recently posted a video of Natural Mystic on her blog that contained footage of Bob’s funeral. In the video from 0:29seconds to 0:36seconds you see Edward Seaga (PM at the time) and Michael Manley (Opposition Leader at the time) greet and shake hands. Behind Seaga are two young men who carried themselves more like his bodyguards than his colleagues; they are Pearnel Charles and Edmund Bartlett. Now I have nothing against these two gentlemen in particular, yet I think it is unlikely that since May 21, 1981 when Bob Marley’s funeral was held and today 2008 — a period of over 27 years — there have been no Jamaicans born who were better qualified to take up the reins of political leadership in Jamaica. Many more will have to suffer yes, ask me why?  Because we have the same stagnant thinking choking our nation in a stranglehold.

Whether it is Portia or Bruce; Peter or Pearnel  all of them have been in power too long. A time fi dem left now. And if not willingly, then we need to prosecute some of this graft and fraud that has been taking place in Jamaica since 1981 and before. So to all the commentators in Jamaica that advocate we slam the gate violently in poor communities by shooting poor people, what will you say about the latest PNP revelation/allegation by Paul Burke — who will call for us to close this door with some arrests? Where are the calls for hard policing in Parliament?

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6 thoughts on “When one door closes

  1. As I proofread this post I realize that the reason Pearnel Charles doesn’t smile in the video and fails to acknowledge Manley at all is due to the historical fact that by 1981 Charles had already been imprisoned by Michael Manley under the “State of Emergency.”

  2. The Shoot-poor-people school of policing really needs to be exposed. the latest outrage, and yes, the more so because he was the son of a DJ and someone who was going to school and wanted to be an ‘author’ when he grew up and was only 17 when the police shot and killed him, Carlton Grant Jr. Spragga Benz’s son…i will be blogging about this…

    what has really changed since Marley sang about ‘Uniforms of brutality’? goes to show that ‘conscious lyrics’ don’t make much difference, doesn’t it?

  3. Hard policing in Parliament is indeed what the society needs. But guess what, nuh law nuh dey inna Jamdown.Jamdown jurisprudence is only applicable to the sufferahs and the wretched of the society.

  4. @ Annie:
    I believe Bob Marley is responsible for social stability in Jamaica, cause if we never have redemption songs we’d all be burning and looting.

    @ Esteban:
    In keeping with the Bob Marley theme, the people have to start “refusing to be what they want us to be.” We’ve been trodding on the wine grapes much too long.

  5. Diatriabilist, you are totally correct, with respect to Jamaican politicians serving disproportionately long periods of time. For example, the four alluded to, at the end of your post, have approximately over one hundred and twenty years between them, in Jamaican politics.In essence, many of them are professional politicians, and they hold on to political offices for excessively, or, inordinately long periods of time, being returned to Parliament, term after term, by the electorate, from their respective constitutencies, even after they have not done anything, in improving the material and human conditions, in such constituenticies.Interestingly, many of them —-politicians —- are dead weight ,or, flotsam, with no new ideas, fresh thinking, vision, and objectives, and need to be jettisoned, in a society and world that/which are constantly being transformed, as a consequence of technology, communications, trade, travel, interdependence, globalization, inter alia. Certainly, what the professional politician does, is to create some form, or , semblance of structural blockage, with regard to the recruitment of new blood, or, political elites to the Jamaican political process and system.Indeed, the recruitment and circulation of new political elites within the Jamaican polity, is extremely critical and essential, especially, for the eradication and elimination of tribalism, clientilism, garrisons, guns, goons, gangsters, drugs, dons, area leaders, etc., since the old guard from both political parties who/that manufactured and created these political and social conditions do not have any interest, and are not inclined, or, disposed in obliterating such political power bases.For, in essence, in expunging such quasi or sub-states, this would be political —politicide — suicide for them. Granted, there are young people that/who are involved in the political process on both sides of the political divide, but the rate or degree of participation ,or, involvement needs to be increased radically.Also, fresh faces from diverse fields and backgrounds would also reinvigorate politcs, as opposed to seeing the perennial doctrinaire/dogmatic, vacuous and intellectually challenged old guards and dead weights.For political changes and reform to occur, this would/may certainly entail some form, or, degree of constititional changes/reform, at the level of the political parties and also with respect to the constitution of the nation-state, which may be slow and lethargic in coming, as a consequence of bureaucratic, political parties and parlimentary constipation.

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