Both our political parties went into “shoot yourself in the foot” mode this week, in very different ways. But basically sparking the same general reaction among many of us: kiss teeth, shrug shoulders, sigh, laugh, cry, groan, make cynical noises. And of course, more great fodder for the media.
Let’s start with the party in power, the People’s National Party: As I warned you in Wednesday’s post, at five o’clock that evening the former Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Richard Azan had said he was not aware of any plans to reinstate him. The very next morning at nine o’clock he and his colleagues dutifully appeared all dressed up at King’s House. His colleagues applauded him as the Governor General swore him in. Everyone clapped. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (wearing those hideous sunglasses again, indoors) gave him a warm hug and kiss. The Jamaica Labour Party‘s Daryl Vaz attended (hmm) because the Azans are family friends, or something. Yes, after all the hand-wringing, finger-pointing and recriminations, Mr. Azan is back. He resigned just two months ago after huge public pressure. His return was apparently “urgent” – the reason perhaps being that Mr. Azan’s boss Omar Davies is taking sick leave for an operation.
Oh, what of the promised single anti-corruption agency, which I understand the government had promised to create by year-end? Just a few weeks to go, and… Well?
Since the re-election of Andrew Holness as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader at their conference a week ago, the machinations of the Opposition have become quite complex. The chain of events goes something like this (hope I get this right): Sunday: Holness is re-elected with 57.3% of the delegates’ votes, defeating Audley Shaw. (Fake?) smiles all round. Monday: Holness receives a bunch of resignation letters from Shaw supporters. Tuesday: Holness wants all eight JLP Senators to resign, and then says he didn’t say that. Holness announces his dreary old Shadow Cabinet. Audley Shaw and Ed Bartlett say they cannot accept positions because of certain issues (including the disputed nomination of two deputy leaders, Christopher Tufton and James Robertson). Wednesday: What happened? I can’t remember. Thursday: It seems five JLP senators have resigned. Two prominent ones (Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams) will not. Oh yes, then they did. Williams says Holness used undated resignation letters! Friday: A confused Upper House sits with five out of six remaining JLP senators present. Oh, Holness appointed a new one. His name is Alexander Williams. Weekend: Head spinning. Winner: Andrew Holness. Losers: Audley Shaw. The JLP. Democracy. Governance.
Is Holness the “transformational leader” he thinks he is? Will the JLP ever win an election again? What of all the pieces in this manic chess game? Is there space for them, or have some been knocked off the board? I personally believe Holness has just been a little too “smart” for his own good. At least party chairman Bobby Montague seems to be keeping sane while everyone else is losing their heads…
Meanwhile the private sector is getting antsy again, and it’s not surprising. Businessman Gassan Azan gave a speech recently about this eternal business of “cutting red tape.” If you recall, Jamaica just slipped on the annual “Doing Business” rankings. Mr. Azan wants the government to do something about it, not just talk. But the relevant government ministers are all in a tizzy over the logistics hub. Red tape? Oh, that’s boring stuff. Here is an edited version of Mr. Azan’s speech: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Cutting-the-red-tape–and–making-it-easier-to-do-business–have-become-almost-meaningless_15447161
The Contractor General is right. What is the point of the whistleblower legislation passed during the JLP administration at the end of 2010? One could say there is no “culture” of whistle-blowing in Jamaica (how I hate that word sometimes). Instead, we have the “informer fi dead culture.” We are all afraid of our own shadows. No whistle-blowing round here.
Drums rolling and trumpets blaring for these awesome people:
- Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, along with singer Tessanne Chin, are keeping Jamaicans’ morale up. The two athletes were named World Athletes of the Year (Usain for the fifth time, Shelly-Ann for the first) by the IAAF in a glitzy affair in Monaco over the weekend. They both looked gorgeous – and they are two marvelous role models. We are proud.
- Sir Richard Branson and volunteer Josh Chamberlain who are working together on a project for the Alpha Boys School called Alpha Wear Jamaica. Sir Richard was in Jamaica recently. Read more on Kate Chappell’s blog: http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/branson-visits-jamaica/
- Sheena South and the Portmore Youth Information Centre, who yesterday aired the “Girl Rising” documentary. Here’s Sheena’s Facebook message: “10X10 is a global campaign to educate and empower girls. At the center of the campaign is a feature film, Girl Rising. It’s by an Academy Award nominated director (Richard Robbins) and features performances from Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, and others. This important film tells the stories of nine remarkable girls from around the world who are striving beyond circumstance, pushing past limits and demonstrating the extraordinary strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Yet it also carries a powerful message: if we educate girls, we can change the future of some 66 million girls around the world who today only dream of going to school.Together, we can create powerful change. I hope you’ll join this movement with me.” Great initiative!
- Dale and Evette Walker and the people of Bunker’s Hill in Trelawny (I love that name) who are working to build their community through the Bunker’s Hill Community Development Committee. “They used to call me typewriter at school,” says Evette, “because I was very good at writing.” Great story here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/regional/Working-for-Bunker-s-Hill_15432245
- The people of Trench Town, who staged a special trade and development fair at Kingston’s Emancipation Park yesterday.
There has been a nine per cent increase in murders to date this year compared to last, according to police statistics. We have passed the 1,000 mark to 1,054. That’s 84 – yes, 84 – more deaths than the same time last year. A retired policeman was found murdered in his apartment, just down the road from our house. The brother of a journalist whom I know well, a netball coach, was also shot dead in Kingston. My condolences to their families and friends as well as to all those who continue to feel the pain of loss.
Kenneth Lynch, 66, Lady Musgrave Road, Kingston
Evon Powell, 48, Sutton/Duke Street, Kingston
“Raymond,” Darling Street/Spanish Town Road, Kingston
George Steering, 45, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Oliver Kerr, 34, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Keeble Kerr, 36, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Clifford Lindo, 57, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Infant male, York Town, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Ryan Clarke, Retirement, St. James
To quote a Twitter friend tonight: “Yellow tape is good business.”
A few more articles on the Azan and JLP sagas:
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/civil-groups-strongly-object-reappointment-of-richard-azan_1 Local civil groups strongly object reappointment of Richard Azan: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-p-Opposition-slaps-Gov-t-over-Azan-s-reappointment–p—_15444623 Opposition slaps government over Azan’s reappointment: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/cleisure/cleisure1.html Gleaner editorial: PM’s misstep on Azan
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Resigning-after-a-mandate-change-the-ethical-thing-to-do–says-Holness_15444642 Resigning after a mandate change the ethical thing to do, says Holness: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/principle-not-bitterness-shaw-defends-decision-to-decline-post-in-shadow-cabinet Principle, not bitterness: Shaw defends decision to decline post in Shadow Cabinet: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49289 Holness criticized over Senate “resignations”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/lead/lead2.html Upper House passes irrigation resolutions after Tufton’s resignation
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/11/15/5-facts-the-jamaican-senate/ Five Facts: The Jamaican Senate (the photograph is not of a Senate sitting however).