Wed | Jan 19, 2022

Mark Wignall | The prime minister has my sympathies

Published:Sunday | December 5, 2021 | 12:06 AM

Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness speaks at the party’s 78th annual conference at the National Indoor Sports Centre.
Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness speaks at the party’s 78th annual conference at the National Indoor Sports Centre.

At the end of last week, Andrew Holness found himself at one of the lowest points of his power as prime minister. In the back and forefront of his mind were these things. 1. He had taken Jamaica through the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic,...

At the end of last week, Andrew Holness found himself at one of the lowest points of his power as prime minister. In the back and forefront of his mind were these things.

1. He had taken Jamaica through the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, plus in the many lockdowns, stages of economic strangulations and just widespread uncertainties, he prevailed.

2. Now, in the moment when he thought that the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) would view the electorate as the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) sees them, the system becomes derailed. The PNP Senate shoots down the continuation of the states of emergency.

3. On top of that, the prime minister cannot go to bed at nights without having to worry that the next morning he wakes up there will not be another report of governmental corruption.

This is not how the political plan should have played out after September 2020.

In the minds and in the lives of many Jamaicans is the question as to whether this JLP government has any better solution to controlling violent crime than any government that went before it.

Added to that is this. What can Andrew Holness and his key people in the security ministry do to convince us that they understand how to deal with modern criminality, especially in the global sphere?

WHEN YOU KNOW THE DEAD

I have spent the greater part of my life loving those who still love me now and avoiding those who could never love something like me. In-between there has been that part which still puzzles me to this day. Me keeping company with those whose deaths are imminent.

I’ve told you of Joe Dog. Although I pretended not to know of his underworld attachment I still found reason to be drawn to him. We spoke about the difficulties of raising children as you would speak with your school principal. But mostly we spoke about what could be done to quell the gun activity.

“Not going to happen. The society stay upside down. It can’t fix,” he said bluntly.

And then that day I saw him, his eyes bloodshot red and him twisting and turning his neck. He sensed death that day and so did I. He told me that he had not slept for two days. I paid for the two Guinness we drank. Two days later he was shot dead.

When I met that other young man he had just been deported. He was a hero to a lot of the young fellows within earshot of him until his funds were depleted. Then he became just another nobody, hanging outside bars, shops, joints by gully banks.

“People in Jamaica don’t know s… about how we run crime in Philly,” he would often boast.

A fellow deportee who moved close to him but whom he disliked intensely told me that they both learned to read and write while incarcerated in the United States.

Less than a month ago it seemed either that old animosities or new ones came to call on him. Five shots to his head and chest did it.

WHAT DOES THE PNP WANT?

At one level I am certain that the mercenary in the PNP are patting themselves on the back for having toppled the JLP government for its continued involvement in pushing states of emergency. At this point it doesn’t really matter if the PNP is right legally or politically.

The people will deal with the political side while the PNP will have to struggle with its claim to be a champion of constitutional rights. It has long been a fact that our policemen cannot be trusted to deal with our poorest people when no one else is looking on. I know that. There is, however, another disturbing fact that we have to face.

If Jamaica is in the throes of a storm of ferocious criminality, how best should be the response? The answer poses immense difficulties, not the least of which involves social matters of class.

I am forced to ask myself this question. Which class of people do I trust best in this time to make the most socially equitable decision? Is it the man at street level who says he knows the right fix because he is in the grime and grit every day? Or is the academic who strongly pushes the line that he has data to support all of his decisions?

I expect the PNP to show minimal gains.

Only one who has made himself into a fool would not expect the Opposition PNP to have made inroads into the JLP’s huge majority. It may just be that the horizon is lesser off than it used to be instead of the PNP actually sniffing anything that it didn’t smell before.

Barbados has moved ahead of Jamaica simply because the typical Bajan was always brighter that the typical Jamaican. It pains me to say that even if at one stage in the 1970s the typical Bajan considered himself more British that most Caribbean people.

The PNP may wish to pounce on that and make it a campaign issue sometime when the political horizon comes into view. The Queen came to Jamaica in 1980. Jamaicans came out in droves to the point of embarrassment. I was at the Harbour View roundabout to witness Jamaicans almost supplicating at the Queen’s foot.

The PNP may wish to explain that to its people. The JLP probably knows there is just about the same love there.

Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.