Tag Archives: politics

“Andrew, do the right thing!”

Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica
Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica

On February 25, 2016 the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Andrew Michael Holness, won the general elections.

There have been multiple post-election analyses across various media as to what led to the JLP’s win. Many pegged it to the People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) arrogance, especially during the election campaign. And taking a broader look at the roughly 48% voter turn-out, it is clear that the electorate are…well… “over it”. Regardless of how you dissect it, though, the JLP now forms the government.

When the PNP won in 2011, the same post-election sentiments were dominant – the ousted government was too arrogant. So it wasn’t unreasonable to actually imagine that the incoming government at the time would “tek sleep mark death” and tread carefully, despite its majority status. But it became (almost immediately) apparent, that the voice of the people held value only at the polls. Despite criticizing the size of the Cabinet of the administration before, (now) former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller appointed an even larger executive, and reinstating a salary increase that the Bruce Golding administration denied themselves. New SUV’s were purchased for government ministers at a cost of roughly $60M. Legislation were changed with amazing speed to facilitate the government servicing debt using the National Housing Trust. Accountability was a foreign concept (think Spalding Market, Krauk & Anchor, 360MW bid, Chik-V, Outameni, Klebsiella deaths, etc…). No matter how many times and how loudly the Jamaican people spoke against these significant matters of basic governance, it was as if the government was selectively deaf. Those who dared to speak up were branded as “enemy of the state”, “the chattering class” or the “articulate minority”.

So, on February 25, 2016, the chattocracy spoke where they knew they would be heard – at the polls. And oh how they articulated! They (including those who opted to not participate in the process) gave the JLP a chance at government. The JLP managed to wrest 11 seats from the PNP in an election that had many people (literally) betting against them.

JLP leader and newly appointed Prime Minister Andrew Holness appears (at this stage) to understand the nuances of this victory. His party, under his leadership, worked hard to connect with the people across Jamaica – so much so that 11 seats changed hands. But based on his victory speech on the night of the election, he seems to “get it”:

“It is not the end of a journey; it is the beginning of changing Jamaica… We don’t take it that we have won a prize. We have been given stewardship of the country, and we stand to be held to account for our stewardship. We know that the cost of victory is accountability. The cost of victory is the responsiveness of the government that we will form. The cost of victory is to keep the commitments that we have made.” – Andrew Holness, February 25, 2016

This is a most sober statement. It is easy for a party and its leader to become lost in the euphoria of victory, and perhaps even to become drunk with power during governance. This sentiment shared by Mr. Holness is a flicker of hope that Jamaica will actually have a government that does not take the people whom it serves for granted.

The Most Honourable Prime Minister, in his inaugural speech on March 3, 2016 recalled an elderly voter telling him “Andrew, do the right thing!” He reiterated the burden of victory, and subsequently governance, in this memorable line:

“There is no majority for arrogance. There is no space for selfishness. There is no place for pettiness. There is no room for complacency, and there is no margin for error.”

(I pause to note how this statement plays on statistical terms – statistics which the JLP appeared to have defied in the 2016 elections.)

Deep within I hope against hope that this profound statement was not made only in light of the thin majority that the governing party has. I  sincerely hope that it comes from a place of true conviction and belief that there truly is no place for arrogance, selfishness, pettiness, complacency and error in governance. That this administration WILL listen to the people of Jamaica, not take us for granted, and be “straight up” in its dealings and communications.

In a post election interview with Kevin O’Brien Chang on NCU FM on February 28, Mr. Holness said:

“…people try and misquote and misrepresent what I have said and therefore I keep a very detailed record. In fact, I record everything that I say.”

So do I, Prime Minister Holness. The manifesto is on stand-by.

“Do the right thing!”

– @MizDurie, @ThinkJamaica

 

 

If you had to say it…

 

South West St. Catherine MP Everald Warrington (photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner)
South West St. Catherine MP Everald Warrington (photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner)

“Firstly, I am not crazy…”

Thus began MP Everald Warmington’s formal statement on his behaviour in Parliament.

*crickets*

Sir, if you had to say it…

(And did anyone else say [out loud] that he is?)

This is not the first, nor the worst of this kind of behaviour from the Member from South West St. Catherine. We have seen him spout cringe-worthy, despicable comments before. On live TV, to boot. This pattern of unrestrained tactless behaviour seems to have no end.

It is intolerable. Sadly, though, we fall into a trap of being selective of what we condemn and sanction. Equally tragic is our appetite for the sensational – insatiable yet fleeting. This combination will undoubtedly lead to similar or worse behaviour, and not only from this member.

It is difficult to understand the JLP’s restraint on this (recurring) issue. For each time the party remains silent, or coy in its response to queries on how it is addressing Warmington’s innumerable uncouth public outbursts, it gives the impression that it lacks control (at least), or endorses the behaviour (which would be frightening).

His behaviour is intolerable and cannot continue.

*****

“Firstly, I am not crazy…”

Okay.

-@MizDurie; @THINKJamaica

“I Will No Longer Be Ignored”

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Editorial note: This post was inspired by a tweet I saw earlier today by @jcankash (immediately below). There are a number of ways to get involved in our democracy. I’ve highlighted a few below, but this is by no means exhaustive. If you have other methods and ideas of how people can get involved, send me a tweet (@MizDurie), or post it in the comments. Most importantly, in addition to sharing this post online, please discuss these ideas with your friends, colleagues, co-workers, family members who may not have online access to this post. We need everyone to get involved in some way. Thank you.

****

Jamaican Twitter was set ablaze last night after it was given the label of “articulate minority” by Cabinet member, Robert Pickersgill.

“Pickersgill made the statement immediately following an Opposition walk-out of Parliament yesterday, after Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller failed to answer questions tabled by Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader Andrew Holness, on the ongoing Outameni controversy… ‘No ordinary Jamaican not speaking about it…Twitter? Twitter is ordinary Jamaican? Ordinary Jamaicans know anything about Twitter?’ Pickersgill said, adding that Jamaicans on Twitter are an ‘articulate minority’ and the outcry was ‘politically motivated'”. – Jamaica Observer, November 26, 2014

This sentiment isn’t new, though. Delano Franklin once referred to critics as “the chattering class

In 2002, as a general election loomed, the matter of the numerous scandals which unfolded during the (then) 13-year reign of the PNP came up. How on earth would they expect to win with all that baggage?! The response?

“In terms of the electorate, the average person does not even know about these things…” – Maxine Henry Wilson (February 19, 2002)

It should disgust you that they think this way about you.

It should disgust you EVEN MORE that they’re actually right.

They know that the Jamaicans who vote (and vote them into power consistently) don’t necessarily pay attention to, or critically analyze current affairs issues. Where the “chattocracy” will engage in reasonable dialogue online and on verandas, and measure the pros and cons (and con artists), there are those who don’t. And MANY of those who don’t, vote. And the politicians know this.  We can talk ’til the heavens open up, the bottom line is…the real truth of the matter is that your value boils down to nothing but your vote.

Yes, we can be all idealistic and say “But I am a citizen! My voice is as important as any other person’s!” True, but don’t bother. Learn this: anything that threatens/destabilizes their power (or propels/maintains it) is what they will pay attention to. It hot, but hush. Yes, you do have the right to not get involved. But that is exactly what oppression needs to “grow and flourish”. They don’t care, because they think that YOU don’t care enough to do something about it. Talking and complaining can only go so far.

I am a big advocate for voting. The more you vote, the more you shape the democracy you want to see. You send a message of the type of governance you want to see. I don’t care for whom you vote, as long as you make an informed choice based on your and your community’s needs. Start by getting enumerated. It’s easy, and it’s free. The EOJ explains the process here. Discourse is an essential part of our democracy, and helps shape the issues as they unfold. But our talk has to be supported by consistent action, and ultimately a willingness to learn the one language that politicians pay attention to – a language defined by one symbol: X

In the meantime, there are other things you can do…

Pay attention. Read local and international newspapers and blogs. Examine opposing viewpoints. Listen to news commentary and talk radio. Equally important: DO NOT SHY AWAY FROM ASKING QUESTIONS. If something doesn’t make sense, if it doesn’t sit well with you, demand answers.

Pay attention to what takes place in Parliament. It is streamed live every Tuesday at 2:30pm on JIS’ website, and highlights usually take place during the evening news. Familiarize yourself with Parliamentary processes and procedures. Parliament’s website is a good place to start.

Peruse Ministry websites for information such as statements, policies, news and updates. You may find links to Ministries’ websites here.

Pay close attention to what various interest groups and causes are articulating as their concerns – unions, civil society, environmentalists, religious groups, business and commercial interests, etc. This is important in helping to shape your own convictions around particular issues, and what you should be lobbying your MP for.

Now for the work. Do you know who your MP is? Find out. Familiarize yourself with their track record before they’ve entered politics, and since. Familiarize yourself with their input in the House of Representatives – do their views (and votes) there align with yours? Are they truly representing your interests? This is important because whatever position they take in parliament suggests that they are representing YOUR views. How comfortable are you with this?

Is your MP accessible? Pleased with how a portfolio Minister handled a particular matter? No? Write, call, or march on your MP’s/Minister’s office. If there’s no response (or even an attempt), take it to the media. Write the papers and call the talk show programs.

If you find that your concerns are shared by others in your community, organize around those issues. Have poster/placard-making parties, brainstorming sessions, plan talking points for town hall meetings, etc. There is strength in numbers. Among those types of interest groups I’ve listed above (and others) find a cause – an organization or lobby group – that is aligned with your concerns so that your voice is strengthened. In that is the advantage of an already organized group with which you can be active on the ground and let your voice be heard.

No success there? Form your own interest group. Get your friends, community members, colleagues together and get organized. Develop a plan of action. What that action plan looks like will depend on the skills of those involved, availability, urgency of the matter etc. Use whatever skills you have to help effect change. Are you good with making YouTube videos? What about those exceptional writing skills? Have a loud booming voice good for chanting during a road march? EVERYTHING COUNTS. And EVERYONE can do SOMETHING. Bottom line is that organization is key for any plan to be effective.

STAND UP FOR SOMETHING.

Take it further – journalists are now more accessible via social media. Bring your concern to their attention. Is there a blogger that posts on issues of that nature regularly? Collaborate with them in articulating your concerns. You can also donate to organizations or causes that you believe will advance ideas that are in the best interest of the country.

Don’t forget third parties and independent candidates. It may very well be that some of these people have good ideas and platforms worth paying attention to. Also, remember you are not beholden to any one party. You are not born under the name of a political party; this is NOT PNP or JLP country.

Finally, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU REMAIN SILENT. Those who assume that we are only good for talking think that our voices go nowhere. PROVE THEM WRONG. Not only use these social media tools to shape opinions and put forward ideas for progress, but also use them to push for change and organize for action. Twitter, Facebook, Instgram, and all those meme creators can go so far to get the message out about meeting times, places and activities.

Now, if you are still willing to sit back and do nothing, you are willing to accept that which is dished out to you.

Demand better. Demand accountability. Demand humility. Demand integrity. Do not put up with disrespect by those elected to serve.

And ultimately, hit them where it hurts. Let them know you WILL NOT be ignored. Force them to pay attention – get out there, get enumerated, and vote.

But as a first step

#THINKJamaica

P.S. “The revolution will not be televised”.

– @MizDurie; @THINKJamaica

Drinking the Sand

 

 

I’ve had this title in my drafts for over a month.

Politics in Jamaica is disheartening. And each time I approach these keys to give space to my discontent, I hold back. I ask myself “What’s the point?” every single time.

As I write I observe sentiments shared about a planned protest by the Opposition party, the JLP, against JUTC fare increases. Some support it, others don’t. Still other have no clue that there was a planned protest.

With regard to our social and political ills in general, I’ve seen people comment that they will never vote, or if they have voted before, they never will again. I’ve witnessed complaint after complaint on a myriad of things. Then, after they have run their usual course of nine days, it’s back to regular programming. Nothing to see here. Then, when it comes to taking action, there is always, ALWAYS an excuse.

People have the right to vote or not to vote. People have the right to protest or not to protest. But when it comes to making a change, what WILL we do? WHAT WILL WE DO? Will we continue to excuse incompetence, injustice, disrespect, nepotism, cronyism, and corruption? Why? If not, what ARE we doing to address this chronic disease that plagues Jamaican politics? What exactly are we willing to stand up for (or against)? And WILL we actually do it?

I’ve seen beautifully articulated arguments that pardon clearly ineffective and inept leadership on many of our social issues, and I’m reminded of that scene in “The American President” (I find myself quoting it way too frequently). The dialogue is between (fictional) President Andrew Shepherd and his Assistant on Domestic Policy, Lewis Rothschild:

 Lewis Rothschild: …People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference. 

We’re drinking the sand. There can’t be another explanation for the lethargic way in which we approach the diseased nature of politics that is affecting us. But I must ask: Are we drinking the sand because we’re thirsty? Or are we drinking the sand because we don’t know the difference?

And do we care enough to DO SOMETHING about it?

Will we keep drinking the sand?

THINK, Jamaica.

– @MizDurie, @THINKJamaica
#THINKJamaica
 

 

Here Lieth “Transparency”…

 

 

Editor’s note: This post was originally written and published to THINK Jamaica’s Facebook page on February 23, 2012.

*****

[Sigh] Where do I even begin?  [Takes deep breath] Okay, allow me to roll back the curtain of memories to January 5, 2012.  In her inaugural address, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller stated:

“My administration will not engage in a blame-game. We will present the facts to the Jamaican people, based on rigorous analysis. Our approach must be to right the wrongs and insist on accountability. Let us learn from our past, absorb the lessons and go forward. We only need to look back to confirm where we are coming from, and to correct our errors and weaknesses as we look to the future. That is the way of progress.”

 I highlight this portion of the PM’s speech because there is a matter addressed in today’s Jamaica Observer that I would like to bring to your attention.  The Jamaica Observer’s editorial in today’s paper makes for interesting reading. A number of NGO’s raised concerns about oversight and allegations of sexual abuse at Patricia House – a state-run treatment facility for drug addicts.  Though I do not know the full story behind the editorial, this section in particular raises some concern:

 “Asked for his comment on the matter, the health minister expressed surprise that the issue had been made public since he had met with the parties and the agreement was for media silence.”

 As per the Minister’s request, let us have a moment of silence….FOR TRANSPARENCY.

 (In my best Simpson-Miller voice) We will present the facts to the Jamaican people, based on rigorous analysis.”   What…why…HOW could the Minister POSSIBLY think that THAT stance (for silence) is acceptable?  Hmmm?  Anyone?  How?  So does this mean I was correct after all?  There actually IS a rhetoric of silence?

“…the agreement was for media silence.”  What in the world…?!  I fully agree with the Jamaica Observer on this.  I am insisting on accountability.  Mrs. Simpson Miller, in her inaugural address also stated, “The Jamaican people have sent a clear message. They want a more accountable and transparent government which consults them; and, they should expect nothing less”.  We ARE NOT expecting anything less.

 And to make matters worse, this follows a series of new developments that have joined forces in conspiring to kill our friend, “Transparency”.  By way of a Jamaica House briefing, “Jamaica House Live” took a bullet, so citizens will no longer be given the chance to speak one-on-one with the Prime Minister.  By way of Parliament, the Prime Minister’s “Question Time” was given a lethal dose of reality as Madame Prime Minister requires questions to be asked (“wholla”) seven days in advance of a response from her.  That’s right!  Because apparently pressing issues facing our country gives us seven days’ notice before attacking us (like the Riverton Landfill fire, or the spike in murders).

 Brethren and sistren, “Ashes to ashes…”

*****

@MizDurie, @THINKJamaica