The Jamaica 50 Controversy
The darling of the Jamaican Government, Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna has found herself in the line of fire concerning the growing controversy around the celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence. Pressure has been mounting on Prime Minister Simpson Miller to dismiss the St. Ann MP from the Cabinet over what is seen as incompetence and tardiness in the staging of the massive event. The controversy has now deepened as information emerged that the present government had changed the theme of the celebrations, as well as shelved the ‘official’ song chosen by the former administration. This has resulted in widespread confusion as to which song is now the ‘official’ one. Minister Hanna has denied that there was any tribalism associated with the changes made, but then the question stands, why change it?
When Minister Hanna initially took office, she announced to the nation that Jamaica 50 was a financial mess, with millions already spent. She advised that she would be scaling back the budget and making cuts; considering her revelation that the finances were a mess, it was acceptable that there needed to be some amount of restructuring. Shortly thereafter she announced that an audit would be done, we still have not heard the results of that. What I’m having a hard time understanding is why that re-structuring had to abandon the original theme which was “Feel The Heart and Spirit of A Nation” in favour of “Nation On A Mission”, is it that the original theme attracted a cost? As far as I’m concerned, all that needed to be done was to cut the budget and execute what could be executed and add new events where necessary. The uncomfortable truth is that “Feel The Spirit Of A Nation” was the most fitting theme considering where we are as a people. Which Jamaican truly believes Jamaica is on a mission? There is a prevailing sense of hopelessness in this country, and many Jamaicans believe our experiment with political independence over the last 50 years has failed.
In changing the theme, Minister Hanna and The Secretariat of Jamaica 50 displayed shameless partisanship, every bit as tribal as the last 50 years of our independence. What’s more, the explanation given is an insult to the collective intelligence of the Jamaican people. The idea that the Ministry of Culture was ‘blind sided’ with regard to the ‘official’ song is laughable at best. If Shaggy did indeed act contrary to the instructions of the Government of Jamaica, what sanctions will be taken against him? And if the song was never sanctioned as the official song, how did it end up on the official website of Jamaica 50 with the designation ‘official song’? Who runs the website? Shaggy? Did he put it there? And if he did? Why is it still there? The head of the secretariat should be fired.
The truth is that he should never have been given the job in the first place. You will recall that Robert Bryan is the same man who was in charge of Jamaica’s participation in the Cricket World, an undertaking which cost the country billions of dollars with little or no returns. It was a colossal failure. What made Minister Hanna believe this was the right man for the job? Is Mr. Bryan affiliated with the ruling party? How much is he being paid? And how much will Jamaica 50 cost Jamaica? The Minister must clearly address these issues, if she hopes to emerge from this controversy with her tiara in place. Jamaicans deserve to celebrate this milestone without the stench of tribalism, a celebration which should have united the nation has now divided us, with PNP and JLP supporters lining up and taking sides. It is an indictment on the leadership of this country and an embarrassment to the people of Jamaica. 50 years later, and our government continues to do us a great disservice.
Finally, in her enthusiasm to ‘clear her name’, former Minister of Culture, Olivia Grange, be mindful of the fact that she no longer occupies the post. While it is her right to responsibly challenge the current Minister, there have been incidents which give the impression that Miss Grange has forgotten that she no longer sits in Cabinet and therefore cannot dictate government policy. Parliament should immediately set up a joint committee to examine Jamaica 50, the responsible individuals should be brought before the committee to answer to these foul ups. My greatest fear is that this event will cost the country billions and at the end of the day, so many of us are not sure what there is to celebrate. It’s time for the former beauty queen to take the microphone and tell the nation what she will do to ensure Jamaica 50 is celebrated with some semblance of world peace. Otherwise, she runs the risk of confirming every negative stereotype concerning beauty queens.