The hour draws nigh. In just about twelve hours, approximately five thousand two hundred delegates of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will converge on the national arena to cast their votes for leader of that party. Theirs is no enviable task. In one corner sits the incumbent; the cool, calm, collected and self-styled transformational leader. He is a former Prime Minister, the former Minister of Education, the former Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, and current Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition; his name is Andrew Holness. In the other corner sits the challenger. He is the self-styled “Man-A-Yard”, allegedly the best hope to return the Labour Party to government. He is the former Minister of Finance and the Public Service and current Opposition Spokesman on Finance. His name is Audley Shaw. As tomorrow’s vote draws closer, the pundits are busy making predictions as to who will emerge leader when the dust clears on Sunday afternoon. In my last few posts on this leadership contest, I urged delegates to choose Andrew Holness. I listed, as best as I knew how, the reasons Mr. Holness should be retained as leader of the party. I am now prepared to go a step further; I predict that Andrew Holness will be retained as leader of the JLP tomorrow. Here’s why.
If recent media reports are to be taken seriously, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party is headed towards an explosive leadership challenge in November, when the party is expected to convene for its annual general conference. It is all but confirmed that the Opposition Spokesman on Finance, and the self-styled “Man-A-Yard”, Audley Shaw will challenge the relatively new party leader, Andrew Holness for his job. Considering the divisive and turbulent internal political history of the Labour Party, many people are expecting a bitter and damaging process to unfold. While I am of the view that a challenge is necessary, if only to ‘legitimize’ Holness who was anointed, rather than elected, leader; I am uncomfortable with the utterances which imply that Holness is a poor leader, and therefore must be deposed by a challenge.
Editor’s Note : The views expressed below are not my own. Javed Jaghai returns to Veritas with his take on Jamaica’s current political realities. Read. Reflect. Comment.
Jamaican politicians may be terrible leaders, but they are masters of political strategy. They understand our culture very well. They know how to appease us, they know how to mistreat us (and get away with it), and they know that we are familiar enough with each other to privilege loyalty and character over intellect and effectiveness.
Our past and present politicians must be held responsible for the state of Jamaica today. By the time the stalwarts who have served since my birth die, their obituaries will tell of how long they served and how dedicated they were to public service but will say nothing of how poorly they governed.
Jamaica is a very small island with a correspondingly small population. The interconnected webs of social and familial ties breeds familiarity, which, I believe, violates and degrades traditional means of guaranteeing accountability. We trust our elected representatives and we continue ‘fi gi dem a bly’ even though their record of accomplishment speaks volumes to their incompetency. When they consistently perform less than satisfactorily and especially when they fuck up, we excuse their ineptitude with superficial considerations like their so-called ‘good moral character’ and ‘commitment to the community’.
After two crushing defeats at the polls, the 69 year old Jamaica Labour Party has found itself at a crossroads. The party’s newly minted leader, Andrew Holness, has found himself caught between the agenda of the past and a desire to move boldly into the future. The party finds itself divided and fractured, with various segments peddling their personal ambitions – there is even talk of a coup to over throw the top echelons of the party. As all this unfolds, one can’t help but wonder if the party of Sir Alexander Bustamante has once again lost its way and whether it is doomed to repeat the sins of its troubled past. The most heinous of all these sins was the constant attempts to oust Edward Seaga.
As Jamaica draws closer to the 50th anniversary of it’s independence, there are several elements of our government that require immediate attention and reform. If we mean to establish ourselves as a truly sovereign nation, we must rid ourselves of the British method of doing things; especially where that method has not been effective in our political reality. I’ve noted that increasingly the Upper House of our parliament, the Senate, has failed to perform as it should, has been abused by the Prime Minister and has displayed shameless partisanship. It is against this backdrop that I am calling on the new administration to move swiftly to begin a comprehensive reform of the Senate.
I can still remember the ads from the 2007 campaign, “Jamaica needs a change now!”. They were catchy, pointed and relevant; Jamaica was flirting with the Labour Party and it’s promise of change. Many boldly declared that “me and mi neighbour, voting for Labour.” Bruce Golding had been an incredible Opposition Leader, he brought us Trafigura, a motion of no confidence, slammed corruption, poverty, the state of the economy and shredded the record of the PNP administration of the preceding 18 years. All seemed set for a better Jamaica, and then it went horribly wrong.
The polls said it would be close, the pundits opined that it was anybody’s race to win; but when the dust settled on Thursday night, Jamaicans made one thing explicitly clear, this is PNP country. In what was a stunning electoral upset, the Opposition People’s National swept the ruling Jamaica Labour Party from power in spectacular style, winning 42 of the 63 seats in the House of Representatives.