Today is being celebrated the world over as International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate the achievements of those of the fairer sex, while highlighting the work that is still to be done on behalf of women in some of the forgotten corners of our world. Perhaps inevitably the conversation today will turn to towards finding solutions to the real and perceived inequalities facing women. That conversation will undoubtedly rest on quota systems. In fact, a member of the Jamaican Senate has already raised the issue, arguing that it would compensate for the disparity between men and women in the Parliament. I’m no expert in these matters, and I do not pretend to be – these are my opinions having thought about the issue. I have no doubt that the Senator has good intentions, but I cannot support quotas on the basis of gender, especially in political representation. Here’s why.
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.
After months of waiting, the country has the verdict of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) on the Spaulding market scandal. The newly minted Dirk Harrison has concluded that Junior Minister Richard Azan acted in what is tantamount to a “politically corrupt” manner, in relation to the construction of shops on parish council lands. The Contractor General has since recommended the Minister to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to determine if his actions warrants criminal prosecution for conspiracy to commit fraud. The tabling of the report in the House of Representatives has thrown the government in a tailspin, with many sectors of the society calling for the resignation or dismissal of the minister. However, the Information Minister, clothed in her usual arrogance, has advised the country that no action will be taken against the minister until he has had a chance to consult with his attorney and his colleagues. Why would a man accused, by a Commission of Parliament, of political corruption be granted any time to consult anyone? To what end?
You will recall that some time ago I advised the Prime Minister that the time had come for her to step aside and allow for new and credible leadership of the country. Her inaction is again the subject of great concern and distress to me, only this time the inaction threatens the very legitimacy of the Government of Jamaica.
From as far back as I can remember, there has been a discussion regarding age and political representation. Many people opined that Jamaica’s political leaders were too old, and it was time for fresh blood to be pumped into the political system. This line of thinking was strengthened when the great liberal democracies of the United States and Great Britain elected forty year olds, in the persons of Barack Obama and David Cameron, to lead their countries. In an ode to youth, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding effectively prejudiced the race to replace him by calling for a new generation of leadership; realizing they had lost both the battle and the war, the old men of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) dropped their weapons, and lined up behind the youngest of the lot. Thus Andrew Holness was given a clear path to the leadership of the JLP and to Jamaica House. We are now two years on, and his position is under threat of a challenge; those of us who can see pass the here and now are realizing that the challenger, Mr. Audley Shaw, aged 61, represents a very risky gamble for the JLP. Mr. Shaw’s pending challenge brings the issue of youth and leadership to the fore, and if not treated carefully, it will have disastrous consequences.
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’.
If ever a straw broke a camel’s back, that straw fell this afternoon. The Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica released what may go down in Commonwealth history as the most unfortunate statement on behalf of a Head of Government; the office of Mrs. Simpson Miller purported to be “concerned” for the safety of the Prime Minister. Fair enough. The worrying aspect of this development is that there is no security threat, in the standard sense, to the Prime Minister. Instead, the OPM released this dubious statement after members of the media sought a response from an ever evasive Simpson Miller. In her now characteristic attempt to dodge the media, and their relentless pursuit of information, the Prime Minister was apparently struck by a microphone. It is regrettable that the PM was struck, but the real issue is why was she running? The real issue is why hasn’t she consented to sit for an interview having taken office 15 months ago? When one considers the PM’s abject refusal to face the press, it leads to one devastating conclusion. If a leader cannot face the country unscripted, or by some accounts not even scripted, it brings the competence of the leader into serious question. The Prime Minister has now resorted to the lowest possible denominator, hiding. It is shameful and unacceptable. Since taking office, the PM has repeatedly told the nation that “time come”, time come for removing the Queen as Head of State, time come to take appeals to the Caribbean Court of Justice, time come to put country above party etc. I think the Prime Minister must now reflect on her own inability to lead the government, indeed the country; time come to step aside. Time come Portia, time come.