Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Cunning Lingos

Published:Monday | April 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

By now, most Jamaicans must have seen the extended drama regarding the use of pre-signed, undated, 'generic' letters of resignation submitted to the Governor General on November 14, 2013 by the Honourable Andrew Holness, the Leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), to oust Dr Christopher Tufton and Mr Arthur Williams from the senate.

There was a parting of the ways between the two senators and the Opposition leader due to 'internal politics'. Mr Holness used pre-signed and undated letters to force their unwilling resignation by proxy.

The letters were drafted just in case there was irreconcilable disagreement on the specific matter of the Opposition's unified position regarding the Caribbean Court of Justice. Yet, they were used in a completely unrelated matter. In any event, pre-signed, undated documents and, especially serious and far-reaching letters such as resignation letters, should never be produced on-demand by anyone except the person(s) resigning.

 

Not a new practice

 

I was intrigued when veteran JLP stalwart, Mr Pearnel Charles, said that pre-signed and undated letters were not new. He said he signed one way back when and it was seen as a 'gentleman's agreement'. With all due respect to Mr Charles, it is bad enough that such letters exist, but there is absolutely nothing gentlemanly about using them in an unrelated matter, out of animosity and without the consent of the signatories. Doing so has put an indelible stain on the persona of the Leader of the Opposition and, by association, it placed the entire party in a bad light.

As many of us expected, the Supreme Court ruled against the letters labelling them unconstitutional and unlawful. Mr Holness offered an apology of sorts for his actions but then, as if not understanding his indiscretion and wanting to portray an interest in testing the legal and constitutional waters, he appealed the ruling submitting that Williams and Tufton resigned and vacated their Senate seats and that the Constitution gives him the power to appoint and remove Senators.

Naturally, he lost the appeal. What immediately followed was extremely concerning for me. Some party faithful held the line and gave what amounted to crafty speeches (cunning lingos) to the media when they were interviewed. Some were reticent in their responses. Others, in spite of the court ruling, obviously saw no wrong in Mr Holness' actions and one angrily reacted to questions that the people of Jamaica would certainly like to have answered. He called the queries damn foolishness.

I thought that I was among the few with crazy expectations that country and principles should trump party politics every single time. However, I felt a warm glow of hope for our country when, after the JLP voted to keep Mr Holness at the helm, The Gleaner quoted a party source as remarking: "The blind loyalists who supported Edward Seaga when he was losing are the same ones who are supporting Holness. ... They are still more loyal to the leader than the party and the country".

 

Self-destruction

 

The JLP continues to squirm and sink in the self-destructive quicksand of its own creating thus severely inhibiting its ability to perform as an effective Opposition. There are very serious issues that incite only marginal verve from the Opposition. Poverty is widespread; the crime rate remains at an unacceptable level; production and foreign-exchange-earning activities still lag far behind importations; the government is mercilessly hammering companies with new and rapidly increasing taxes; frustrated and overburdened businesspeople are seeking to escape from under the crippling bureaucratic pressures stunting their growth and threatening their very survival. Most of our young (our future leaders) see very little or no future for them here.

One's personal political alignment is irrelevant when it comes to the good of our country. We do not have the strong, vibrant, credible and sensibly active Opposition needed to assure fair and proper governance. Many citizens are being shafted by the current system; it is likely to lead to serious economic problems in the future; this is not the time for cunning lingos.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.