Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Politicians are still nervous

Published:Sunday | December 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Last Thursday, the lady called me and her voice on the phone indicated urgency. As an ardent People's National Party (PNP) supporter, she wanted to know if I had any recent information on the election call. "I hear the prime minister is going to call it in Mount Salem tonight. What you hear?"

I gave her my standard answer: "Once the talk of the 2015 election died down, it is safe to say there will be no call for this year. I cannot see it in early January. Earliest is late January, and obviously, it doesn't have to be in January. Really now, why would the PM want to disturb our Christmas by announcing a January election date in December. The psychology is all wrong."

"OK," she said, as I could almost hear her nerves being frayed.

"Let me give you a little advice," I said. "You should not be more nervous than the politicians in your party, and, trust me, they have reasons to be. Just go with the flow and wait."

My advice to her was easier said than done. Based on the number of times we had met and spoken on the telephone, the PNP winning the next election seemed like a life-and-death matter to her and her business interests. Three months ago, she was always smiling and glowing with confidence that the PNP was a sure bet. Now, it was different.

A few hours before, it was a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member of parliament, but he was not interested in anything else but polls. "I read your article about this telephone poll. Are the numbers good? Who commissioned it?"

"I am not quite sure about both parts. I simply gave it as I got it from one of my usually reputable sources." Then I had a question for him. "So when you believe Portia going to call it?"

"Difficult one, but our numbers are showing that we have 29 to the PNP's 22. The other 12 are the toss-ups. Based on that, the PNP needs time to claw back, so I cannot see it until any time after late January. Maybe February."

Based on my many conver-sations with politicians from both sides of the fence, the PNP and the JLP will both be winning the next election. It is, therefore, a fool's errand to enquire of either on the state of his party's readiness. He has a need to sell me snake oil, so that my writing will reflect it, or so he believes.

 

NOT IN ELECTION MODE

 

What I do know is that, apart from party diehards who eat, sleep, drink and dream of politics, the majority of Jamaicans are now in Christmas mode. A few young men I know have been getting bushing work through the NWA/JEEP, while others have secured a few days' work on private construction sites.

They are not in the least bit interested in elections now, which would only be a rude intrusion in their lives. Only the politicians and diehards are worked up.

On October 10, I had a breakfast meeting-interview with Damion Crawford, at the time, easily the poster boy for the face of young people in party politics.

I did not carry the interview because another journalist had also interviewed him and had published in detail. My meeting with the bright young man indicated that he was under no illusions about the present political realities.

"Politics is like this," he said. "It's like a doctor and his patient. The patient needs $10 to get well, but he can only find $7. So he keeps on being sick because he cannot find the other $3."

All has not been well with the young man since he was booted out of East Rural St Andrew by those who said he had not done enough for them. It was my view of Crawford and his representation that there was a major incompatibility between his constituents and himself. I believe that a people have to reach a certain basic level of understanding in order for them to separate good leadership from the charlatans parading as politicians.

Most politicians faced with similar problems like Crawford's opt for game playing and endless promises. As Crawford insisted throughout our interview, politics was not his first love, and he simply entered to serve. Sounds clichÈd, yes, but I believe the young man was genuine.

Now a war of sorts has broken out on social media between him and Angela Brown Burke, with both of them hurling barbs that would not be expected from grown-ups, especially those who claim to represent the people.

It seems to me that in Damion Crawford unleashing on the PNP, with Brown Burke taking him on and with him responding in somewhat puerile fashion, it is either that he is unloading a lot of pent-up rage, or he has decided to exercise the many options available to him.

The last thing the PNP needs is this social media fight between two high-profile party personalities.

And, of course, it is too late to turn back the clock. Apologies will not cut it because it appears that the wounds run deep.

And again, in this, it simply betrays the top leadership of the party always opting to go in retreat as those in the second tier attempt to fill that vacuum with this bolt-out-of-the-blue empty-headedness.

 

TENNIS JAMAICA FIASCO

 

Imagine what national elections in Jamaica would have been if nomination day was the very same day of election day, there was no voters' list and just before voting, certain administrators in the system had presented to the voters a rectangular piece of blank paper on which it was required that voters write the name of the person being voted for.

We would step back to a time that never was. It is my understanding that in the vote for president of the tennis association, some persons, or a person with a sharp pair of scissors, actually sat down and cut out these rectangular strips of paper to present as voting ballots.

This was not just scandalous, but quite primitive. As someone who has been following the motions of Tennis Jamaica since it had major jitters a year ago, I am pleased that the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) has been called in to correct what passed for an election on November 19.

The 'little people' in Jamaica tend to take their cues from those at the top of society, and the administration at Tennis Jamaica can easily be seen to be the crËme de la crËme in Jamaica.

At the November 19 election, there were 77 people who were potential eligible voters - assuming, of course, that all dues were paid up. But even if that stipulation was met, how did the final vote count amount to 83?

In past general elections in Jamaica, when the present dispensation of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica was still years in the making, it was typical that some well-known politicians would strong-arm their way and simply seize ballot boxes. Many were they who were afraid to say much.

As a society that boasts First World ambitions, it is incumbent on all of us to do our bit to make Vision 2030 possible. It forces those at the top to make a bigger input in realising the lofty goal of making Jamaica the first choice in living, working, raising our children and securing our future.

Come next year, we would like to see the EOJ assist Tennis Jamaica in carrying out what was quite simple to do. Ensure that all potential voters are eligible and have ballots printed with the candidates' names. Finally, ensure that the essence of democracy prevails. One man, one vote.

Let the best man win.

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.