Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Editorial: Stupidity laid bare

Published:Wednesday | February 10, 2016 | 2:00 AM

Jamaica's politics, too often, seems to give awful maladies to its practitioners. Many appear to take leave of what, or what little, good sense they may have possessed and appear to develop a proclivity for stand-up comedy, oblivious to the gravity of the circumstances, and of the tragedy of their performance. And it gets worse during election campaigns.

Robert Montague has recently displayed serious symptoms of Jamaican politics.

Now, Robert Montague, you would expect to be a sensible and serious man. He harbours ambitions of leading Jamaica, having once, albeit briefly, thrown his hat into the ring for the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party. He now holds the high post of chairman of that party. He was a member of the Senate until the dissolution of Parliament last week. He is the shadow energy minister and will almost certainly hold that portfolio in the government should his party win the general election 15 days from now.

People ought to be able to take Mr Montague seriously. He should want them to.

A major matter of concern for owners of motor vehicles in recent weeks has been what has come to be dubbed the 'bad gas' saga. Many motorists have complained about their vehicle engines malfunctioning because of the supply of contaminated petrol. The Government commissioned a study of the problem, the results of which are yet to be published.

We have no problem if the political Opposition attempts to extract advantage from this situation, but not at the expense of good sense or potentially dangerous extremist declarations. Which is where Mr Montague has been flirting in attempt to link 'bad gas' with the notoriously nasty jihadist terror group, known variously as ISIS, ISIL, IS or Islamic State.

IS controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, including oilfields and refineries from which they supply black market oil. Mr Montague has obviously heard that, which he sought to apply, seemingly without let, hindrance or apparent context, at a campaign rally last week. He called on the Government "to confirm or deny that some of the gas coming to Jamaica is coming from ISIS sources".

"Is Jamaica invariably supporting terrorism buying this gas?" he asked, as if posing the issue as a question absolves him of responsibility for truth or for establishing a plausible foundation for his declaration. Then he sought to frighten people some more with the prospects that bad gas is perhaps being used here in the refuelling of aircraft, which may start dropping out of the skies.

Folly, and worse, doesn't reside on a single side of the political aisle. Recent proof is the outgoing MP for South West St Ann, Keith Walford, who hopes to retain the seat for the People's National Party.

The constituency is one of those that have swung in elections, but Mr Walford has said he wants to "garrisonise" it, which in the lexicon of Jamaica's politics and sociology is to make it an area of political exclusion, which in the past was achieved and maintained through the political cleansing of opponents and intimidating supporters into conformity. It is an approach to politics that sensible people reject and want to reform.

If Mr Walford's intention was something different than is normally understood, he, at best, used a stupid metaphor.