Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Where's the real concession speech?

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Glenn Tucker
The image of PNP President Portia Simpson Miller hovers in the background above the dejected faces of party officials on stage at party headquarters. From left are General Secretary Paul Burke, Vice-president Angela Brown Burke, and Deputy General Secretary Julian Robinson.
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On Sunday, September 16, 2007, I watched an angry Portia Simpson Miller expressing suspicion at the just-concluded general election she lost to the Bruce Golding-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). She promised, among other things, to be the new government's "worst nightmare". There were no charges of electoral malpractice and there was no concession speech.

In a letter which earned me the Silver Pen Award, I chided the former prime minister as I felt that humility, graciousness, and a call for unity - critical elements of a concession speech - were sadly lacking.

On the night of February 25, 2016, she was in a similar position. And seemed to be just as angry. Her body language, and that of General Secretary Paul Burke, along with what they were suggesting, could not possibly achieve the unity that is needed. Not that it had hurt them in the past; it seemed to have served them well.

 

SMEAR CAMPAIGN

 

Bruce Golding had hardly reached Jamaica House when, in the midst of the worst recession in decades, she was all around the country, media in tow, branding him as "wicked, arrogant and uncaring". Her party's supporters on public-sector boards were demanding retroactive pay and pay increases and everything imaginable, despite the fact that the party knew that the cupboard was bare. Then came the Dudus matter, and they seized on it with vengeance.

I will go to my grave as the only Jamaican who salutes Mr Golding for the depth of intellect that made him recognise the flaws in these extradition arrangements which permit the United States to just order us to send our fellow citizens to a dark, uncertain future in their penal system. Everyone else, before and after, just said "Yes, Sar". The anti-Golding campaign worked so well, the PNP took their eyes off the main ball - that of preparing themselves for office. So when that day came, they were woefully unprepared to assume the reins of government.

The PM is, understandably, unhappy with the results. But the dissatisfaction with her stemmed from a variety of reasons. The so-called 'articulate minority' is growing rapidly in numbers and influence. They are dealing with issues. And the only opportunity they would get to hear a discussion of these issues was unilaterally aborted by her.

When members of her party met in their constituencies and democratically selected the person they wanted to represent them, their choice was sometimes brushed aside in favour of some friend completely foreign to the people and the constituency. When the people objected, some big shot from the party executive would dismiss their objection on TV and assure the public that they would soon fall in line. Each time I heard this, I was just flabbergasted at the level of arrogance and disrespect that could be behind these moves.

So the people donned the T-shirts they were given and partied. Because they were paid, fed and transported to do what they liked most, party. But vote? No way! Those who are surprised, either do not know or have forgotten that this is the same sort of passive resistance our forefathers employed to bring down that other similarly oppressive institution known as slavery. They could not punch the slave owner in his mouth as they wanted to, so they hugged him, kissed him, and stabbed him in the back.

What was, for me, the most disturbing aspect of this campaign season was the attempt to smear the Holness family, and the signs that it will continue as soon as a more covert strategy can be found. So look out for the sly innuendos.

For as long as I can remember, JLP leaders have been discredited, defamed, demonised and dehumanised. This is an old tactic perfected in communist regimes to get rid of opponents who were either more popular or more progressive. This attempt to destroy the dignity and reputation of adversaries is the worst crime imaginable.

 

TAINTED REPUTATION

 

This country has lost some of its best talent by this route, and we have had to be chugging along with the second-rate perpetrators of this horrible crime. It is horrible because reputation is not a renewable resource. Once the seeds of doubt are sown in people's minds, the victim is permanently damaged.

In Jamaica, the public accepts allegations without question. And mud sticks! The more perceptive among us may have noticed how these activities degrade public discourse and contribute to a climate of public ill will and distrust. The sad irony is that the PNP is bursting with creative talent and wasting them in these unworthy pursuits.

These are the main reasons for the 'strange' voting behaviour witnessed last week. Now that the PM has once again lost, she needs to understand that her anger, once again, is misplaced. There is no evidence of malpractice. The violence - by whoever - has been mainly on JLP supporters. The best that Mrs Simpson Miller can now do is to be graceful in defeat. This is the best way that the unity we so desperately need going forward can be forged. That is if she desires unity.

John McCain lost the 2008 United States (US) presidential elections, but he won the respect and admiration of millions in the US and around the world with the grace and humility of his concession speech. He showed their (his and Obama's) similarities, not their differences. He showed empathy and pledged his support. Here is a small part of that speech, Madam PM.

"... Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and his country. I applaud him for it and offer in my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day, though our faith assures us that she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so proud of the good man she helped raise ... . I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president (Obama) our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find necessary compromises, to bridge our differences, and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children a stronger better country than we inherited."

Can I urge our beloved Mama P to change her attitude?

- Glenn Tucker is a sociologist and past president of the Historical Society at The Mico University College. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenntucker2011@gmail.com.