Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Andre Wright: Ruel Reid's circus comes to town

Published:Friday | April 15, 2016 | 4:00 PMAndre Wright
Senator Ruel Reid, minister of information.

Oh, so it's Robert Nesta Morgan, aide to Andrew Holness, who is the information minister. At least we've got that cleared up.

Most Jamaicans had been misinformed that Ruel Reid was the go-to man for information, but we now realise that he knows little more about what's going on in the OPM and government, in general, than the cleaning lady. Apologies. News just in: Robert Nesta Morgan just whispered to me that the cleaning lady is way more au fait with the goings-on in Government than Ruel.

Poor Ruel Reid. His performance - for a clownish, oafish performance it was - at Wednesday's press briefing at Jamaica House was reminiscent of a schoolboy stumped by a question he should have known three grades earlier. He's even co-opted the creepy Cheshire cat grin perfected by MVP's Bruce James.

A couple of weeks ago, we were told that the Chinese were abandoning sugar and bolting from Jamaica. Then ... no, no. The Chinese were dumping only Monymusk. Warmington hasn't been sworn in as a minister. Oh, oh, he's been sworn in. Ahhm, as state minister. Ahhm, I don't know what he'll be doing, but we'll make up something soon and let you know. And he wasn't sufficiently clear, at first, with his own ministry's plan on a 'mandatory' seven years of schooling.

Perhaps Reid should be the minister of clarity, not primarily because he speaks with clarity, but five minutes after making every statement, he's forced to clarify. And clarify again. And clarify yet again.

I had predicted to my colleagues that he was a misfit for the post of minister of information, but he's really outdone himself. And we've only got four years and 11 months more of this tragicomedy.

 

Skill to mask ignorance

An information minister should be one of the shrewdest members of any Cabinet, having a strong grasp of multifaceted issues and the skill to mask ignorance. Ruel Reid just isn't politically savvy enough. But it isn't all his fault. The OPM, that growing behemoth of bureaucracy tasked with removing bureaucracy, doesn't seem to trust Reid with too much information, lest he actually provide it.

And then there's that secret swearing-in of Warmy on Wednesday, or should we say Nicodemus?

Andrew Holness has obviously contracted Bruce Golding's fear of Everald Warmington, that motormouth of invective and the primate with the longest F-finger since Homo erectus. Holness, like Golding, will likely not be able to rein in the patron saint of insolence. And gifting him a state minister sinecure suggests that Holness' testicular fortitude was firmly in the grip of the irascible Everald Warmington.

Warmington does have his uses once he doesn't give place to his multipolar manifestations. No one has been a fiercer critic of that trough of cash for the overworked (tee-hee) ECJ, whose commissioners rake in upwards of $8 million. Nor is he a fan of that glorified talk shop called the Office of the Political Ombudsman. And as chairman on the CDF Committee, he has had a keen eye on MPs intent on padding bills.

My preference from the get-go was crazy, but I saw one way for Holness to sooth Warmy while trying to muzzle his rabid outbursts: Give him the role of House Speaker. My newsroom colleagues lynched me, of course. "You mad!" No, I'm beyond mad.

 

Classroom scoundrel

 

But sometimes you get the classroom scoundrel to behave by making him head prefect. Of course, sometimes it backfires, like when my schoolmate 'Earli', a sixth-form class prefect, pulled a knife on a third-former and threatened him to wine on Puncy - that mystical woman drawn on chalkboards all over Jamaica to humiliate the khaki-uniformed lumpen. No one in Parliament knows the Standing Orders better than Warmington. And maybe, just maybe, with all those new responsibilities, Warmington might have been prone to some self-control.

Ruel Reid may have been a good school principal, and perhaps an even better lay preacher, but if the Holness administration is intent on Reid being something more than a circus act, he must improve his grasp on the issues and his ability to articulate policy and other housekeeping basics. And Reid can't be kept out of the loop and be embarrassed by his own Government. Simply put, he must know his brief. And that's the naked truth.

- André Wright is opinion editor of The Gleaner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and andre.wright@gleanerjm.com