Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Daniel Thwaites | Kick dem (while they’re down)

Published:Sunday | September 11, 2016 | 9:17 AM

Even children - actually, especially children - know that the best time to kick someone is when they're down. I think this is important for Jamaican society to remember right now, for while the political class is shuddering that the probes into campaign funding by the OCG and MOCA might become full-scale colonoscopies, this is the best time to get real concessions about campaign finance.

I've heard news reports that the PSOJ is appalled at the story that has emerged from the PNP, beginning with its treasurer's report and continuing through its general secretary's pronouncements. I would hope so!

Meanwhile, as many other commentators have noticed, the JLP is largely silent about the matter. That's so, I would surmise, for more than the excellent reasoning that one shouldn't really interfere when one's competition is busy committing suicide. We're also hearing nothing but chirping crickets because at least one of the unfolding scandals won't stop at the borders of the PNP.

Anyway, the response of the PSOJ is entirely appropriate, except that I would like to hear it go a step further than just saying "no more money for either of you until you implement the campaign-finance law".

That's because the law that was passed during the last administration, and is set to come into law with gazetting and appropriate regulations, is woefully inadequate. For example, it requires disclosure only after an election has been announced.

It doesn't take much ingenuity to see how a coach-and-horses can be driven through that little peephole. One of the current allegations is that a massive funding washed up onshore the island prior to the election announcement. Surely, we would want to know about that!

So this is an opportunity to demand more, and this is an opportune time to kick the political system in the dingle berries.

So how 'down' are they? I would suggest that the PNP is at an all-time historical low. Even in these pages, last week every tongue was in one accord: The PNP is in a deep crisis. In fact, it's the one thing even all the PNP seem to agree on. One might have even ventured to hope that, having dug such an enormous hole, some of the main perpetrators would simply stop digging. Not a chance.

It all began when PNP treasurer Norman Horne reported that individual campaigns were crowding party central out of the money-raising market. The money, he said, was not being turned over to the party.

The consequences were dire. It may have cost the PNP the election. Campaigns needing funds in battleground constituencies went without. The election was lost by one deggeh-deggeh seat.

Call that massive scandal number one: private donors giving money that wasn't turned over to the party.

 

Standard practice

 

This scandal seems to have led directly to another, which blossomed into being when the PNP's general secretary seems to have casually announced to the world that the party has a standard practice, which, if true, would necessitate the arrest and prosecution of many senior party members.

The claim, as reported, is that there is an 'agent's fee' of between 1% and 1.5% attached to every large infrastructure project done in collaboration with the Chinese, and that this is funding that ordinarily should flow to the party.

That the general secretary could know something like that, and divulge it, not to the police, but as a piece of internal PNP target practice, raises a whole host of other exotic problems. At the very least, the rotten smell of Trafigura returns, now with an explanation.

But having in one efficient stroke maligned the characters of (unspecified) multiple senior party members, accused international investors of being party to illegal activity, and affirmed that the PNP had turned itself into a criminal enterprise, you would think Comrade Burke would have anticipated some pushback. Apparently not. His response to Dr Omar Davies' challenge to bring forward evidence of his claims was, I must admit, unique in its dismissiveness:

"All I will say, when you throw stone in a pig sty and one holler, it's that stone."

Various commentators have suggested that Burke has mangled the ol'-time Jamaican saying, which is that 'de hog weh squeal, is him get lick!'

But I'm not sure. Don't tek Pablo simple. I understand it as subtle reference to Luke 19:40, where prophecy requires proclamation regardless of the Pharisees, and the very stones will cry out. In that version, the pig sty is just window dressing to the main point.

So there will be ample room for debate about the precise moment that the 78-year-old PNP hit its all-time historical low point, but there will be general consensus that it happened in August-September 2016.

I can just imagine how, during some future tumult, an old-timey, one-toothed gran-pappy, leaning on his walking cane, will stroke his long beard and say to some overly anxious youngster:

"Young bway, yuh tink it bad now? Young bud really nuh know storm! Mi can memba inna 2016 when de general secretary, one man dem call Paul Berserk, stan' up an' tell de whole country seh PNP ah one criminal organisation. A nuh Labourite seh soh, enuh! A de general secretary. NW never did a roll inna him grave. Dem time deh him a kin puppalick! De very stone dem did bawl out."

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.