Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Daniel Thwaites | What a coincidence!

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The Holness administration is now proposing a sizeable Christmas bushing programme to all MPs. As the 2016 local government elections slip into the rear-view mirror, it's the surest indication that Andrew was actually embarrassed by what they did with the $600 million prior to the election. As a 'cup-is-half-full' kinda yute, I think that's a positive sign.

Of course, unanswered questions about the $600-million election bushing programme led to a walkout of Parliament by the Opposition last week. So it's still causing consternation. But it's good to know that the PM is likkle shame about what did gwaan.

Remember Horace Chang had said that the timing of the programme was pure coincidence. Don't get me wrong, enuh! I have a lot of time for Chang, minister of something-or-the-other down at Jamaica House's Ministry of Everything. But with that 'coincidence' comment, he had me smiling like the chicken farmer.


Pure coincidence


I can only imagine that it's pure coincidence why no opposition MPs or councillors knew about Operation Bush-Dung, why it wasn't found in the budget anywhere, and why neither Andrew Holness nor Desmond McKenzie seemed to know anything about it at its onset.

But I need to explain the chicken farmer's smile. It's the oldest joke about these great coincidences:

This old chicken farmer takes a seat at the bar beside a well-dressed lady who definitely doesn't belong there alone and orders champagne.

"What a coincidence," volunteers the lady. "I just ordered a glass of champagne."

"Really? I'm celebrating!" says he.

"What a coincidence! I'm celebrating, too," she says.

"Well, I thought all my chickens were infertile, but not anymore," says the happy farmer.

"What a coincidence!" says the happy lady. "My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for years, and finally a miracle ... God is good."

"Who would have guessed?" says the farmer, "that I just needed to get a new cock?"

"What a coincidence!" she says.

So that's why the chicken farmer smiled, because coincidences can be a helluva thing.

I know both sides have done it. But remember the recent hoopla surrounding "strengthening the Fiscal Responsibility Act"? Remember how a new day was dawning and we were going to be all grown up now? LOL. Well, that's out the window if unbudgeted funds magically appear whenever it's deemed necessary to cut grass roots to water the electoral grass roots!

Additionally, there were, prior to this, so many calls for 'partnership' by both sides of the aisle in Parliament. In fact, a bedrock of that partnership was to be observance of this upgraded, new-fangled Fiscal Responsibility Act. That's what I thought the PSOJ would be pointing to in the wake of the social partnership agreement also turning into a campaign event.

Look: Just the other day, I was heaping praise on Mr Holness for appointing Finance Minister Clarke to keep a lid on just this sort of thing. But now it turns out that fiscal responsibility and all that blah-blah-blah ... that's only the law of the land, and so, given the times we're living in, it needn't distract us too much.

So Parliament and its scrutiny have been circumvented, and nobody but the insiders know where the money is being drawn from, so it does raise the question of how you can have partnership if one party switches up the rules because an election clock is ticking, so you need to cheat.

What a thing! I think we should have more sympathy for the lady with the biological clock. But again, this is why the chicken farmer was smiling at the coincidence.




Speaking of coincidences, just like President-elect Trump, the US Embassy in Jamaica has a Twitter account that packs a punch. There's talk about whether Trump can be allowed to keep his account as he inches closer to the Oval Office and his thoughts and statements are enough to drive speculation, roil markets, and cause international disputes. Do we need to have that same talk?

It arises from a simple tweet from the US Embassy in Jamaica endorsing the contractor general's statement on a radio programme that he had concerns with the process used to grant Symbiote/Caricel a telecoms licence. The embassy simply tweeted that they, too, had concerns. That alone was enough to send shudders through the system.

In fact, I don't think that tweet originated in Kingston, Jamaica; I think they sent for it from Washington, DC. Further, I don't believe for a moment that the US authorities only have a problem with 'the process'. That would be quite a coincidence, especially since they had previously expressed dissatisfaction with the licence being issued to the company.

As an observer to this train of events, many questions arise. The contractor general had already recommended against issuance of the licence based on what has been termed an "adverse trace" on one of the principals. But one has to ask: what is an "adverse trace"? Can it be challenged in court or anywhere else? Does a Government just get to say it has an "adverse trace" on someone and there's no opportunity to confront your accuser and clear your name?

However that may be, Mr Holness chose to grant the licence and rose in Parliament to defend his decision to do it. So this is his baby.

That said, I'm prepared to predict that the licence will be withdrawn, and worse, that when the dust settles, the Jamaican taxpayer will be forced to foot the sizeable bill attending its withdrawal.

I don't doubt that Andrew will skilfully explain the decision, then the reversal. But is it such a strange coincidence that an expensive reversal will be on the cards when the dissatisfaction of our national-security partners was on record prior to the grant of the licence? Remember to just smile like the farmer.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to