Ronald Thwaites | Words versus deeds
There was an almost angelic chorus of praise for the late President Castro in the first part of the final sitting of the House of Representatives last Tuesday. Christopher Tufton and Lynvale Bloomfield made excellent speeches, reflecting on their personal experiences in revolutionary Cuba and the immense contributions Cuba has made to Jamaican development and international liberation despite the chokehold of the American embargo.
What was Mr Seaga thinking, I wondered, as JLP minister after minister - Marlene Malahoo Forte even touchingly quoting a poem of praise to Comrade Fidel - spoke into Jamaican parliamentary history the absolution of the very deeds which, as Reagan's satrap, the then prime minister had led us to condemn 30-odd years ago.
Then too, although all the tributes spoke truth about the generosity of the Cuban people and their stellar advances in health and education, no mention was made, even delicately, of the price they have paid, the very restricted civil and economic liberties, which must form part of the picture of Castro's regime.
In all of the speeches, admiration was expressed for the sacrifice, discipline, focus, order and cooperation nurtured in Cuba over the years of revolutionary government. But these are the very virtues needed to transform nearby Jamaica into a wholesome, progressive society. They are absolute prerequisites for sustainable, equitable economic growth.
So how, and when, are we going to mature beyond the catcalls across the aisle and the fake words about partnership and start to debate and discuss sincerely how we will emulate the civic virtues of the Cuban struggle; ask ourselves the hard question of how much egotism and competition will have to be given up to quickly achieve higher levels of social equity; and how our conclusions can begin to be reflected in our next Budget, and in the words we fling around in Gordon House?
Such an effort would really make going to Parliament a stimulating intellectual exercise rather than mostly a near-brawling, low-life experience. Especially when you are chosen by people, most of whom have no one else to depend on, political leadership becomes a sacred (yes, I mean that) duty.
What followed last Tuesday demeaned all that.
It was clear that the Holness administration saw no need to explain anything about the $600-million green-clad bushing programme, coincidentally timed in the lead-up to the parish council elections and which excluded the prior knowledge and inclusion of every PNP representative.
Why should it have been otherwise? The plan had worked. Smirks covered their faces. "Paulwell, yu can't force the prime minister to mek any statement, yu a no minister again," was the taunt from the usual culprit, for whom the speaker has convenient and chronic deaf ears.
The disrespect for convention and accountability and the disregard for the Opposition's concerns had become overbearing. Even a suggestion that the proceedings should pause to let the leaders of both sides try to resolve issues was rejected.
When you rape the honour of Parliament and insult its fundamental canon of mutual responsiveness, there was no possibility of further useful participation in that session.
Partnerships of any sort are nothing if not based on trust. Had any of the other signatories to Wednesday's partnership agreement been subject to the remorseless contempt meted out to the Opposition, representing at least half of the country's taxpayers, on Tuesday, they would not have participated in any signing. For it would have no foundation of sincerity.
This Government talks collaboration but obviously feels it can run the country by itself.
So the House has given itself another month's holiday with pay. As predicted, not even the long-promised Road Traffic Bill has been passed, not to mention the huge backlog of pending legislation.
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Central Kingston and opposition spokesperson on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.