Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Ronald Mason | Not diluting truth

Published:Sunday | March 5, 2017 | 3:00 AM

The privilege of writing a weekly opinion column in the country's major newspaper comes with significant responsibility.

I accept the responsibility on the following terms and conditions. Everything I offer must be done with the secure knowledge that at the time I offer the information conveyed, it is the truth. The said truth must be offered with precision of language.

At times, the message may be gift-wrapped in sarcasm, satire, humour or solemnity. The objective is to deliver the information with purpose. My purpose is not politically partisan, given the fact that I claim close family ties to persons who are members of both major political parties. The lack of ideological differences between the parties makes it even more accommodating to my intent.

Jamaica is my home. I have first-class opportunities that come with nationality. I grieve that we have made so little economic progress. It is most troubling that our plantation educational system delivers so very little - and that many things happen in spite of the politicians.

BEATING THE SYSTEM

Corruption in the country is pervasive, but comfort is to be found in beating the system.

Decisions are made for a multitude of reasons, with the major ones rarely ever being for the good of the country. So many persons would sell, and have sold, their intellectual souls and patriotism for the colours of green and orange.

Eminent colleague columnist Ian Boyne finds justification in disagreeing with my column. That's fine. My comments are born from the standard set forth earlier. I take positions with pinpoint, laser focus on the good of the greater population, as I see it.

Andrew Holness has been absent in addressing the major issues of the day with sophistication and forward thinking that should emanate from a gifted public servant of two decades. He grovels in pettiness. We need to hear that he has charted a course to solve problems. Bedside photographs of patients at hospitals achieve nothing of substance. It only degrades the position. Doubt me? Think Lee Kuan Yew. It is shallow to bring forward the proposal to raid the NHT reserves. It has not been acted on, but if it was unacceptable when he was in Opposition, let us have the rationale for any imminent change.

The argument about fulfilling the J$1.5 million tax-relief promise is empty. It was all about taking from the right pocket and filling to overflowing the left. Election promise kept? How does that advance anything, except public relations? Putting that on social media does not change reality.

Press conferences will expose him to all members of the media. The sole representative of a small media unit is not likely to be invited to a sitdown with Andrew Holness. The filter that one must traverse to get there has many layers. Being agreeable with those with whom you disagree is a great skill to have, but arrogant when utilised as filter to keep some out from the national discourse. That is my position, Ian.

The legislation hurriedly enacted in Parliament on corruption is most disappointing. The net has a limited hold on our political leaders. Put the assets or contracts in your wife's name or some trusted family member and you are home free.

The Office of the Contractor General's advice is ignored regarding the Caricel court matter, while the debate is on as to the composition of the new office of the Integrity Commission. One cannot omit the $600-million-$800-million bush-clearing exercise in the middle of an election.

DNA legislation has been enacted, but to date there are no regulations. No policy paper on how the national DNA database will be created when issues of privacy have to be settled. Without the database, it is not as effective a crime-fighting tool.

Then there is the matter of this 2017-2018 Budget presentation. The Budget was laid on the table of Parliament two weeks ago. The Budget presented was $710 billion, and then suddenly in the middle of the Standing Finance Committee deliberations, another $32Billion is added. Audley Shaw says there is no bauxite levy accounted for in the Budget, but Mike Henry contradicts him by telling the country that $430 million will be collected for the levy.

EMERGENCY MEETING

One section of the Budget was removed and replaced by another, and then there was the emergency Cabinet meeting on Ash Wednesday to deal with Budget issues. The auditor general's report is not tabled before the Standing Finance Committee. This does not engender confidence.

Thank God for the strictures of the IMF. It forced economic discipline on a wayward country. However, here come the games again. Redefining the meaning of debt, acceptable - but to achieve what?

Public-relations exercise: Debt-to-GDP ratio of 115, on the way to 108. So what does this mean? More borrowing! Thanks also to the many ordinary Jamaicans whom I meet daily who can relate to my opinion and are not taken in by the gullible media practitioners and civil society marching to the stated agenda.

I will not say anything about crime, as my uncle is not known to be an obeah man. No personal insights are to be had. Murder, mayhem, carnage with questionable prosecutions, photo opportunities and public-relations gimmicks. Oh, well, it is Jamaica. Everything 'criss' as we welcome the planeloads of deportees.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.