JaRistotle’s Jottings | Treading on thin grass
The current cass-cass over grass involving Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda should impress upon all Jamaicans the true nature of our politics: to use his words "nasty, stinking; at the garbage level". Many of those at the heart of our political system seem have a warped perspective as to their entitlements and see themselves as being more equal than us.
When Mr Samuda became a beneficiary of the grass distribution programme, he put himself in an untenable position. He should have either paid for the grass beforehand, or recused himself from the get-go. The subsequent tit-for-tat argument that a member of the opposition had also benefited is hogwash, meant to divert attention away from the core issue. In addition, his payment after the story broke is an insult to the people of Jamaica - an 'holou'. Since he has not done the honourable thing and resigned, he should be fired. But the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) holds a one-seat majority in Parliament, and since it is all about power rather than principle, don't expect them to rock the boat.
It is ironic that the same ministry was embroiled in similar controversy with the PC banks, where board and committee members were allegedly personally responsible for approximately $250 million in non-performing loans. Perhaps some cleansing is overdue.
Conflict of interest
Knowing our style of politics, and the 'lickey-lickey' nature of some of our politicians, we should be careful not to 'put puss to watch butter'. Don't appoint an individual to preside over a national sector if that individual has vested interests in the sector. Notwithstanding that the individual may be well versed on the sector, prevention is better than cure. Mr Samuda, as an established dairy farmer, ought not to have been appointed agriculture minister and he, knowing the issues, ought not to have accepted. Why put yourself on the slippery slope under such circumstances? All parties with vested interests, whether political, agricultural or otherwise, will readily cry foul and cite conflicts of interest if ministerial decisions are not favourable to their respective interests. Samuda certainly put himself in a corner.
Scarce benefits and hostile tribes
Jamaican politics has for a long time been primarily about the distribution of scarce benefits. The People's National Party (PNP) and JLP have become masters of manipulation, creating hostile tribes among us and using the scarce benefits as fuel for the sometimes deadly hostility.
There are two things I am obliged to highlight: whilst we are being hostile and killing each other, our politicians are not doing the same, while we have been scrounging for scarce benefits and scraps, they have been lavishing in grandeur at our expense. Our pain is not their pain. Our poverty is not their poverty. Our squalor is not their squalor. We are second-class citizens in our own country, outranked by this elite grouping who give more importance to their needs than ours.
As far as I am concerned, those who venture into the political arena are supposed to serve the people's interests, not theirs. It should therefore be that they recuse themselves from the various benefits meant for the people and give priority to the needy. After all, these benefits are scarce and when they, the administrators, are recipients, it means that the needy get less or none at all.
Sense of entitlement
Our politicians have constantly been accused of having a sense of entitlement. They often argue that they have given up so much from their private lives and businesses, so it is only appropriate that they should be able to 'eat a food' in return. And then they pile it on themselves, and in so doing their arrogance knows no bounds.
Mr Samuda joins a long line of self-servants and entitled beneficiaries. Think back to the furniture scandal of the early 1990s and the late Ben Clare. Think of Mike Henry's reported remarks in the wake of reports detailing the multimillion-dollar refurbishing of his 'official' residence in 2009 - 'I have never been accustomed to living in squalor', yet that is all many of his constituents know - squalor. Think of the issue of campaign donations to the PNP and the alleged pocketing of same by some candidates.
My people, since me not joining that line, I will sleep soundly at night. Sweet dreams.