Daniel Thwaites | Ya better call Tyrone
If I told you that I was reading the Contractor General Act this past weekend and realised that Parliament has the right to call the CG to report on any ongoing investigation, what's your first thought? I mean your second thought, since your first one is going to be: "Dis yute needs to improve his social life if he's reading the Contractor General Act on the weekend." I'm working on the social life.
Anyway, why doesn't it ever happen? Maybe Parliament doesn't really want to hear about what's going on, particularly because so many parliamentarians seem to be enmeshed in the events that the CG is investigating.
Let me come at it from a different angle. I know we're losing people on rapid, what with all the crime and such. But when the CG comes out making public appeals for Tyrone Robinson, who is chairman of the North East Regional Health Authority, we have to realise that this missing person thing is getting completely outta hand. And it's not like Tyrone did 'tek bush' because there isn't any bush left in Jamaica to hide in, and it's precisely the 'work' bush-clearing and drain-cleaning programme that Tyrone seems to know something about.
I put 'controversial' in scare quotes because it really isn't that controversial after all. Everyone has a pretty good idea of what happened here. Cabinet, with full knowledge that the local government elections were a few days away, authorised the NWA to enact "emergency contracting procedures" to push nearly a billion dollars on to the road. Naturally, because there was a hurry to get the moola into the right hands in the right political divisions, it seems that things got a bit chaotic.
So what was first described as a $548m programme turned into a $600m one, which then spiked to $800m. But who's counting? Minister Chang said the timing was "coincidental", as it appears was the planning for the amount of money to be spent.
Now, the proof of the drain-cleaning is in the raining, and in view of the results of the last major rains we had, you can determine if the country got value for money. I would also add that Mr Holness spoke some splendid words at his inauguration about anti-corruption. By now, those words have been pretty comprehensively flooded out.
Speaking of which, I hadn't rushed into the calls for Karl Samuda's axing because I felt that surely, there must be an explanation for the veniality of expending the public resource on his own farm. Now, it occurs to me that Samuda is making the everlasting excuse. Accusation: "Why yuh planting seed where yuh not supposed to?" Answer: "Is not me, enuh! Dem did ah fling it pon mi an' dem insist! How can any man resist?" This same sentiment was properly memorialised by Kartel in Love Dem: "De gyal dem a run dung de Gaza yute! Weh yuh expec' mi fi do?" Same ting. Just uptown misbehaviour against downtown misbehaviour.
But let me get back on track (and stop getting lost in the bushes). Saying that Tyrone is lost isn't to make light of the horrific rampage of violence across Jamaica that is frightening everyone, not least because it is apparent that the country's political leadership has no answer to it. Is it true that 136 people were murdered in May alone?
Still, there is a connection to the ever-surging crime and what we're talking about here. Because Jamaica is being strangulated by weeds planted a long time ago and nourished continually throughout the years. And that's why I'm cool with the CG sounding like Erykah Badu talking to the Government and wailing, "Ya better call Tyrooooooone! And tell him I'm getting tired of your ish."
If you ask people - ordinary, non-biased, non-political people - about the root cause of the deconstruction of this country and the precipitous social decline, they will most often point to the political process and the mayhem released by many Most Honourable mental midgets. They're not wrong.
Exhibit A in how dem mash up Jamaica by politicising every street and lane is the elaborate system of patronage that is such a rich feature of political life. It's how we've sat near the border but never really bothered to enter the modern world. In fact, as I understand it, the very definition of pre-state tribal politics is one where a 'Big Man' dispenses with benefits to his henchmen and supporters. Isn't that our system?
'TOO DAMN FAAS!'
So it was reported that the CG has questioned three government ministers about this bush-clearing project. That's certainly interesting! Furthermore, efforts to discover what actually happened has brought the CG into court, where Vincent Taylor, principal of Construction Solutions Limited, complained that the anti-corruption machinery wants to know too much - dem too damn faas - about his personal decisions on spending money earned from this magnificent works projects. Hey! If he happened to decide to spend it on certain activists, or with the help and direction of certain MPs, that's his business, right?
Quoting RJR News of May 1, 2017, now:
"The OCG requested that Mr Taylor supply information on the use of money he received from the National Works Agency under the project. However, attorneys for Mr Taylor contend that the request is a serious breach of his constitutional right to privacy."
Sometimes it feels that we're guarding the front of the barn when all the animals have escaped out the back. "The right to privacy" to grass!
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.