Mon | Nov 20, 2017

Mark Wignall | South West St Andrew love-in or hate fest?

Published:Sunday | July 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Angela Brown Burke (left) and Audrey Smith Facey addressing a PNP press conference and Code of Conduct signing last Wednesday.

Internal party rivalry and contests are usually verbally brutal matters, sometimes even more so than elections between the PNP and JLP. Fairly recent examples are there for us to recall with much clarity.

In her rise to the very top of the PNP in 2006, Portia Simpson Miller was singled out for many doses of disdain, much of which she self-internalised as attacks on her because of her gender.

In fact, while one former PNP member of parliament in 2006 said behind closed doors, "No woman can't lead me," most of the criticisms of her came from the educated/professional elite in the party who believed that PNP leadership could only come from those who knew the proper way to sip tea and quote from the accepted range of European thinkers and socialist third-world bomb throwers.

It took at least two academic degrees to master those affectations and, to them, Portia had severe deficits in that area. By 2008 at the second challenge for leadership, her woes were again awakened by those who slotted her more as needed political talisman than transformational leader.

The JLP in the post-1989 period was a classic case study on how leadership deemed electorally unviable can eat away at leadership-succession exercises. But even when Seaga departed in 2005, convenient political animosities refused to die.

The Holness-Shaw contest brought out factional armies but, true to form, as in most political parties, once the dust settled and the ideal occurred- electoral win, the factions forgot what the fuss was about in the first place. That needed hypocrisy seems to be a trait that marches in lockstep with most internal party contests. It is a feature of the true political animal.

By this evening, either Audrey Smith Facey or Angela Brown Burke will be the new MP for the South West St Andrew constituency, long the secure political foothold of Portia Simpson Miller.

If it's any indication of strength, self-confidence and self-love, all three ladies, when they got married, decided that they would break with the old tradition which began to lose its vogue in the 1970s and retain their surnames. So they shared equal billing with their husbands on written material and in announcements.

Smith Facey, councillor for the Payne Land division, seems more deserving of the seat than Brown Burke simply because she knows the area like the proverbial back of her hand.

 

Is Brown Burke interloper or change agent?

 

In the late 1970s when the PNP was fully into Michael Manley's wild experiment with democratic socialism, one word occupied the true PNP believer at that time than any other. That word was egalitarianism. It was a word culled from socialist theoreticians and other experimenters/leaders designed to fool party supporters at the lowest social rung into the belief that they held equal billing as those at the top who had given them the word.

So towards the end of the 1970s when the economy was in tatters and there was widespread shortage of food and some grocery items (some say manipulated by big private interests) the elites in the PNP and their friends close to the top where making regular trips to Miami to shop for the necessities of life like Johnny Walker Black, expensive footwear and Wrigley's chewing gum.

Those occupying the bottom rung did not even have passports. I make this point to say that it is a myth that the PNP does not have its social divisions as exist in the JLP and is on full display as a societal reality as one moves from the Jamaican suburbs and gated communities to zinc fence pockets.

It is the ideal that politicians know their constituencies intimately even if they do not live there. Smith Facey is not exactly PNP elite as is Brown Burke with about three academic degrees and a husband named Paul.

First question, with Smith Facey having worked with Portia in the constituency all of her political life, what is it Portia saw in Brown Burke that does not exist in Smith Facey? Other questions that must follow is, did Portia come straight with Smith Facey and say to her, you are still not ready and I cannot endorse you? Or could she not have said, because I cannot endorse you and you have done much work in this constituency I will not endorse anyone.

There are two matters that are in no doubt. The first is, neither Smith Facey nor Brown Burke can give the constituency the general push it needs to escape from the cold clutches of poverty and criminal hotheadedness. The second is, Brown Burke wants the constituency as a launching pad for much bigger things, in the short term not necessarily for herself.

To my way of seeing it, if neither of the ladies can bring about the constituency transformation that eluded Portia for about 40 years it is better that the constituents settle for someone who knows their hopes and fears and their dreams that grow elusive as they age.

At this stage, until Brown Burke, an outsider, can draft a workable constituency transformation plan and indicate even in theory her potential value-added, the seat seems best being taken by Smith Facey.

 

Conjugal visits on cold concrete

 

It is a concept most misunderstood by the layman and accepted by criminologists and sociologists that a person who commits a criminal act is sent to prison as punishment instead of being sent there to be punished. It's a subtle distinction.

In our jurisdiction we do not employ the cat-o-nine tails or the bamboo whip as they use in Singapore. To the best of my knowledge, we do not cut off fingers or draw-and-quarter any prisoner in Jamaica.

Unless one is sentenced to life without chance of parole, it is always assumed that every individual is capable of redemption. So, a youngster who opted for the gun at 15, was held by the police at 18, must be seen as having another shot at life at 29, this time to do much better; to do no wrong.

While there are work programmes in our main prisons, the man at street level would much prefer to see the optics of prisoners working in the public domain, cleaning gullies, breaking stones for road repairs, cleaning up public hospitals and such.

With the announcement that certain categories of prisoners will become entitled to conjugal visits, there seems to be an understanding that denying a human being sexual congress for long periods is cruel and inhuman punishment. But, Jamaicans are not now in a mood to make that understanding.

We must assume that as the programme rolls out there will be instant problems with logistics. Certainly, prisoners cannot be allowed to use the offices of the chief wardens. So, will say a cell with four men be cleared of three so that one can have his time with his lady?

Will there be a time limit to it, bearing in mind that not all men are created equal? Will soft sheets be given out, and where cells can be viewed by others, will the prison authorities provide a curtain across the cell?

Certainly, for prisoners who are in the 'despatch' category a little sex will be beneficial if even to remind one what it used to be like. On the basis that sex is like riding a bicycle; once you have learnt it you never forget how to do it, body parts willing, it ought not to be a problem in the next few months for makeshift quarters to be constructed to reintroduce prisoners with A's on their report cards to what they learnt years before.

Minister Bobby Montague will not get big points for this announcement. Now, had he announced the resumption of hanging ...

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