Mark Wignall | Can Peter Phillips energise PNP?
Seventeen months after the February 2016 general election, very few people are talking about the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) tax give-back package that most believe won them the election. Now it is mostly about guns and murders.
Many of us have reasoned it out that significant numbers of the killings are hit jobs, turf wars over ill-gotten spoils of criminality and gang mayhem. We don't actually believe that we will be shot dead tomorrow, but we would much prefer that our communities remain on the outside of the criminality.
Well, those ideals run far from the reality as the criminality spreads wider. That's where the fear is, and is one of the main reasons why so many are supporting the zones of special operations initiative. The support is based on an expectation that it will work and bring some form of order to many of the affected communities.
As patriotic as Dr Peter Phillips is, and as concerned as he must be about the murders, politically, his future hinges on the JLP's failures on the newest security campaign. Dr Phillips is not a malevolent man, but as a politician, much of his future is tied up in the JLP administration making a hash of the initiative.
In last weekend's selection exercise in South West St Andrew, the opposition leader appeared to have made a deliberate and wise decision to remain in a politically subterranean place. He knew that political tempers would flare up, no matter which side won. Had he inserted himself into the process even to express goodwill and success to both candidates, some would say that he needed to do more to decrease the tensions.
Now his name is not attached to any of the candidates, winner or loser, and neither is his name associated with the very contest itself.
Jamaicans are in 'neutral' territory in terms of how they are viewing People's National Party (PNP) and JLP politics. No one is looking forward to any election, and the internal dynamics of both parties are the least of people's concerns.
The prime minister has the dual responsibility of creating a business-friendly atmosphere while overseeing the new security initiatives. At this time, the country needs to create about 1,800 real jobs each month and do it consistently until 2020, in which year the job-creation rate will need significant acceleration if five per cent growth is desired.
Phillips' political side needs that not to happen. Creating jobs and making the lives of Jamaicans more secure are one big package deal. One cannot exist without the other, and we definitely know that although security is paramount, we would much prefer that as we feel safer, more of our people will have jobs so that they can spend in this more liberated space.
Was Peter Bunting cramped last week?
Heated rhetoric in the South West St Andrew race will soon be forgotten, but it may never be forgiven if those supporting Phillip Paulwell in the future leadership race increase their clout.
Losing candidate Audrey Smith-Facey had Central Manchester MP Peter Bunting batting for her, and ultimately for himself in the contest. In Smith-Facey's corner was also Lisa Hanna, Damion Crawford and Raymond Pryce, a list of high-calibre PNP names.
After Portia had endorsed Angela Brown Burke, in a constituency setting, it was always going to be an uphill task to beat Brown Burke. Certainly, this does not mean that Bunting has lost significant shine on his ball. All he has to do now is sit and wait.
Peter Phillips must have been amused to watch and witness Paulwell and Bunting positioning themselves for a post-2020 transition in the PNP when there was no vacancy sign on the opposition leader's lawn.
Fitz Jackson cannot be ruled out of the running in that period, so Bunting needs all the head-start he can get. If we believe that previous PNP leadership contests were bruising, one does not need an excess of imagination to know that any contest with Paulwell and Bunting on the ticket would be verbally much hotter.
Phillip Paulwell has the most to lose just based on what we would expect anyone opposing him to dig up. That said, it does appear that he has more street cred in the PNP than Bunting, who, at some levels, is still seen as needing to do more to prove his 100 per cent dedication to the PNP.
Bunting is a wealthy man, and in Jamaica, we don't want 'bruk-pocket' leaders. Up to a certain point, the wealth factor will work in his favour until it is seen as creating social distance between him and the people he would like to lead.
As valid as the calibre of Bunting, Hanna, Crawford and Pryce, in the SW St Andrew race, it was blunted by the reality of Portia's deep political roots there.
Paulwell and Bunting know that Peter Phillips' stay at the top of the PNP begins with the understanding that he was catapulted there with no contest. Therefore, at no stage can he complain or react against those gunning for his post.
Paulwell and Bunting know that Peter Phillips, as opposition leader and PNP president, is in dog years' territory, where each year from now to 2020 will be like seven for Phillips.
It would not surprise me if opinion polls show that both political parties have 'disappeared' in the minds of the majority of our people. That creates the perfect political space for Prime Minister Andrew Holness. For Phillips, not so.
No climate for dreams
One reader emailed me in response to my Thursday column, 'Searching for that elusive Jamaican dream'.
"My situation with this Jamaica dream is like the situation on Page A5, where a married professional couple cannot own a decent house, notwithstanding no white picket fence and dog. I am still disturbed by the fact that for my 40-odd years on earth, I am yet to hear a government minister tell the Jamaican people to stop breed up di whole heap a pickney dem fi have an ever-expanding PATH.
"I am tired to hear about hospitals not having enough resources or schools not getting adequate budgetary support to prevent principals from trying to extort parents in order to run schools. Even with five-in-four growth, ... I bet you a bottle of Appleton V8 that all the jobs created will be based on business process outsourcing operations (BPO). All those companies listing on the stock exchange will only be interested to grow their profit margins and not the upward growth of the workers."
A few weeks ago, I was told that jobs in the BPO sector may range from "... $30,000 per month at the lowest level to $100,000 and upwards".
The reader continues: "I was on the road over the holidays and am amazed at the state of the verges leading from the airport to downtown Kingston. Which country in your travels have you ever see any welcoming airport road look so unkempt? Somebody is joking.
"Went to donkey race at Top Hill. No garbage bins to collect rubbish. Who is going to change the mindset of the people? I don't even want to talk about crime."
During the Seaga-led JLP administration of 1980-1989, the JLP made it part of government policy to make the public spaces pleasing to the eye. Since that time, beautification of public spaces has not even occupied the 'afterthought' column.
For our people to have a better view of their possibilities, it is not simplistic reasoning to argue that they need a better view of their physical surroundings. That may be an important line item in the 'build' section of the special zones operations.
Garbage skips, public urinals and laws with teeth to sanction those who break the rules.
- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.