Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Editorial | PM must repudiate Warmington’s clientelism

Published:Wednesday | October 18, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Everald Warmington's advice to voters in South East St Mary can be parsed to eternity to disprove accusation of clientelism or an intent to partisan patronage. We are not buying it. Nor are most Jamaicans.

In the circumstance, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is obligated to repudiate Mr Warmington, so as to reassure Jamaicans that the party and Government that he leads are not in the business of political victimisation and that they can trust his word that he is committed to the fight against corruption.

The constituents of South East St Mary will vote on October 30 to choose a parliamentary representative for the riding to replace Dr Winston Green, who died two months ago. The contestants are Dr Shane Alexis, who, like Dr Green, is a member of the opposition People's National Party (PNP), and Dr Norman Dunn of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which forms the Government in which Mr Warmington is a minister.

Mr Warmington's abiding reputation is for being rude and loose of tongue, which suggests that his inner thoughts are often expressed without constraint.

On the hustings last week, Mr Warmington declared: "It makes no sense, I want to tell you, to elect a PNP member of parliament when you have a Jamaica Labour Party Government. It is quite clear and obvious (that) if you have a Jamaica Labour Party member of parliament, it means that he will be able to serve you better than a PNP member of parliament."

Mr Warmington's defenders might argue that he didn't mean to imply that state resources would, or might be, withheld from South East St Mary if its constituents vote for the Opposition, which would be a clear breach of the protection against discrimination on the basis of political opinion, as guaranteed by Section 13 (2) (I) (ii) of the Constitution.

Rather, they will perhaps say the minister meant that it will be easier to coordinate policies and programmes for the constituency if the MP is on the same side as the administration. There is less likelihood of policy discordance.

Except that statements of the type he made last week, or variations thereof, are not entirely new for Mr Warmington.

 

POLITICALLY IMMORAL

 

Indeed, three and a half years ago, Mr Warmington broadly applied the same principle to his own constituents of South West St Catherine, even if they declared themselves to be supporters of the JLP. He wanted first to ensure that they voted for the party before they could receive government benefits.

As Mr Warmington told a campaign meeting in the constituency at the time, if a voter went to his office and declared himself to be a JLP sympathiser seeking assistance, but a check of the computer records revealed he hadn't voted, then there would be no help - not even, the petitioner was told, "the old lady on a crutch".

"If you don't vote, you don't count, and you can't ask for government benefits when you refuse to participate in the governance of your country," he said.

That, on the face of it, might seem like an attempt to encourage deeper participation in Jamaica's democratic process. But taken to its logical conclusion, it is one politician's insistence that a taxpayer and citizen barter his vote for entitlement to state resources. Not only is that approach politically immoral, but clearly unconstitutional.

We don't question that similar attitudes prevail on the other side, making this matter of partisan patronage one worthy of broader national discussion. But the greater burden for its excision rests with those who form the Government.