Sun | May 19, 2019

Mark Wignall | Male laggards, a woman is the solution

Published:Thursday | January 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Towards the end of 1973, I moved out of my parents' house and started a 'dolly house' with Ann-Marie, my girlfriend (who would eventually become my wife), and the infant son, Mark Jr, that we had recently, wonderfully and magically made.

"Place the mother of your child first," was the last-lick advice my mother gave me.

To us, our son was royalty, and although we were far from being economically secure, we insisted that the domestic help that we employed specifically to attend to his needs would be seen not necessarily as help, but as a close associate of our small circle.

There were national concerns in 1973, but the murder rate was not as pressing as say a raft of social inequities that were being constantly highlighted by then prime minister, the very popular Michael Manley of the People's National Party (PNP).

Women at that time were still seen as helpmates to men instead of them having the leadership potential, ability and expressions of insistence that they were the equal of men on just about any platform.

Domestic helpers were then paid $10 per week in 1973. They were also expected to enter the house they worked at through the backdoor. I paid my helper $12 per week, regularised the routine of her entering the house via the front door, and told her that the dining room table was where all in the house were expected to have their meals.

In 1973, murders had moved from 170 in 1972 to 227. When Ann-Marie and I went on the town for dinner or to visit a nightclub on weekends, we did so in the secure knowledge that our live-in domestic helper would be safe at home with our young child and while we were on the road, we would not be unduly taken up with any fears at street level.




The same cannot be said in 2018 amid this murderous chaos. Last year, the country recorded 1,616 murders, meaning that between 1973 and 2018, a period of 45 years we have proven to the global community and, to our utter shame, to ourselves, that we are 712 per cent less human than we were in 1973.

With Jamaica having the highest rate of women managers (60+ per cent) in high positions of corporate authority, it would seem to follow, if we would allow cultural blinders to fall from our eyes, that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) ought to be led by a woman commissioner.

We know, of course, that when Novelette Grant occupied the post temporarily, the 'squaddie' mentality inside the top, middle and bottom ranks of the police force extended not only to police supporting police by any means possible, but to the sexist idea that women can in no way lead the JCF, made up mostly of men, doing a job that was thought to be solely 'man's work'.

Quite a significant number of people in this country occupied their minds with the probability that maybe Ms Grant would get the top spot in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Out of the blue, in April of last year the nation was introduced to one George Quallo as the new commissioner.

The same paradigm operated when PJ Patterson gave Portia Simpson Miller her final launching pad to political glory and leadership in 2006. That Portia did not make full use of it ought not to be seen as a weakness of women at the national level. That was simply Portia's personal failure to grab at what history presented her with and to use it to outdistance the men who had gone before her.

In the mood as we are now to conflate blame with solutions to our galloping murder rate in 2018, it is useful for us to consider that a male commissioner of police like George Quallo is simply an overworn male-centric blast from the past that no longer has relevance in the present where women are the authentic managers.

My mother gave me good advice in 1973. Between that time and now our women have grown by leaps and bounds. We should therefore be thinking that the perfect place to place a woman is the place where many men have sat atop and miserably blown it. the office of commissioner of police.