Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Mark Wignall | Really now, Ruddy

Published:Thursday | March 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Rudyard Spencer

In 2003 when the People's National Party's (PNP) Omar Davies told his partisan constituents, in celebrating the election win, that leading up to the 2002 elections, the PNP administration would be foolish to curtail spending, so they had to 'run wid it', I wrote a column congratulating him for his candour, if not its full meaning of going on a 'bullo wuk' political spending spree.

Today, I would like to express similar sentiment to 74-year-old Ruddy Spencer, minister of state in finance and the public service, for plainly telling the nation what we have always known. Politicians 'christen dem pickney fus'.

Speaking to a clutch of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters in Bellefield, Manchester, last Sunday, he told them that any problems farmers had in acquiring the services of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) would be alleviated because a JLP chairman, Mr Michael Stern, was now in place.

In full view and earshot of the media, he began, "Labourites, we have a system where we will now have our own chairman of RADA, and things have been happening, and things can happen at RADA. But, naturally, you will meet some bottlenecks because we have just taken over the system, and we are trying to find our way around the system. Where you never have a parish manager for RADA, you now have a Labourite being the chairman of RADA, so whatever problems you used to have ..." until being told by a colleague that he ought to be aware of the media presence.


Surprise, Surprise


"No, no, I want them to hear," said Spencer, displaying an arrogance that I had never associated with his easy-going approach to life.

Since that time, he has been rightly, highly criticised, but all that has done is reinforce his expression of political arrogance. He has doubled down, saying that the matter was "taken out of context", and he has arrived at the early conclusion that he has no intention of resigning as some have suggested and called for.

While not exactly atop a surfboard riding a huge wave of popularity, the JLP figures it has the PNP's soup cooked as recent polls suggest that if an election was called now, the JLP would likely increase its seat margin over the PNP. At the same time, even with the 'newness' that a young Andrew Holness has implied and consistently promised, poll numbers indicate that close to 90 per cent of our adult population believe politicians are corrupt.

As one opens the chapter on political corruption, its first passage is walking through the gates of and embracing the underhanded political victimisation.

Yesterday, a retired politician told me, "The time is short. Yu not certain that yu going to get that other term, but the easiest way to ensure that is by doling out a disproportionate amount of public resources to your party supporters, especially those at the base. They are the ones who vote. The garrison is already locked up. What you really need is significant support from the rural farming community."

Like a taxi man working on the night shift, a policeman on patrol at 2 a.m., a fisherman five miles from port, farming in Jamaica comes with significant risks such as hurricanes, excess rains, droughts, high costs of regular farm inputs, and the perennial praedial larceny.

Mr Spencer knows that public resources are not his to give away in a highly fixed lottery, but we have a duty to tell him thanks for showing us more of the 'runnings', even if he is now probably considering a fulsome apology.

Newness, Mr Prime Minister? Tell that to 74-year-old Ruddy Spencer.