Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Daniel Thwaites | Wakanda whiplash

Published:Sunday | July 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The energy ministry's woes keep coming, and by my reckoning, it's past the nine-day mark that traditionally tolls the Jamaican public's exhaustion with a commonplace story. This one has legs!

Because just when the think the ex-chairman of Petrojam has paid back for the trips not taken, it seems more untaken trips pop up, and there are more boards from which he must resign.

Just when you whiplash around to peek at the Universal Service Fund, out pops the situation at NESol with a little cottage industry of controversy over there as well.

The latest development is a statement from the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, National Integrity Action, the PSOJ, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association, and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, all asking that more be done, and that Wakanda Wheatley, who remains in Cabinet, not be the judge of his own matter. It's safe to say that we're not done galloping past the nine-day mark.

The scuttlebutt is that the Greater Andrew was reminded by the Lesser Andrew that any firing would have consequences and repercussions to the whole Andrew fraternity. One never knows how much credibility to give such stories, except to note that the Greater Andrew has displayed great tenacity in hanging on to, and trying to save, the bleeding limb of the Lesser Andrew.

 

Changing Gears

 

Let me change gears for a bit. In last week Wednesday's paper, I received a rap on the knuckles from a writer, 'G.S.', who asked that we "don't distort Wakanda as byword for corruption":

"Notwithstanding the lavishly themed party and the rhythmic cuteness of the former energy minister's name alongside, I'm still trying to understand the perpetuation of use of the term 'Wakanda' by the writer in a way that associates, in no uncertain terms, with something negative."

That's a splendid opening where I'm simply referenced as "the writer", and so I'm positively disposed to G.S. immediately. And naturally I am not completely insensitive to her interest in shielding positive mythology from lampoon and satire. But that's where our agreement begins and ends. She says:

"The celebration of the film Black Panther and its fictional country has, to date, been resoundingly positive, particularly as it is seen as a celebration of black identity."

No, it hasn't. The Black Panther movie was not uniformly positive about black identity at all, even if, for the moment, we accept that the whole raft of identity politics is worth defending. The movie was very positive about the fictional African utopia of Wakanda, but downright negative about the New World black, who is portrayed as diseased, sick and incurably psychopathic. Maybe there's a different definition of 'positive' out there I don't know about. Wakanda is fair game.

On top of that, it's Wakanda Wheatley who latched on to the film's mythology and threw a wicked shindig to which he didn't even invite 'the writer'. Unforgivable, I know.

Anyway, as much as I would like to linger on film criticism, there are juicier topics to attend to. Take, for example, the whole Carolyn Warren affair, which the Gleaner editorial says opens a door to "national dialogue". I think the newspaper is right, but I also think that the broad outlines of our collective opinion are already pretty clear: We believe in redemption. Carolyn Warren, if she has reformed her life, should not, because of her past transgression, be blocked from opportunity eternally.

From where do we get this abiding faith in redemption? The Bible, most likely, and despite the remonstrations and warnings to be found in this newspaper by comedian Mikey Abrahams about the dangers of the Testaments, we must contemplate the worse dangers of NOT having them.

 

Proper Due Diligence

 

So when the question of whether proper due diligence had been performed regarding her hiring as managing director for NESol, I found her response compelling. She basically said that the mistake was in her past, and that she had moved on and done everything to reform her life and make a positive contribution to society.

With that, I was even willing to overlook that she had landed in a job where, ordinarily, one would have expected someone with a technical background, which she doesn't have. NESol is, after all, the Rural Electrification Programme with a fancier name.

But then it was suggested to me that the due diligence failure at NESol wasn't accidental, but deliberate.

For example, suppose it was the case that prior to landing at NESol, Ms Warren's resume was being brandished at another state company, where politically connected henchmen insisted that she be shortlisted even after the cut-off date for an advertised position had passed? Suppose that improper insistence had induced conflict with the managing director, the permanent secretary of the energy ministry, and others?

Suppose an insistence that proper procedure be followed, that transparency be maintained, and that other candidates be given a fair chance at securing the job, was met with outright hostility and attempted intimidation by apparatchiks of the now-embattled minister? Suppose the effort to install Ms Warren even led to the 'review' of the whole HR manual by other connected cronies? What then?

If any of that had taken place, surely it goes to the people who were doing it and not directly to Ms Warren. It would call into question the genuineness of the conversion.

Anyhow, I don't think this about Ms Warren at all. It's about a minister and a ministry that had gone so thoroughly off the rails that even now, despite the howls, they don't even feel the need for redemption. Before you get to that, you have to admit that something went wrong. Perhaps I missed it, but has Wakanda Wheatley ever said so?

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.