Ronald Thwaites | Yes backra!
I decided not to vote for the extension either of the ZOSO in Denham Town or the state of emergency (SOE) in St Catherine last week in Parliament. Had the matters not been presented in a slap-dash fashion, out of respect I would have supported the requests of the heads of the security forces for a further period in both instances.
But that was not what happened. Members were alerted only on the Monday evening before the debate that these issues would be on Tuesday's agenda, leaving no time to prepare, to request a full report containing data showing all the reasons for the enlargement and outlining the course towards a resumption of constitutional freedoms and the establisment of sustainable and just peace. These are not optional extras but indispensable requirements of the process.
In the event, none of these were provided adequately or at all, yet sufficient government and opposition members agreed, in effect, to make these extreme measures the new norm of crime-fighting. At first, it seemed that the members on the Speaker's left were going to take a righteous stand on this lurch towards authoritarinism, but then they relented and acquiesced, albeit with a largely purposeless overnight delay regarding the SOE.
When the last extension for St James was requested, at least there was a weak ministry paper purporting to describe social interventions undertaken. Not even that this time. The unspoken narrative was, "C'mon members, Andrew has to show face at the United Nations next week, so pass the thing now: No badda with the questions. You no see murders gone down."
The prime minister spoke of the SOE providing the opportunity to build "pillars of transformation" leading to long-term solutions. It sounded good but when I asked him what he meant, hoping to hear about intense training and work for youth, the expansion of Project Hope, side by side with the military and police-state powers, he told me about the new green-bike traffic squad and some vagueness about more intelligence gathering.
So once again, repression without radical resocialisation and opportunity will prevail. And those who voted really thought they had contributed to solving crime, only to have it rear its murderous head the day after with the brazen killing of Pastor Johnson right in the middle of the bristling state of emergency in St Catherine North Police Division.
Same story since 1974. Same results are likely now.
The other big issue in the House was the shameful embarrassment about the bauxite revenues signed off with this New Day company. Shameful because, over the two sittings, it became obvious that billions of dollars to which the nation is entitled have been given away by the incompetence, or worse, of the Government. And the loss is continuing and they are unrepentant.
Embarrassing, because the minister came to Parliament with an ill-prepared and inadequate statement which he and his colleagues thought reflected a triumph but when questioned about the math, he could not answer, nor could his subsequent efforts rebut or explain away the losses to an overtaxed nation. So we crash from the prosperity due from the now-bouyant aluminium market to the poverty of a pittance per ton of bauxite. Why?
Not even the ever-cooperative Speaker could help Bobby.
And as bad, when Fitz Jackson pleaded with our rulers to settle the long-overdue police wage claim, the mentality of disdain and disrespect flashed brightly in Delroy Chuck's riposte, " Tell them to sign! There is nothing more". Marie Antoinette would have been proud!
Yes, Backra ... .
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.