Wed | Oct 23, 2019

Mark Wignall | The reality of policing politicians

Published:Thursday | October 10, 2019 | 12:11 AM
Ruel Reid

Yesterday morning at minutes to seven a.m. I went travelling. To bar joints I knew which were open from five a.m. To catch the early-morning alcoholics, those men who lived alone and probably needed two boiled eggs for breakfast, plus those who were willing to talk.

I told them that former Education Minister Ruel Reid and CMU president Dr Fritz Pinnock were arrested along with a minor JLP politician. All of them were aware of the problems which had sucked much of the air out of the JLP’s reasonably good ratings, locally and in the international community, about the general direction of the economy.

‘It nuh look good,’ said a fruit vendor in the bar to buy mint tea and a rum special. She told me she was 46 years old. ‘I tend to prefer the JLP so when I see Andrew fire Reid, I sey it nuh look good but it may end up good.’

‘What you mean by end up good,’ I asked.

‘Well, if dem get arrested and get charge and go a court, dat is di tight ting. Any ting happen in the court is dat wi gwine deal wid.’

Many journalists enjoy the ease of having many sources from just about all areas of society but we have to deal with testing the latest bit of information because we do not know if the source is situationally compromised.

It is obvious that Dr Peter Phillips got wind of info that many others in a rarefied political and journalistic atmosphere had and ‘him buss it out’ on Monday by putting pressure on Andrew Holness on the Reid matter.

That is good politics but it has an extractive factor. So, starting at the top, let’s assume that Phillips lucked into some info that Reid and Pinnock were about to be arrested, and he puts real pressure on the PM. He runs his mouth when he knows that the PM is politically and constitutionally trapped.


Prime Minister Holness is neither the national security minister nor the commissioner of police. Thus he is forced to remain quiet even though he is more than likely to have the same info that Peter Phillips has.

But, I use the word extractive. There must be brewing a big political side to this. On the assumption that both the JLP and the PNP agree that corruption has set back the economy, I am certain that in the long run, even the PNP will benefit in the long run from efforts by the JLP administration to not get itself involved with any of its senior Cabinet members faced with such accusations.

On that basis, the PNP has to hope that the energy being now pushed as opposition policy will carry Peter Phillips in any momentum imagined to six months, nine months and even one year down the road.

If that does not happen, then this week and this action will be in the forefront of Andrew Holness’ political mind, and at that stage he may want to go for more than the jugular as he faces off on the battlefield with the PNP.

He may want to take the PNP apart. He may remember that at the very moment when he tried to give the police and the system of investigations and arrest the distance which the constitution requires it was Peter Phillips who carried him into a near political infamy.

A few days ago I was seated in the office of a JLP minister of government. He had about 40 thick files on his desk and yellow separators in the files.

Good governance rests on the assumption that those files are strictly ‘the people’s business.’

Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to and