Wed | Dec 11, 2019

Daniel Thwaites | Tell me if yuh lucky

Published:Sunday | November 10, 2019 | 12:35 AM
Phillip Paulwell
Daryl Vaz

You know how it is when you have a long-term relationship going on. Sometimes there are differences of opinion and you have to take a time out, maybe “walk dem out likkle” and allow the situation to settle. So it is with myself and The Gleaner who I’ve been in a more or less serious relationship with, on and off, for over two decades.

Let’s say we had a difference of opinion that required a cooling-off period. Quite unexpectedly, a column I wrote about the absurdities of how the Integrity Commission reports the assets of the two most powerful men in the country got a little TOO much attention.

Most helpful was a note or two from the opinion editor. Also, I tip my non-existent hat to Gordon Robinson, who is very clear-eyed about these matters and whose reflections were illuminating, and bracing. The multiple ironies are not lost on me.

A lot has been going on. In this time, Ruel has been unceremoniously dethroned, the battle for the PNP leadership has concluded, and Pastor Andrew Scott correctly advised that the missionary position is the only suitable arrangement to prevent stroke, heart disease, and eternal damnation, in that order. Meanwhile, there is first-hand witness testimony from the highest authority that the government is “tight and firm”, although the dollar certainly isn’t either.

At one end of the social scale, the Jamaican stock market is bounding forward and many lattes are being bought. At the other end, social desperation and criminality are surging like stocks and dengue, and throwing children into toilets is becoming unnervingly fashionable. The states of emergency may as well be declared a failure, and the Manchester Courthouse is ablaze, although it’s not yet clear if the fire or water ketch the records office, or more important, the right records.

It is an exciting time.


But with all that, nothing has generated quite as much consternation and chatter as Uncle Sam’s intervention into local politics by cancelling the visas of Daryl Vaz and Phillip Paulwell. That’s been a bombshell. So as I sit here wondering if I should pay my mortgage or have a latte, that’s the topic on my mind.

As the long line outside the Embassy attests, US visas aren’t casual and forgettable issues for most Jamaicans. And popular culture confirms it. When Kartel lost his visa it resulted in orgiastic lyricism as he processed and transfigured his grief:

“Set good like de ice inna freezer,

What a body nice yuh a sting like a bees


Piece ah ice mek de rum flow easier,

Tell me if yuh lucky mi wi get back mi


Of course, the dark angel Adidjah published another less family-friendly version of that tune which mentions baby oil as a means of making the whole transaction easier. It comes to mind precisely because it would be helpful if the US applied some as they proceed to sort us out. Anyhow, Kartel’s theory of how he might get back him visa is as good as any.

But the Kartel illustration serves as a reminder that Vaz and Paulwell have joined a select, highly visible bunch of entertainers, senior police officers, businessmen and politicians who have had their travel privileges to the United States pulled. Let’s see: Kartel, Bounty Killa, Mavado, Beenie Man, Luciano, Aidonia, Popcaan, Ricky Trooper, James Robertson, and now Senior Superintendent Terence Bent.

What’s going on here? Well, I pulled the following from the RJR webpage, reporting on an interview with Horace Chang about the Vaz situation:

“Asked about the possible impact of the revocation … on governance, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said the matter was a personal one and he did not want to ‘pre-judge or anticipate anything’ since he had no details.”

Errrrrm. Every part of that statement is wrong and either makes no sense or raises more questions.

First of all: No! This matter is not a “personal one”. It is ALSO a personal one, but it is certainly not a purely private problem.

If it were simply a personal problem, one wonders why the national security minister was recorded announcing it to the public. Evidently, it is a matter of overwhelming public concern, unless he’s in the habit of revealing private business and doing radio interviews about it.

Second, the security minister had no details and that’s quite alarming. Have relations deteriorated so badly that the embassy would take such a move without debriefing the Government about its plans, beliefs, reasoning and intentions? That’s remarkable all by itself.

In the meanwhile, Jamaican social media, which is no slouch when it comes to generating scabrous, salacious, and scandalous content, is hard at work. All I can say is that if these postings are false, I hope Vaz and Paulwell employ the technical resources to collar the trolls who’ve been creating and disseminating the sewage.

Truly the only thing we know at the moment is that is not pretty talking mek Uncle Sam tek weh visa … ah Action doh dat!

Anyhow, the inquisitive public ought to be spared the pain of speculation, negative inference, mek-up story, and all the other fabulations and fabrications that follow on a high profile rebuke like was just handed down to two of the country’s most recognisable politicians.


I won’t go so far as to say that the embassy owes us a goddamn explanation, but sumting chikini inna it. Know what…actually, I will go that far. Uncle Sam owes us a goddamn explanation! You can’t come and drop doo-doo like that in the middle of the Jamaican lawn and exit stage left without some sort of discussion about what’s going on. It’s just not… gentlemanly.

All the same, I know a guy whofa granny used to just beat him every now and again without telling him why. It was a very effective strategy to get him inspecting his conscience and left him with the abiding suspicion that she knew about everything he did wrong.

It’s not as if there’s a shortage of governmental action that might be annoying the Americans. There have been rogue deals in telecoms, shady security arrangements with Israel, a virtual marriage to China (that Obama spoke ominously about when he visited), and close ties to the praetorian rump of communism in Cuba and Venezuela. Oh, and to top it all off, we’ve politicised Operation Anthem, an ordinary and unexciting security arrangement.

So I don’t think it’s fair. Jamaicans take their visas very seriously, and a loss is treated like a medieval plague where there’s a vibrant fear of contagion. Even the rhinocerotic politician generally impervious to the soul-crushing accusations of the public hive-mind has family, and there are rumours that some even have feelings and emotional lives, too. So it’s not right that gossip, rumour, suss and speculation should be fed such serious steroids.

Plus, just on a practical level, Uncle Sam is clearly desirous to send us a message, but it would be nice to know what it is so that we can decide if it’s a message worth hearing. It’s difficult to read the tea leaves, and we’re not that smart. At least, I’m not.

All we know is that these cancellations aren’t done just willy-nilly helter-skelter ketch-shubby, while the targets (one with a Cabinet post in the balance) are pretty much like Kartel, just counting on luck.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to