The past week marked 180-odd years of Emancipation and 50-odd of political Independence.
Yet we still operate a corrupt system of government compounded by a corrupt national mindset; a generalised disdain for propriety; and a deep-rooted belief in entitlement. Westminster, a governance system created in England centuries ago to protect its monarchy's entitlements, is the origin of these problems.
Westminster's roots were planted by the Magna Carta, propagandised as a harbinger of democracy, but, in reality, a desperate ploy by King John to prevent the monarchy's imminent, bloody demise. Instead of democracy, the Magna Carta's long-term effect has been Westminster, an oppressive, dictatorial rule masquerading as freedom.
Westminster was exported to Jamaica during slavery and colonialism. The concomitant brainwashing was hugely successful as 50-odd years after political Independence and almost 200 years after Emancipation, we maintain this perverse system created to shore up a totalitarian-style monarchy, then blended with pseudo-democracy and imported here to keep us subservient.
Despite interminable, intolerable, insincere lip service about constitutional change, Queen Elizabeth II remains Jamaica's monarch. We still spend an annual fortune, despite tyrannical IMF fiscal restraint, on a governor general, his staff, residence and 'official' duties. We're mad!
And loving it! We've built garrisons to perpetuate Westminster. We slavishly follow Westminster's tenets even when they reduce our tiny talent pool of prospective national executives (aka 'Cabinet') from three million to 40-odd. We embrace Westminster's authoritarianism to the extent that almost every national appointment must be approved by our monarch-in-residence, the PM.
Independently appointed judiciary? LOL. Who appoints the Judicial Services Commission? Who decides and pays judges' salaries? Independently appointed public servants? DWL! Who appoints the Public Service Commission and fires them at will if they don't appoint the monarch's choice of solicitor general?
Colonialism oppressed all Jamaicans. Independent Jamaica oppresses political opponents, keeps 'citizens' mentally enslaved, acting as leaders' lapdogs begging for scraps. We've even cutely christened national scraps 'scarce benefits and spoils'.
Most important, we LOVE Westminster's unaccountability and will do anything to continue it.
We shall not, we shall not be moved.
Just like a tree that's planted by the water
we shall not be moved.
Take, for example, Delroy Chuck, part of Parliament's joint select committee considering a bill to raise the threshold for declaring gifts to parliamentarians from $20,000 to $50,000. If not for Delroy's championing of individual rights, this disgracefully pro-corruption bill might've passed without a blink. Not that he was championing our individual right to transparency in government. Chuck that! He was championing HIS individual 'right' to accept $500,000 worth of secret gifts.
Delroy preached it's unreasonable to insist a public official declare certain gifts. He actually said (Gleaner, June 11, 'Chuck: It is my business')
"A lot of my clients know I enjoy going to Las Vegas. You're going to say I must declare a trip to Las Vegas or to London?"
I swear to God. I know you believe I invent my satire, but NOBODY can make this chuckery up. No columnist has been more caustic in critiquing this Government than I, but, if this is a senior member of the alternative Cabinet, I say chuck the JLP. Has Delroy forgotten the PNP state minister who gambled away constituency fund donations and was fired? Is it possible to seriously believe we mustn't know who pays for Las Vegas holidays? How'd we cross-reference receipt of any scarce benefits and spoils?
So, I continue to look to youth for Jamaica's future and persistently support people like Raymond Pryce, Julian Robinson, Lisa Hanna, Kamina Johnson-Smith, Floyd Green and Marlon Morgan as national leaders. Recently, Lisa was criticised for voluntarily disclosing she'd paid personally for her son to accompany her on an official trip to Germany. She was accused of protesting too much. Puh-leeeeeeze! This only proves we're so deep in the morass we don't recognise transparency in government when it bites us on the nose. We should DEMAND, not criticise, this.
There's worse. Delroy, aggravating his foot-in-mouth disease, continued ranting about entitlements. Emboldened by Senator Lambert 'Outameni' Brown, who lobbied for 'smartphones' to be secret gifts, Delroy babbled on, "All of us get smartphones. All of us would have to declare we got a smartphone from a service provider." Only Charlie Brown can respond adequately: "Aaaauuuuggghhh!"
I expect no better from Lambert, who told the world that NHT's Outameni acquisition made a "profit" because, according to him, it was valued at $300 million-plus but purchased for $180 million. New chairman, Carlton Davis, a superlative Jamaican public servant, recently told the Public Accounts Committee: "It isn't the approach I would have taken in dealing with this matter ... it is not an area within the NHT's core competence ... ." So much for Lambert's loud and stout defence of the purchase. Is he off the NHT board?
So, Delroy's insistence MPs should be entitled to secret gifts is unsurprising. But his declaration that "a service provider" give the phones is beyond Alice in Wonderland. Is Delroy unaware parliamentarians pass laws governing service providers' licences and, wearing ministerial hats, appoint telecoms regulators? Does he care? Or is it 'chuck that'?
If parliamentarians are gifted 10 cents from telecoms service providers, I want to know.
In fact, I take the view ALL gifts to parliamentarians or their immediate families should be declared. Monetary value can be deceptive. In my September 30, 2014 column headlined 'It's always about the money', I told a very personal story that's worth repeating verbatim: "When I was executive chairman of a public body in sensitive negotiations with a private-sector association, the association's head told me he had a rare photo of my father as sports master at JC. The next day, the photo was on my desk. I'm certain the gesture was guileless, but I returned it within the hour."
With apologies for the trumpet solo, THIS is the behaviour I expect from parliamentarians. It's time to chuck Chuck.
Pete Seeger, American folk singer, songwriter and political activist, was blacklisted during the McCarthy era for being a Communist Party member. His was the voice of a generation of protesters against injustice. Pete Seeger was one of many civil-rights activists who adapted the lyrics of the traditional Negro spiritual We Shall Not Be Moved into a protest against 1960s prejudices, including segregation ("We're black and white together we shall not be moved"); gender inequity ("We're women and men together, we shall not be moved"); ageism ("We're young and old together, we shall not be moved"); and discrimination by sexual orientation ("yes, straight and gay together, we shall not be moved").
This was lost on music producer Clement 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd, who butchered the song and its traditions in a 1966 local cover, (featuring a teenage Delroy Wilson) by changing the lyric to "I Shall Not Remove". Aah, bwoy!
So as we mark Independence, I'm asking Independence Santa to convince Government to scrap expensive celebrations (this article was submitted for publication a week ago) and, instead, commit to AND BEGIN a process of real constitutional change. Abolish Westminster. Give us transparency and accountability instead.
Do we want simple, easy changes like fixed election dates and term limits? Do we want even more? If yes to either, don't be degraded or deprived for another minute. Stop supporting deceitful celebrations of austerity, curry goat campaigns, and undemocratic elections based on widespread voter intimidation conducted ONLY so 'your' party wins the right to ignore you for five years.
Tell them, "No accountability, NO VOTE"; "No transparency, NO VOTE".
In 1962, 72.28 per cent of the electorate voted. Since then, those numbers have been: 81.46 per cent (1967); 78.2 per cent (1972); 84.5 per cent (1976); 86.1 per cent (1980); 77.59 per cent (1989); 66.74 per cent (1993); 65.22 per cent (1997); 59.06 per cent (2002); 61.46 per cent (2007); and 52.76 per cent (2011).
The precipitous decline since 1990 can't be ignored. Next election might see a minority turning out. This loud cry from the people for fundamental change has been arrogantly snubbed by PNP and JLP alike. This isn't the 'articulate minority' crying out. It's EVERYBODY outside of hardcore party supporters.
No Government with 25 per cent of the electorate's vote is legitimate. We must deliver this message loudly and in an organised way to the IMF, World Bank, Eurozone grantors, and the almighty USA so they hear and understand how ungovernable Jamaica is becoming.
Trust me, they'll ensure true democracy for Jamaica. Why? Goodman's Law: Don't ask if it's about the money. It's ALWAYS about the money!
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.