Mark Wignall | Are they who they say they are?
Imagine, if you may, three fanciful scenarios in the Jamaican context. The first involves a judge of the Supreme Court. The second involves the DPP. And the third has the contractor general featured. All three of the individuals now find themselves walking alongside Alice in Wonderland in a crazy fairy tale.
A man is alleged to be a most notorious gunrunner, murderer for hire, and involved in the trans-shipment of hard drugs between South America and the American south coast. The accusations meld with the man's notoriety among many of those in his neighbourhood. He is also said to have close links with rogues in the officer corps of the JCF. There are also politicians close to him and it is not unknown for them to offer him special protection.
With all of that, he has now found himself before the high courts simply because of one intrepid detective who, not surprisingly, is in hiding because of threats to his life. On the night before the judgment is expected to be handed down, the judge is seen by a journalist being entertained at the residence of the accused.
The reporter watches more and observes them speaking, laughing, and almost acting in celebration of an event that has not yet taken place. They drink and raise a toast to power and more power.
The next day, the accused is freed in the Supreme Court. Later, the judge is seen leaving by a side entrance with more than his usual packs of pizza and extra pepper.
Those whose sons and daughters the accused murdered and the lives of others who were destroyed by him are left to sit and stew and grow in extreme anger at a system that seems set against them.
Now, in reality, we know that no high court judge in Jamaica would ever act with such reckless abandon or dare to belch in the hallowed halls of justice.
In the second imaginary scenario, the DPP has had her senior attorneys prosecuting a notorious money launderer and lotto scammer. In media reports, all indications are that the scammer is going to get his ass handed to him by the DPP and also spend about a decade in prison. The case has been occupying the public domain for the last 75 years.
On the night before the court is expected to hand down a decision, the DPP and the jury foreman are seen by an intrepid journalist to be entering the secondary residence of the accused, who has been on bail.
The reporter watches more and records them speaking, laughing, and almost acting in celebration of an event that has not yet taken place. They drink and raise a toast to power and more power.
On the last day of the infamous trial, the DPP does the unthinkable by tweeting like Donald Trump the Clown. 'He's just a trying yout. Go yu yaad, yah. No problem.' Then in the court proceedings, the attorneys representing the DPP use arcane legalese to hand the win to the defence, and the jury finds the community criminal not guilty.
And many have even forgotten that he died 50 years ago.
The few hail the judgment; the many condemn it. Most have no idea what has happened. In reality, we know that the DPP is a consummate professional whose duty exists only within the letter and the spirit of the law.
In the third imaginary scenario, the OCG is investigating the case of a man from Wrong Side Street who has dared to make a lot of money. Some believe much of the money came by way of 'hustling'.
That experience, of course, is not unknown among those in 'respected' businesses in Jamaica, but in respectable company, that must never be mentioned. The man from Wrong Side Street has also competed quite successfully at the corporate level.
It is alleged that the Government has given him a contract to build a cemetery in the Cockpit Country, and the general views are that the contractor can only build houses for the living and not spaces for the dead.
One week before the OCG is expected to hand the report to Parliament, it is determined that the contract is a private one, and the governmental machinery is not involved. Also, the CG is seen by an intrepid journalist to be entering a plush north coast marina, where he meets an alien, an undertaker, a zombie, and two well-known politicians who have recently fallen out of favour with the man from Wrong Side Street.
The reporter watches more and spends additional time observing them speaking, laughing, and almost acting in celebration of an event that has not yet taken place. They drink and raise a toast to power and more power.
In the report to Parliament, the OCG plasters the man from Wrong Side Street as a charlatan and a pretender. One part of the OCG's report on Page 2 of the 900-page report states:
'Tek it back from him! A who him? Immediately after he was contracted to begin work on the cemetery, he actually appeared as if he was about to meet all the requirements and complete the job on time and with no overruns. How dare dah bredda yah! Does he not know that I need to work and shub out my chest!'
In reality, we know that the OCG only operates at the highest levels of best practices and is well versed in the law. And in the English language.
Uphill task for Phillips
As much as I wish Dr Peter Phillips all the best as he takes the ultimate prize of the PNP when it has no power, PNP president, and, I assume, opposition leader, it is only the responsible thing for me to remind him that he is neither a spring chicken nor a game cock.
Heading fast into 70, Phillips has no choice but to set his prime ministership timetable to 'rapid' and 'by all means possible'.
Think of this fact. This is the first time a leadership change is happening in the PNP and the country is not energised or galvanised. It could be that because no real 'competition' is at hand, the public interest has faded.
But it could be for another reason, one with ominous signs for 'Daddy Manley's' party. In a recent conversation I had with a PNP MP, he told me of a not-so-recent PNP NEC meeting where the winningest ever, P.J. Patterson, told those who would listen that Andrew Holness of two years ago is not the same Holness of the present times. "He has really grown in the job."
With the Budget presentations all made and enough people confused to the point that it either stirs debate or it silences them, there is a sense that party loyalists have carved out their usual territories, and the ruling JLP is not ceding any ground to the PNP in popular support, new taxes, or new confusion.
'Mi nah earn nuh money!' said one of my taxi driver acquaintances with strong notional allegiances to the PNP. I don't know if he knew that I saw the impish smile on his face as we spoke. 'Everything tax upwards.'
'So, why don't you take to the streets?' I suggested.
'Who, me? Mi haffi hustle. Can't waste time.'
At the edge of the gas station parking space where we stood, there was a constant trickle of business in and out of the area. Not a deluge, but business nevertheless.
At the next election, Peter Phillips must prevail if he is to attain the real prize - becoming prime minister. If he fails, there will be Phillip Paulwell, but perception runs heavy against him as leader even if the reality is different.
And then, of course, there is Peter Bunting, not a man for the grass roots and the trenches.