Tue | Nov 21, 2017

Mark Wignall | Sugar Shane look salt?

Published:Sunday | October 15, 2017 | 12:00 AM

In the best of times, politics and principle will always step out to the same music, but the dance is usually awkward, laboured and laughable.

About 10 years ago, the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) mercilessly hauled the Jamaica Labour Part (JLP) administration of 2007-2011 over hot coals in relation to Daryl Vaz, Gregory Mair, Michael Stern, Shahine Robinson, and later Everald Warmington, who were revealed as having dual-citizen status, although all were born in Jamaica.

They had all won their constituencies, were forced to give up mostly American citizen status, but later retook their seats in by-elections. In the meantime, expensive lawyers and the courts were involved in what many JLP supporters thought was a grand ploy to nullify the JLP's four-seat advantage and hand back power to a demonstrably petulant PNP, whose leader could never quite recover from being psychologically discombobulated by the JLP win.

Now it turns out that in the by-election stewing over flames in South East St Mary, as of nomination day, the PNP's Dr Shane Alexis, dubbed Sugar Shane for the political moment, was a Canadian citizen having no Jamaican passport. Under withering criticism and with the PNP political hypocrisy fully on display, he has since moved half-heartedly to secure Jamaican citizenship.

Based on what we know of such a process and the time to completion, it is very likely that should Dr Alexis pull a rabbit out of a hat and snatch a win over the JLP's Dr Norman Dunn, he would still not be the genuine article, that is, a fully documented Jamaican citizen.

In 1976, when the PNP struck upon one of its greatest political moves and had published the song, The Message by Neville Martin, one of the key lines was, "I and I born yah." It also stressed that grandmother, grandfather and father were all the genuine 'born yah' Jamaicans.

The song was an obvious dig at the JLP's Eddie Seaga, who was born in the USA but returned with his parents as a child and eventually renounced his American citizenship to demonstrate his total commitment to Jamaica and its political process.

On the South East St Mary slip-up by the PNP in relation to Dr Shane Alexis, it cannot to be reduced to lack of vetting or just rank stupidity on the part of the PNP secretariat. It has to be much more than that. Surely, the PNP never thought the JLP would just sit down and not do its opposition research? That is standard politics.

I am, therefore, forced to draw the conclusion that a 'sensible' PNP secretariat knew all along about the citizenship status of Dr Alexis, but because Sugar Shane was sent to South East St Mary as a sacrificial lamb in the JLP claiming and retaking its own territory, the PNP needed an escape clause to explain the loss. When it eventually happened.

 

PNP IN DISARRAY

 

Dr Shane Alexis has a Canadian passport and also a Grenadian one, the place where his mother was born. "This is mix-up and blender," said Maxine, a resident of South East St Mary.

According to the mayor of Pt Maria, the JLP's Richard Creary, when I spoke with him over a week ago, a poll completed before the death of the former MP for South East St Mary, Dr Winston Green, was showing the PNP significantly behind the JLP. I have not seen such a poll, and, on the assumption that it was commissioned by the PNP, if it does exist, the PNP would have a quite sound reason for suppressing such negative information about its chances.

According to Mr Creary's reasoning, any positioning between the two parties would have since shown increases in the JLP favour, what with the active campaigning and all the noise and political fluff.

But, in the constituency of doctors even with the JLP's Dr Norman Dunn being the busybody that he is, one gets the sense that Dr Alexis is half in and half out. When he said in an interview, in borrowing a term from Michelle Obama, "When they go low, we go high," is he at all aware of the PNP's antecedents on pontificating on dual-citizenship matters?

Both political parties are not even pretending that the race is any longer a local matter. To the JLP, it is a referendum mostly for the economic policies of the JLP administration. Add to that the long history of South East St Mary, with multiple JLP electoral wins, the JLP in the driver's seat of governance, and the PNP still crusty around the collar, a significant JLP win cannot be seen as any surprise.

To the Opposition PNP, an unlikely victory there is needed to prove that Peter Phillips has shaken off the negative remnants left over from the pre-Portia days leading up to the 2016 loss to the JLP. When that is twinned with the need to give Dr Phillips the perfect springboard, the PNP simply cannot afford to lose, even if it has already scripted its escape clause.

One veteran journalist who preferred to remain nameless told me last Thursday, "The momentum favours the JLP. As you know, it is not my favourite party historically, but I am not impressed with the leadership of Dr Phillips. I can't see the PNP winning in South East St Mary."

 

Many old boys silently express concerns

 

A pattern exists among the big four sporting high schools where it seems the success of the schools in scoring well in academics has not attracted the same level of fervour as the heated contests at Manning Cup or during Champs.

When it comes to winning sports trophies, schools such as Kingston College (KC), Jamaica College (JC), St George's College and Calabar are by far the upfront winners. They are the Big Four.

But what does it show for the same picture with scores in CSEC and CAPE?

In the 2017 CSEC rankings (percentage of students getting five or more passes, including maths and English), KC was No. 22, George's was No. 27, JC was No. 39 and Calabar at a disappointing No. 45.

In the 2017 CAPE rankings (pre-university percentage of students getting two or more subjects with grades one to three), George's had made a leap from No. 44 the year before and was scored at No. 22. KC was at No. 23, JC was at No. 31, and Calabar, which won Champs, was at No. 39.

Total number of schools in the rankings was 99.

One rather peeved Calabar old boy said to me, "I can only express it in small groups and to you, but I feel ashamed that I don't want my name called. Including reserves, the total complement of the Calabar track team which won Champs was 85. Now, think of that.

"The school spent, in becoming the first high school to lay out a professional synthetic track, close to $70 million. The track team is considerably less that 10 per cent of the school population.

"Way back, we were still close to the top of the academic scale. Many of us would not mind, but at No. 45 in the CSEC rankings, we have serious concerns, as somewhere along the way, something has gone wrong."

KC has had its big spend on its own professional track, and JC is sure to follow. Do the school administrators really believe that expending money on these great track facilities will somehow redound to the benefit of the academic performance of the schools, the very reason for having high schools in the first place?

Has it occurred to these schools that others like Campion, Ardenne and MoBay High are contributing more to the development of this country than KC, Calabar, and their fantastic foot racers?

There is more to come.

- Mark Wignall is a political affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.