Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Mark Wignall | Prime Minister, is our bet on you still good?

Published:Sunday | December 17, 2017 | 12:05 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) presents Aubyn Hill (centre) as the new executive director of the Economic Growth Council (EGC) during a press conference at Jamaica House last Tuesday. To Hill’s left is EGC Chairman Michael Lee-Chin.

Last weekend, I spent a few days in the lovely but awfully congested town of Ocho Rios. Chupski and I were there for rest, relaxation, and everything that fitted in-between.

Leaving from a private residence in the town's western end, we headed out on Saturday to have dinner at a spot we had been in the quite recent past - Ocean's 11. Unlike in many restaurants across Jamaica, the service was impeccable, and we particularly enjoyed a young woman who served us, telling us that cell phones were causing us to lose our humanity.

Most of us want to believe in this country and design in our minds the will to maintain faith that our leaders will eventually do the hard work and create policy to advance the social and economic fortunes of this country.

"This thing is out of hand," said Paul, a young university graduate who was seated at a table next to us with his fiancÈe. Earlier, we had struck up a conversation because we were all from the Kingston Metropolitan Area.

As we spoke, I pointed out to him that in the 1960s, Jamaica fell under the western wave of social protest, student activism, and feminism. "So, you are saying to me as a person in his 60's that you expect me to take to the streets in social and political activism?" he asked.

"Well , why not?" I answered.

"And when the police gas mi and buss gunshot over my head, will you be there with me?"

I was forced to move the conversation to enjoyable triviality.

Prime Minister Holness had been part of our conversation and Paul had not just indicated, but plainly said that he liked the general stance of Holness. "What I believe he is missing is that people like me will support him just because Peter Phillips of the PNP has not made us more attracted to the type of PNP that you said existed in the early 1970s. This crime thing is getting out of @/!! hand, and if something is not done, Holness will be blamed. I will blame him."

 

BEEN HERE BEFORE

 

It is utterly painful for me to tell those who have rightfully condemned the sexual assault and death of an elderly woman that we have been here before. This is not a deliberate time warp, but we have been here before in raping and murdering old people - back in the late 1970s. People who were once respected to the max way back in the 1960s.

In December 2017, with murders racing all their way to near-record levels, one main question that needs to be asked is this: Mr PM, with you using as one of your political catch calls the promise that a vote for the PNP would be one of certain murder and a vote for your JLP a definite guarantee of perpetual peace, is there something you need to say to this nation to deconstruct that sorely embarrassing podium promise?

Where is your value-added, Prime Minister?

I am not exactly the sort of political person that a politician can rely on for a certain vote. I have this absolutely nasty, disgusting, and pleasantly delightful habit of switching my votes between the JLP and the PNP.

I am not there yet in seeing the PNP better than the JLP. The JLP still has my support, but that is so for two main reasons. One, not only do I suspect, but I know that creating new policy and properly managing it in the Jamaican political context is both a function of time as it is of expertise in the post.

Some politicians are plainly over the hill. In the PNP, but, worse, for our sakes, also in the governing JLP administration. The willingness of JLP ministers to buy in to new, workable solutions to our national policy problems is usually conversely proportional to the hedge size of their egos. I say this not as a direct attack on the JLP Cabinet, but as a recognition of what makes the 'typical' politician in power tick.

 

HARDLY ANY DIFFERENCE

 

Years back in the 1970s, where the main difference between the PNP and the JLP was that a PNP government was focused on social policy success and a JLP government had a need to find the funding before it even considered such policies, we had a fair idea of what would be the policy trajectory of each respective administration.

The fact is, there is hardly any real ideological and policy difference between the PNP and the JLP, especially where for more than a few years now, it has been the International Monetary Fund (IMF), our new links to the old bosses, which has been directing how policy direction is charted.

Prime Minister Holness is plainly buried under the pressure of creating solutions to the country's runaway murder rate, reports of gun finds and misinformation, and loud claims of the need to increase wages in certain civil service sectors to the extent that his governance is forced to operate on a day-to-day basis.

I sympathise with him, but the truth is, he is the one who, like all the politicians who preceded him, came begging for the job. He begged us to vote for him, and he presented us with the conditions for those votes. So far, the votes may be holding but as the murder rate continues in its horrible path, his time may be running out.

Ocho Rios needs a makeover

Last Saturday as Chupski and I left Ocean's 11 and were trying to head back to the gated community we were staying at west of the medium-sized town of Ocho Rios, it was plain hell trying to navigate a safe way back to the highway.

I must confess that although I have been driving since 1972, I have never been comfortable with night driving in Jamaica. For one, the signage is an afterthought. It is not that I do not know Ochi, but the town is a hodgepodge of roads each fighting for space to link with the highway running from the general direction of MoBay to Oracabessa.

On approaching the highway, it was too late for me to recognise that I was using a one-way road and travelling in the wrong direction. A taxi cab pressed down on me. Foolish cars were there behind me, apparently being driven by people like me who lived in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. Horns were blaring, and Chupski was there beside me saying, "Don't let them intimidate you. Just wait on the light and move out."

"Yu nuh si sey di man nuh know di road," said a woman walking by the taxi cab as he continued to drive down on me, pressuring me into reversing, cars piled up behind me. She slapped down her hand hard on the top of the cab.

As the light changed, I moved out in a burst, and in the cool a/c of the car, I found my arms sweating.

I first visited Ocho Rios as a child in the late 1950s. It was little more than a fishing village, then. One gets the sense that all the urban planners have done done since then is add roads to the village while the residents and business people have piled on.

Quite apart from the development in the east with the big tourism interests, the actual town of Ochi is in a kind of 'respectable dilapidation'.

Early Sunday morning as the lady slept, I kissed her and drove out. It was 6:30 a.m. I head for the Ocho Rios Market, a venue in need of an immediate fix and development.

In the early morning sunlight, it is so much more obvious that Ocho Rios needs immediate attention. It must not be allowed to grow to the level of, say, Montego Bay, where the fixes are near to impossible.

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