Wed | Nov 21, 2018

Mark Wignall | It seems the PM’s got his man

Published:Sunday | March 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The four men on whose shoulders Jamaica’s national security falls: (from left) National Security Minister Robert Montague; Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Commissioner of Police-designate Antony Anderson; and army chief, Major General Rocky Meade.

In the politically dysfunctional times of the 1970s when the PNP and JLP were hardly pretending that they were not tribes from opposing ends aching to squeeze each other's throats, it was typical that the man who made it to the office of commissioner of police was merely an extension of the power of the party in power.

That continued into the 1980s, and, I suppose, had I been a powerful MP voted in at that time and lauded by my peers to the point of becoming prime minister, I would do the same thing.

In those politically tribalistic times, it was quite normal that if a well-known gunman who had murdered enough people, raped enough underage girls, and sent a message to his community that he was not exactly a chicken with feathers ready for plucking, no policeman holding him under an arrest warrant could resist the State when the criminal's freedom was demanded by those holding the keys of power.

In those times, it was standard that badmen being taken in by utterly foolish policemen who actually thought that they were simply doing their jobs to be told: "Hey! Boy, one telephone call and mi come out. One telephone call and yu get transfer to country bush, boy."

A polity in the process of growing up must go back to its times of social, political, and economic trauma and upheaval to recognise where it is coming from and the route it must now travel if it is serious about attaining socio-economic success, not just for its usual narrow circle of political and business friends, but for those its leaders claim they love and care for the most: Poor Jamaicans.

An army man, for the third time, has been selected from the closed-shop, secretive, in-house fraternal order called the Police Service Commission (PSC) to be commissioner of police, and 100 per cent of the people of this country must either love him, hate him, or simply go about their business and confirm in their minds that little will change for the better or, indeed, best.

We live in hope in this country because envisioning our near future brings us pain. That extended period of investing in hope is the medicine we have been constantly taking because we know the realities. We want our children and all of our loved ones to be safe. When they leave the house to go on the road, we would dearly like to see them come home later.

With another army man, Major General Antony Anderson, named to become the commissioner of police, our hopes are either flying high, cruising at drone level, or plumbing the depths of our worst fears.

How long should we give the new commissioner?

It seems to be in our DNA that too many of our people have an awful habit of believing that leaders from many sectors of society are, basically, magicians or, at the very least, conjurers who can instantly create a vision that tells us that this country is the greatest paradise there is.

It is purely beaches and sunshine and smiling people, and that story every day about gunmen killing our women and children is mainly fantasy.

 

TWO SIDES TO STATEMENT

 

A former army man who was once commissioner of police, Hardley Lewin, has made his observations and concluded that Major Antony Anderson will be a success because he has the support of the political administration. I am hoping that Mr Lewin fully understands the implication of what he has said.

There are two sides to what he implied in his statement. One, it could simply mean that we have gone back to the days of dark and dangerous politics where the prime minister and his MPs controlled all of the politics at street level.

Or, in a fairy-tale sort of way, it could mean that with General Anderson having the full support of the JLP administration, all of the attention of the biggest guy in the Cabinet, PM Andrew Holness will be focused on making the new commissioner that shining beacon on a hill.

It must be remembered that General Anderson was named national security adviser to the Government by the PM, so it gives him a big heads up in the post he will soon take over before this month ends. His post was the first ever such creation in this country.

To what extent, we are forced to ask, did that reality move the clock in the secretive and obviously selective thought processes of those making up the PSC? Did the prime minister make a telephone call to the PSC chairman one night and say, "Don't make my man the CP or people will bawl and mention the word 'favouritism'."

All that I have heard from those supposedly in the know has spoken in favour of the army man as CP. Where is the voice of the minister of national security?

I have deliberately not called the minister to determine his views because if he should tell me anything 'off the record', I would probably swell up and explode. Too many times when I speak to important politicians and big businessmen in this country, the real story is in what they tell me off the record.

The view of former Commissioner of police. Hardley Lewin that the incoming CP is likely to be more a success than either he was or McMillan in the 1990s must be taken quite seriously, but if people find negatives in it, they must also examine the likely positives.

Will Anderson have a straight line to Jamaica House?

It has been the argument stridently made by our national security minister that he has been forced to deal with anyone that the PSC doles out to him as commissioner of police. Those are not exactly the words he has used, and I suspect that poetic licence on my part might be doing a disfavour to the minister.

 

RIGHT AND WRONG

 

The minister is both right and wrong on that issue. First, in the days when the ruling party controlled the office of the commissioner of police, all of the wrongs by criminals and criminal businessmen allied to the party in power would never see the light of day, that is, if the commissioner of police did not want to be posted to the Goat Islands.

The other side to that reality is that if the incoming CP has been working closely with the prime minister, and especially the security minister, it could mean that every time that General Anderson rings the bell of the Cabinet, they all gather together and believe it is the dinner bell.

Even if we rule out the possibility of the voice of the prime minister and an imaginary call at 3 a.m. to the chairman of the PSC, we must factor in the reality of this JLP administration giving the new CP just about all he wants.

At the same time, I am certain that there must be those in the hierarchy of the PNP watching this and saying to themselves that PM Andrew Holness is stealthily securing the sort of power that the PNP had all to itself in its long run from 1989 to 2007. And the PNP has to be quaking in its boots as those making it up see the improbability of attaining governmental power in the next 10 years.

For me, I wish the new commissioner of police all the best. The assumption is that his rÈsumÈ, his crime plans, and his accomplishments stood out much more than the others who applied for the thankless post.

But then again, even with those kudos in place, there is always the possibility of a call in the wee hours of the morning. To the PSC.

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