Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Mark Wignall | In Jamaica, bhuttu behaviour rules

Published:Sunday | July 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Staff of Petrojam on Marcus Garvey Drive in St Andrew protesting in front of the state-owned oil refinery Thursday.

It matters not much to me when the coined word 'bhuttu' was first used to describe an excess of social misbehaviour. What matters is that we know what the word means.

It means the man who comes home at 9 p.m. with rum on his breath and beats up his woman because she did not prepare any vegetables with the nice dinner she cooked for him from 4 p.m.

Bhuttu is visiting the RGD and being told that you cannot enter wearing a sleeveless blouse, then after exiting, bending over, pulling down your clothes and pointing your wrong end to the right part of the RGD office.

Bhuttu behaviour is encased forever in amber in our parliamentary debates. Whenever the egos of political representatives are bruised, they know that there is one certain place in Jamaica where they can openly practise their bhuttu behaviour, and that place is Gordon House, where the law protects their scandalous outbursts.

Any one politician can raise himself up from his calcified knees in Parliament and accuse someone on 'the other side' of stealing his mother's pet pig. And the only response that is likely to come from the politician so accused is to say, "Your whole family inna di hog pen long time."

The video going the rounds at this time is the one at Braemar, in a gated community, where a resident is in what Jamaicans would call a 'bummy' mood. That mood and stance signal leave me alone, don't talk back to me, and I am explosive.

That supposed resident, whether he was embarrassed by something or not, had choices. He could have risen above his testosterone peak and adrenaline rush, but he needed to have been 50-plus years old to appreciate the usefulness of walking away.

It spun out of control to the point where one man, said to be a security guard out of uniform, rushed the noisy and very animated resident, punched him, then, knowing that the man had a licensed firearm on him, engaged in a floor wrestle with the man, during which the security guard was shot.

In Jamaica, no one backs down. To do so is to be inviting weakness and irrelevance into your life. In the inner city, the man who backs down gets the women after the kings and princes have had their pick.

In uptown heaven, the man who backs down sleeps in the doghouse, and, at times, his best friends may want to visit and stay overtime just outside the doghouse.

The late Professor Rex Nettleford perfectly captured the reality of bhuttu behaviour by saying that a bhuttu in a Benz is still a bhuttu. Some years ago, I was on the north coast driving behind, of all cars, a Benz. From my vantage point, the rear seats of the car had three people - one 'dread' and two white-skinned women.

All were eating sugar cane, and from both sides of the car, the animals were discarding cane trash in the criss tourist resort. Truly, bhuttu at its best.


Security guards vs Petrojam workers


I do not work at Petrojam, so any information that I have ever got out of it has to be subjected to second-hand logic. That logic is, the person is lying to me, the person is playing games with me to direct me to wrongs and to lead me away from the truth and, the truth is being told, but for the moment, it is not palatable, so, another story has to be concocted.

I have never worked inside a security firm as a security guard. I say all of this to open commentary on Petrojam workers demonstrating last Thursday by wearing black, holding placards, and declaring that they were not depressed, only unmotivated.

Something tells me that with the JLP administration under extreme pressure over matters taking place at Petrojam, there are external pressure points being directed by the PNP. And, I ask, why not?

For sure, the PNP, in its long run from February 1989 to September 2007, must have cemented in place the working and broken bits of Petrojam and made them inseparable, to the point that it would be difficult to say where the fork in one smooth bit of road was and where the precipice began.

In 2016, when Andrew Holness took the reins of power and promised perfect peace, accountability, and transparency, security guards must have yawned, belched, and hoped for an extra shift the next week.

How glorious it is to see workers at Petrojam earning significantly more than, say, a security guard who told me recently, "I earned $35,000 for the shifts and was only given in my envelope $21,000 and an IOU for $14,000. The next week I was paid the $14,000, but the point is, I honestly was afraid to question di boss."

Petrojam workers can exercise their constitutional rights by protesting outside the gates of the company that pays them multiple millions per year. I do not envy them for meriting these wage levels, but something tells me that in a country where so many are just barely scraping by, this faux move by Petrojam workers probably, just probably has more to do with matters external to Petrojam than key matters inside the executive Jamaican agency.

Security guards have few rights, and as I have said in this space before, the number of security guard companies that treat their staff with respect can be counted on the fingers of one hand. No batch of workers at any security guard company could dare go on strike. Unions are absent and benefits are purely those attached to short-period contract work. Zilch.


Can the PM bear the pressure?


It is my understanding that the prime minister has not been in the best of moods. "Information is leaking faster than a bad spigot, and a lot of it is spiked by PNP Kool-Aid," said a JLP insider who operates outside of the Cabinet.

In 2007 when a Golding-led JLP barely won and took charge of government, the biggest criticism of PM Golding one year after was that he had "refused to clean shop", meaning that he retained in the various ministries of his administration many of the people who were placed there by the 18 1/2-year PNP government and whose first loyalty was to the PNP.

The JLP has never enjoyed any long run of government to clean out the PNP devils from key positions in the civil service and replace them with JLP gremlins. As soon as the JLP wins, those lodged in the woodwork like termites begin to weaken the JLP government about a year in. By then, the JLP is so weakened that it can barely make it to the next election.

One suspects that that operation is on in full earnest now. How much of the foolish stubbornness of Seaga is there in Holness?" I asked, knowing that it was Seaga who 'made' Andrew Holness.

The JLP insider said, 'The big difference is, Holness knows that he has to actively seek out alliances unlike in Seaga's time when his imperious approach expected blocs and alliances to seek him out. I saw where you wrote that Holness has to be in it for the long haul, but politics is not that simple. The long haul is a million pieces of short term stitched together. You have to live in both universes if you want to survive,' he said.

So far, it is quite obvious to Prime Minister Holness that winning an election by a whisker means that structuring his proximate governance team, his Cabinet, means that any mistakes that are made only allows him a whisker's worth of explanation, excuses, and procrastinated dance moves.

- Mark Wignall is a public- and political-affairs commentator. Email feedback to and