Wed | Nov 13, 2019

Mark Wignall | Calabar’s vice-principal Rowe must go

Published:Sunday | April 7, 2019 | 12:12 AM

The youngsters at Calabar ought never to feel in any way that they have failed themselves and have slipped into a dark unconsciousness of undisciplined behaviour. In fact, it is their immediate leaders – the school principal, the VP, the school board, and the superdominance of athletic pursuit over academics that have failed them.

Don’t get me wrong now and fall into the trap of believing that I believe that the youngsters are totally blameless. I can quite understand the Calabar community feeling major pain and loss of public appeal and sentiment (fleeting at best) as the Calabar High School track team lost the Champs trophy – that they had become attached to for the last seven years – to Kingston College.

I can quite understand because I attended KC as a youngster between 1963 and 1969. During that time, the school won every major athletic title and things like Cadet Inspection, Sixth Form Arts Festival, Schools Challenge Quiz, etc, and had quality students that attracted and secured the best academic scholarships.

In such an atmosphere, it is easy for schoolboys, hardly ever sensible pre-adults, to believe in their rights of entitlement. During the 1960s, every KC boy attending the school who was not involved in athletic pursuits at the very top devised our own way of painting ourselves into a frame of arrogance as we lived vicariously through the triumph of our super athletes.

What always got us grounded again were the regular pronouncements from Chapel (morning assembly), where our headmaster tried his best to build soundness of character in youngsters who were too idiotic to do the same for themselves.

When the video of Calabar students at their morning assembly chanting nasty slurs at KC was circulated, I was shocked because I saw adults on the platform. In the short clip, if any one of those adults was gesticulating and shouting through a microphone, urging the students to stop accusing KC as a school for homosexuals, I did not see that.

In the end, what I saw was a school administration held under siege by the misdirections of the general population of young boys.

It is great that Calabar has since made its trip of contrition to KC, taken time to breathe in the air of 2 a North Street, and have said sorry.

I totally understand that, but it is my belief that Calabar apologised only because it was caught ‘red-handed’ and way out in the open via a set of smart phones and the Internet.

What about physics-robotics teacher Mr Sanjaye Shaw, who went out of his way in protecting the good name of the school months after Calabar star athletes had physically abused him?

Mr Rowe, you have dissed Mr Shaw, but why? Is it because there was no big auditorium and no big publicity and only a teacher privately trying to do the right thing? Mr Rowe, you owe Mr Shaw an apology.

After that, the moment that you have lucked into securing the skill of providing leadership to male adolescents instead of you falling prey to their worst, unbridled instincts, then you can think about returning to Calabar.

Sir, the tail is wagging the dog.

You need to depart.


As Mrs Ann-Marie Vaz heads to Parliament, either to learn parliamentary procedures and indulge in useless talk or to be a real beacon of change to the people of Portland East, the question has to be asked, what will become of Damion Crawford as he faces the reality of his political indiscipline?

The JLP did not quite trigger the tsunami it promised, but for Ann-Marie Vaz to have hauled in 3,000 more votes for the JLP than the comparable numbers in 2016, she created a historical, electoral shift that may see Portland East remaining in JLP hands for the next three cycles, at least.

And what will Vaz do for her constituents that three decades of PNP hold on the constituency did not, could not, or would not do?

In reality, how many new jobs for young people can she create in the next five or seven years? What can she do to assure coffee farmers that their crop will once again enjoy some semblance of economic viability? When will the big push in high-end tourism begin, and how will she ensure that much more of the tourist dollar circulates in the pocket of the man and woman at street level in the constituency?

What happens to PNP leader Dr Peter Phillips, who fully endorsed the more crude parts of Crawford’s campaign messaging? Add to that the fact that Dr Phillips must step up and accept that his leadership is proving to be a heavy weight of lead around the neck of the PNP. In doing this, he must know that the hounds of his own nightmares will begin their baying at every cycle of the moon. In quick time, many of his second-tier leaders will be drawing a target on his back and braver ones will be unafraid to face him full frontal.

The JLP was hoping for more in the by-election. “Anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 more votes than the PNP,” one well-known JLP personality told me last Thursday morning. That did not happen, and Vaz had to settle for less than a 500-vote majority.

As they say in politics, a close win is 10 times better than losing by a whisker. A win is a win, and in safe PNP territory, such a win is much bigger than the actual vote count.


In a Gleaner article of April 1 titled ‘US Narcotics Control Report 2019 | US State Department Concerned About Corruption, Lack Of Prosecution’, there were a number of harsh accusations against Jamaica that were hardly surprising to those of us who live here, love this country, and are warily in touch with the realities of daily life in the land of paradise.

One part of the report stated, “The last time a member of Parliament or similarly high-ranking official was tried or convicted on corruption charges was in 1990 when a former minister of labour was convicted for diverting money from a farm-worker programme for personal gain.”

I do not believe that the US Department of State would make such a striking and pointed observation or criticism if it did not also have a list of names of Jamaican politicians who have been or who are compromised by corruption.

The report also states, “Corruption at Jamaica’s airports and seaports allegedly facilitates the movement of drug shipments across borders, and organised crime leaders have historically had ties to government officials, creating a permissive environment for drug trafficking.”

US Department of State, what in this is new? Do you have evidence that we do not have? Do you have the overseas accounts of our politicians and corrupt businessmen and the zip code addresses of their shell companies? If you do, have you transmitted the info to the DPP or at least MOCA (which seems to be controlled by ‘outsiders’)?

It makes little sense that America, a country with investigate resources and technological advances, could have all of this information that many Jamaicans have been wondering about, but you America, have decided that it is best that you keep it only to yourself and make us wonder if you are not just cooking it up.

The biggest idiot in Jamaica knows that corruption is rife and is culturally embedded. To the extent that it is holding back the growth and development of our people, I would suggest to the US Department of State that it hand over all of the information it has to the DPP so that that office can take the action deemed most necessary.

But what if all of that has already been passed to the DPP? Something to think about? Definitely!

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