Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Gordon Robinson | Just once … fer crissake!

Published:Sunday | December 1, 2019 | 6:47 AM

So, I have good news (for me) and bad news (for you). The good news is that I’m back after a short break to complicate your Tuesdays and Sundays. The bad news is that I’m still writing garbage! That’s according to the Old Ball and Chain who insisted I wheel and come again (naughty, naughty), then promptly hijacked my reappearance column.

Old BC: You’ve no idea how stressful two weeks with Old Grey Balls as a permanent attachment can be. Trust me, I must find him occupation or explain why my sudden hair loss isn’t from chemotherapy. So I inspired a return to writing by reminding him that a former PM famously claimed it takes cash to care. He was right. But cash alone isn’t enough. Old GB needs more than just a job. He needs a distraction that’ll stop him harassing me!

Similarly, policymakers must understand that if we’re to escape poverty, cash plus means an educated society invulnerable to political trickery. For example, Chris Tufton constantly lectures us to keep our surroundings clean and free of stagnant water to prevent dengue. True. But let’s face the whole truth. An educated society would ask him how many working garbage trucks are owned by the NSWMA?

In February, Desmond McKenzie promised that 100 more trucks would be leased. Any leases signed? When they grace our communities, do they actually collect all garbage that’s waiting (often weeks) for pickup? Are homeowners/businesses to pay property tax and then ‘drop a smalls’ to sidemen to guarantee their homes/businesses don’t stink? Whose job is it to ensure that ALL garbage is collected? Just drive around (for example, try Weymouth Drive). You’ll soon realise there’s a serious garbage collection breakdown.

Old GB: But are you blaming Tufton or McKenzie? I’ve often opined that 95 per cent of Jamaica’s ills are a direct result of our corrupt system of governance. Or, more accurately, the corruption of an imported, locally unsuitable system of governance from a country of over 50 million people with 1,000 years of history and tradition in monarchy.

I did my best

but I guess my best wasn’t good enough

c ause here we are

back where we were before.

Seems nothin’ ever changes.

We’re back to being strangers

wondering if we ought to stay

or head on out the door.

So we’ve maintained Westminster in Jamaica and tricked Jamaicans into believing that we “elect” a government (when we only elect MPs). In reality, government is chosen by one person from a talent pool restricted by Westminster to 30+ candidates all lusting to join Cabinet, but are so uninterested in constituency representation as lawmakers.


The result of this lunacy is a Cabinet larger than USA’s (population 330 million) featuring overlapping portfolios ensuring that nothing gets done. In which universe is ‘sanitation’ a portfolio of any ministry except Health? Yet Jamaica assigns ‘sanitation’ to a redundant ‘Local Government’ ministry, which itself only emasculates islandwide parish council networks whose purpose should be to govern locally!

If I were an Edna Manley valedictorian anxious to appease word police, I’d exclaim, “Thrombosis!”

Just once...

Can’t we figure out what we keep doin’ wrong?

Why we never last for very long?

What are we doin’ wrong?

Old BC: Let’s not forget that we don’t only have mosquitoes. Rats are everywhere. I once spoke to someone whose family was forced to move house because rats the size of cats were scratching at their front door (literally). She was petrified one might decide to make a meal deal of her children. Does g overnment know rats spread Leptospirosis? Or understand we can ‘pop dung an’ fenke fenke’ (or die) from Leptospirosis as easily as dengue?

Just once ...

Can’t we find a way to finally make it right;

t o make the magic last for more than just one night?

If we could just get to it

I know we could break through it.

Old GB: What about the recent discovery of a new type of mosquito that breeds outside the home environment, flourishes in uncollected garbage, is resistant to Malathion, and transmits a new, more deadly dengue strain? How does the dynamic duo suggest we fight THIS new enemy AFTER we’ve emptied our uncovered water catchments and prayed for eternal rain? How does Tufton or McKenzie’s ministry propose that we dispose of solid waste that government garbage trucks refuse to collect?

Does the health ministry even acknowledge any responsibility for this growing danger to national health and wellness from inadequate sanitation services? Or will it continue turning a blind eye to the chronic inefficiency of slicing up portfolios and scattering them far and wide so that more ministers can be appointed? How can we surgically remove this culture of government by whimsy?

Old BC: Back to education! It’s a dereliction of duty for the health ministry to depend so heavily on media advertisements encouraging us to keep our surroundings clean. If Jamaica was an educated society, EVERYONE would understand the importance of keeping their surroundings clean. Also, EVERYONE would expose the hypocrisy of hounding us to keep our surroundings clean while health hazards like raw sewage floating in communities remain unchecked.

EVERYONE would insist that when spending tax dollars, health and sanitation are prioritised over frivolous ministers’ ‘roaming’ or ineffective road or broken water/sewage mains ‘patching’ only to ensure repeat bullo work.

If policymakers were held accountable by an educated society, they’d put country before party and work towards a healthier Jamaica. Jamaica could save gazillions spent clearing and repairing flooded roads because of overflow from gullies blocked by desperate people disposing garbage. It’s a ripple effect. Residents aren’t allowed to burn garbage that isn’t collected. So what the bejeezus are we to do with it?

Poor health plus poor education = perpetually stalled Jamaican development.

I gave my all

but I think my all may have been too much

cause Lord knows we’re not gettin’ anywhere.

Seems we’re always blowin’

whatever we’ve got goin’

and it seems at times, with all we’ve got,

we haven’t got a prayer.

Old GB: Just once, I can’t argue with you. If Jamaica was an educated society, we couldn’t be tricked by cute promos into allowing government to transfer full responsibility for a healthy population to us. Community intervention can only be support for on-the-ground mosquito eradication teams moving house-to-house instead of cherry picking high-risk areas. Effective, continuing sanitation practices would ensure sustainability of mosquito-eradication programmes. Just collect the thrombosis garbage, wouldja please?


Healthcare facilities would be properly maintained and regularly upgraded. ’Sascrise! we can’t even keep our buildings healthy! We’ve been waiting three years for Cornwall Regional Hospital to be restored to health so patients can be restored to health. Police Records Office on Duke Street reportedly killed two people before anything was done. Then personnel were transferred to another sick building. I’m sure I’ll hear this is a National Security, NOT a Health/Wellness problem. Fer Crissake! Too many ministries! Not enough achievement. So stop big up yu thrombosis selves!

Government won’t dispose of waste then tells us it’s our fault. Then we, like fawning masochists, meekly line up every five years to vote in bogus elections as democratic as Thomas Hobson. The result? In goes one perpetrator of continuous corruption and dishonourable dereliction of duty. Out goes another. We celebrate “our” party’s win in the race to rape the public purse without restraint or sanction because we want a piece of the action.

Just once...

Can’t we figure out what we keep doin’ wrong?

Why the good times never last for long?

Where are we goin’ wrong ?

Superb husband and wife songwriting duo Barry Mann (music) and Cynthia Weil (lyrics) influenced four decades of music from rock and roll to soul. They were responsible for 53 UK and 93 USA hits of all genres, including You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling (1964; Righteous Brothers); Saturday Night at the Movies (1964; The Drifters; Johnny Moore on lead vocals); and Here You Come Again (1977; Dolly Parton).

In 1981, they wrote Just Once for Quincy Jones’ album The Dude (featuring vocals by James Ingram). Thirty-eight years later, their song has become more identified with Ingram than Q.

Just once, before we cast another fake vote, will we insist on constitutional change to introduce genuine democracy, transparency in governance, authentic parliamentary oversight of government, plus deterrents to and sanctions for corruption? Do we want Government to understand the symbiosis between health and sanitation? Or do we still love the warm embrace of empty election promises?

Are we happy to “pop dung an’ fenke fenke” while falling for “schools of excellence”; “scholarships for families’ first tertiary student”; and “zero tolerance areas” pledges? Do we believe swallowing these promises whole (without salt) constitutes “the good times”? How long will they be allowed to last?

Peace and love!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to