Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Mark Wignall | 2021 poses more mystery

Published:Sunday | January 3, 2021 | 12:07 AM

Alejandra Paiz, a tourist from Guatemala who is visiting Mexico for the holidays with a friend and their respective sons, wears festive glasses as the group marks New Year’s Eve at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, just after midnight o
Alejandra Paiz, a tourist from Guatemala who is visiting Mexico for the holidays with a friend and their respective sons, wears festive glasses as the group marks New Year’s Eve at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, just after midnight on Friday, January 1, 2021.
United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia.
United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia.
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Most Jamaicans woke up to the news of COVID-19 in March 2020 when a Jamaica-born woman living in Britain travelled to attend a funeral in St Thomas. By mid-year, the spread of the novel coronavirus was more understood even though many of us were still resisting the widespread wearing of masks and gathering in groups at bars, eateries, and many other places in our communities.

By the end of 2020, sufficient numbers of us were deathly scared of what the pandemic could do to our health to the point that we actually wore masks in public and abided by the other health protocols. The economic fallout was all around us and in the international press. At home, our economy took a downturn to recession territory.

The big questions in 2021 are the obvious ones. To what extent will Jamaica be able to fend off the new variant, a more transmissible strain that has shown up in Britain and the United States? When will we see a wholesale rollout of the vaccination programme?

More than anything else, are we likely to see a return to normality in 2021, or does the new year have nasty surprises for us even worse than 2020?

One of the ideal conditions that was hoped for in 2020 that would have assisted in a coherent global response to fighting back against COVID-19 was a US White House ready and able to use its clout in global leadership. Instead, it was led by a president locked into his own narrow-mindedness and unable in the best of times to stitch two bits of policy cloth together.

So the US engaged in a childish blame game and sent a message to the global community. You are on your own. Had the US tagged-team with European capitals, Russia, China and other Asian centres, Central and South America and Australia, the CDC and WHO, think of the difference that would have made.

While it would not have interfered with the specific political responses of individual countries, at the very least, a lot of those governmental responses would have been factored into the policy moves on the ground.

The outgoing president, Donald Trump, is at long last preparing to grace the global stage with his absence. The problem is that his scorched-earth-like policy moves on the way out, tied with the chaos since 2017, will not make it any easier for the man who will be sworn in as president on the 20th: Joe Biden.

A TRUMP IN JAMAICAN POLITICS?

At the time that I became aware of a young African American senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, it was sometime in 2004 after he had delivered a stunning bit of oratory at the Democratic National convention that year.

If you had told me that four years later, he would go on to become the first black president, I would have classified you as someone living in a fantasy world. But it happened.

Worse, had you told me that after America had experienced eight years of the sound domestic policies of Obama, the up and down foreign policy in the Mideast, and the wider outreach in the broader constituency of nations and, generally, a statesmanship like approach to his office, a dangerous buffoon like Trump would follow, I would suggest you ingest some brain tonic. But it happened.

In 1983, the leader of the Opposition refused to contest the general elections after the voters’ list was not updated during a time when voter fraud was suspected. As a result the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) ‘won’ all 60 seats across the island. Prime Minister Seaga, driven by the bad optics of the moment and the possibilities of autocracy taking hold, appointed to the Senate eight ‘independent’ senators, some supposedly with People’s National Party (PNP) sympathies.

In February of 1989 when the PNP won back power, Jamaica proved that its Westminster style of parliamentary democracy was in sound hands.

While the late national hero Alexander Bustamante had more than a touch of political arrogance and was firmly convinced that the JLP was him and he was the JLP, it was at a time when our political bosses made it known quite openly that it was a fallacy – this notion of them being our servants.

More than a few PNP diehards are of the view that Andrew Holness is clothed in the flowing robes of arrogance and autocracy. Maybe a little bit of arrogance yes, but autocracy, I haven’t seen that. At least not yet.

Frankly, I believe that the leadership of both political parties know the extent to which our people will tolerate any moves by any level of its leadership to expropriate any more power than it already has. Dr Peter Phillips allowed his own political ambitions to drive him into the forest, where his eyes became blinded to the trees.

AMBASSADOR TAPIA, LET GO OF THE CHINA BOGEY

According to outbound US Ambassador Donald Tapia, if the US and China were ever to engage in armed global conflict, Jamaica would have to make a choice.

Ambassador, could we not have highways, Huawei, and American tourists all at the same time? Plus a few more American visas? While we enjoy 5G. In a recent interview with The Gleaner, he said: “Six weeks ago, when the president of China stated to his army, ‘Be prepared for war’, you (local media) didn’t report it. You didn’t report either that the Swedish government, their prime minister came out and said the worst danger to Sweden was China.”

It is very obvious where the US is in its stance with China. The economic, manufacturing, and global strength of China seems unstoppable, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the Chinese resilience makes the US’s global whining a pitiful response to what may be genuine concern.

Asking Jamaica to sit at the feet of America and sob with the giant of the North seems laughable at best and poor foreign policy at worst. China just keeps humming.

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