Gordon Robinson, Contributor
Here we go again! Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our taxpaying dead (with suitable apologies to Billy Shakespeare)!
Once more we are told by a panic-stricken Government, bankrupt of ideas and political will, that the few must sacrifice for the many. Once more, we are herded into the slaughterhouse of additional taxation like some ritualistic cult's knee-jerk reaction to a bad crop year. Once more, the call to 'sacrifice' is made to those who have long sacrificed for nought and, once more, there is not even a pretense of consideration being offered in exchange for the additional sacrifice.
Once more, we are told that there is "equity" in raising the taxes on the income of the very few of us who now comply. Once more, we are treated as fools with the sleight-of-hand promise that the increased GCT will only hurt those who don't now comply. Is anybody buying this mathematical smoke-and-mirrors job? Does anybody believe, except maybe a blinkered and deluded Danville Walker, that the powerful non-compliant majority amongst the population pays any import taxes?
In the last election campaign, when both political parties were accepting massive funding from the most visible of non-compliers with our tax laws, did either of them bat an eye?
Once again, I hear strong rhetoric about going after "tax cheats". But, again, this is contrary to the reality we all face. What is in fact happening is that those of us already on the tax roll are receiving harassing letters of 'reminders' from the Income Tax Department about phantom taxes allegedly due from the 1980s, from whence not even the tax authorities retain any documentation to substantiate their desperate and immoral threats contained in those letters. Did Zekes get a letter when more than $18 million cash was found lying on his bed upon his arrest for murder? Has he ever filed a personal income tax return?
Once more, it is those of us who play by the rules that are to be shafted, while the 'informal' economy merrily bandooloos itself along. And, we are assured that the shaft is necessary to ward off devaluation, balance of payments crises and inability to pay for imports. Since the shaft does not contemplate a reduction in government spending (not even mentioned in passing save for some vague futuristic promises) or incentive for production increase, any bets that the shaft will only result in us becoming pregnant with the same problems?
This time, will we simply buy extra Vaseline and again accommodate the shaft? This time, will we countenance even the facade of 'Parliament' - an illusion with the pathetic misnomer 'House of Representatives' being stripped bare and the shaft inserted by way of TV broadcast? Now that we understand clearly how committed this prime minister is (not) to the principles of separation of powers that he pooh-poohed when he was Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokesman on finance and championed as co-founder and leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), will we just go along? Now that we know, by his deeds, that his priorities are power over democratic parliamentary principle, will we give him the power?
no representation for the people
At least we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that nobody sits in Parliament in Jamaica to represent anybody or anything but the interest of their political party. There can be no other conclusion to be drawn from the fact that we are now being taxed by edict on television, whilst not one JLP MP insists that proper parliamentary procedure be followed; and the PNP stages much-hyped and wildly hypocritical 'protests' so obviously selfishly aimed at over-throwing the Government, rather than obtaining tax concessions already heralded long before the protests actually took place.
If the PNP (whose record on taxing the Jamaican people without the slightest opportunity for representation first is the most abysmal in the history of our young nation) had any genuine or sincere desire to avoid the egregious parliamentary bypass about to be perpetrated, then they would not be crying out for already promised adjustments but would be calling for Jamaicans to refuse to pay the taxes, whatever they may be, on the basis that they are illegally imposed.
They have not made this call. Why? Is it because they are afraid that it will not be supported by a populace petrified of 'authority'? But, so what? If you are doing the right thing; if you are calling for the right response to a callous disregard for the people's absolute right to be represented in Parliament before any laws are passed, of which taxation laws are the most important, why do you care whether your call is heeded? Elementary, my dear Watson. The PNP is no more interested in representing the Jamaican people as are those currently on the Government side of the House (when it sits).
The PNP's objective is to unseat the Government; return to the Government side of the House; and then proceed to do exactly the same thing, which is to tax us to death without the hint of any independent representation in the process. Don't ever forget Michael Manley's declaration, in Half-Way Tree square in the late 1980s, that his first act, if returned to Jamaica House, would be to remove the iniquitous tax on interest credited to savings accounts (which he described as the most 'wicked' in Jamaica's history) and the cess on UWI students for tuition. Hands up those who remember? Hands up those who no longer pay tax on their savings' interest or have their UWI tuition reduced? Anybody?
'don't be fooled by crocodile tears'
I urge Jamaica not to be fooled by Mrs Portia Simpson Miller's crocodile tears. She has been an integral part of a collective body that has frequently and callously taken exactly the same action as has this Government without a single thought for the parliamentary process. Where was she when the infamous gas tax (subse-quently withdrawn after islandwide riots) was imposed? Where was she?
And, since you started me on the subject, I have one important message for Portia. If you are at all supportive of democracy and the people's right to representation by the leaders of their choice, prove it. Resign as leader of the PNP and leader of the Opposition simultaneously with immediate effect. Portia, regardless of your party's subsequent legal gymnastics, the fact is that, at the polls, Jamaica has rejected you as prime minister. Do not allow disappointment to guide you into ignoring the will of the people. Do not force the people, who might very well want to give 'Driva' a similar boot, into the iniquitous choice of two unwanted leaders. Do you really want to be prime minister so badly that you will take the election, even if it is as the lesser of two unwanteds? Your pathetic effort to cling to the illusion of 'power' isn't doing Jamaica or the PNP any good whatsoever.
Now for the bad news, Portia: I promise you, Jamaica will never again make the mistake of re-electing a discarded and rejected prime minister. Joshua was a one-of. You may be a protegé of Joshua, but you are no Joshua. What you will be doing is returning to the JLP the favour that it handed to the PNP over all those years that Seaga, believing that he was another Joshua, refused to see the obvious. If you truly love 'poor people' Portia, prove it!!
Portia (sorry, again, Billy):
"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself."
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Feedback may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org