Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Seaga, Golding, Tivoli

Published:Monday | May 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Security personnel patrol the streets of Tivoli Gardens in the aftermath of a military-led operation which left 73 persons dead. - file
Bruce Golding (left) and Edward Seaga.
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Martin Henry, Contributor

Despite the well-known downsides of his political leadership spanning some four and a half decades, I have always held in very high regard Edward Seaga's intellectual acumen, discipline and productivity right up into old age, and his long list of positive contributions to nation building.

None of the country's other seven prime ministers can outpoint him on these terms. So, this intervention on my part is particularly painful, but necessary, I think.

Seaga's diatribe delivered against the Government and the prime minister, calling for Bruce Golding's resignation over his handling of the Tivoli Gardens operation, and in defense of his (Seaga's) people has done more damage to his credibility in retirement and old age than it has done to Golding and the Government.

The condescending paternalism and dismissive high-handedness which made the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) unelectable under his leadership have come roaring back to life. Seaga is not in an advantageous position from which to lecture Golding on moral rectitude over Tivoli Gardens.

There are some salient facts to consider: Tivoli Gardens is a Seaga creation. A letter writer to The Gleaner on Friday, May 28, said, "What is happening in TG (Tivoli Gardens) is no accident; it was built for a specific purpose. That purpose was to maintain Edward Seaga in a position of power ... Tivoli Gardens was like an evil, controlled behavioural science project. The problem is, it worked. Tivoli is not a good idea gone bad ... it's an idea working perfectly."

Seaga resigned from the leadership of the JLP and as member of parliament for west Kingston and leader of the opposition in 2005, believing that no one was worthy or able to replace him. Golding was elected to the leadership of the party, elected to represent western Kingston and marginally won the 2007 general election to become prime minister of Jamaica.

No government of Jamaica has ever faced the unprecedented confluence of negative factors that this administration has, which even the Opposition concedes, in such a short space of time and with such a weak parliamentary majority. The jury of history is still out on the calibre of the response, despite the sound and fury in the media and elsewhere. Of some things we are certain: both the country and the Government are still standing and have passed the first quarterly IMF test with flying colours.

The extradition problem, however well or badly handled, is an inherited problem - inherited both from the last administration and from Seaga's legacy.

Golding's mea culpa speech

Golding was widely 'forgiven', with conditions, after his apology and mea culpa speech.

Tivoli Gardens made major military preparations in anticipation of an 'invasion' by the armed forces of the Jamaican state; and paramilitaries in sections of the capital city initiated hostilities. The security forces faced hostile fire and attempts at repulsion in seeking to lawfully enter Tivoli Gardens.

There has been broad national majority support for the engagement and many calls to use the opportunity to pacify armed garrison communities across Jamaica, and to reintegrate them into the Jamaican state.

Despite the noise, confusion and lack of truth, these are relevant, basic facts of the matter.

There is another emerging relevant, basic fact of the matter: The MP for western Kingston now seems unwilling to accommodate any longer the garrison game, and segments of the garrisonised population there have publicly rejected him. This rejection may be an extraordinary blessing, for both, as an act of mutual liberation. Despite the coercion of the last 40-plus years, which never managed to be extended to Hannah Town, west Kingston is not a politically homogenuous constituency. The return of freedom of choice may yield some surprising results in Golding's favour.

At the heart of Seaga's vociferous hostility, may be his peeve that his protégé is jumping ship and therefore destroying his (Seaga's) work and legacy. Seaga recruited the graduating Bruce Golding straight out of the University of the West Indies for Golding's father's constituency upon Tacius Golding's retirement. Seaga gave Golding the powerful garrison-building Ministry of Housing and Construction as the youngest minister in his cabinet, and one of the youngest ever. And, Golding discharged himself well in his constituency of central St Catherine. Golding rose to the chairmanship of the party and could not have done so without the blessing of its autocratic leader.

This 'betrayal' of the most powerful and sacrosanct symbol of the party and monument to Seaga's leadership of it - Tivoli Gardens - is intolerable ... unforgivable!

Prognostications of Golding's political passing, which began almost the day after he took the oath of office and which has had extensive play by the super-dominant People's National Party (PNP) press posse dominating the commentary wing and, quite possibly, the news wing of Jamaican mass media, have been grossly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain.

All that Golding needs to do to survive and, indeed, to prosper - Seaga's unwarranted sneak attack notwithstanding - is to visibly and systematically deliver on the conditions imposed for the acceptance of his apology, and imposed by himself in the tendering of the apology. Chief among these is the commitment to 'degarrisonise' Jamaica and restore public safety and public order. So, it is onwards into the strongholds of the PNP, more numerous than those of the JLP (5:1), with due respect for human rights.

The opposition PNP and its media agents will need pampers if Golding seriously pursues his stated transformation agenda, jacking up his re-electability. Look out for the resistance.

Golding should govern boldly as an 'independent', affiliated with the JLP as a necessary power base rather than as a lap dog of the Seaga JLP. Such a move, strategically executed, would be good for both. The official silence of the JLP over the insults heaped upon its leader, now the head of the Jamaican Government, and who is in too delicate a position to defend himself, is as extraordinary as it is revealing.

Misinformation

Seaga has lambasted Prime Minister Golding for losing control of the army. This serious misinformation fed to Jamaica from the armchair of retirement must not be allowed to stand. The fact of the matter is that, in the Tivoli operation, the army was not at war with an external enemy and under the direct command of the minister of defence/prime minister.

The JDF was, in fact, assisting the police in the execution of a warrant and in restoring law and order in a section of the sovereign Jamaican state. Should the head of the Government be found to be obstructing the police in the execution of their lawful duty, then a couple of the greenest constables should be sent to arrest him. There has been much outcry in the past against 'political interference', which both Seaga and the leader of the opposition seem to be implying in their instruction to Golding to take charge.

The paternalism directed towards the people of Tivoli Gardens in Seaga's outburst as caged children or political domestics, to be looked after by Papa who knows best, is disturbing, to put it mildly, especially when viewed across the colour divide and the history of this country. Their liberation is a matter of urgent necessity. That task, already underway, belongs to the Government of the sovereign Jamaican state, now led by their own MP. No reverse!