Lambert Brown, Gleaner Writer
ON THURSDAY, there was a funeral for Keith Clarke, the brother of former minister of government and a regular columnist in this newspaper, Claude Clarke. Keith died at the hands of agents of the State. His death could have been avoided. But for the partisan, inept and corrupt approach and response by the Government to the United States request for the extradition of Christopher Coke, Keith Clarke could very well be alive today.
The Government, led by Mr Bruce Golding, must take full responsibility not only for Keith's death, but also for the death of all other innocent Jamaicans, including members of the security forces, who have died because our Government chose to hoist the flag of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) where the national flag properly belonged. Those criminals who took up arms against the security forces and died deserve no sympathy. The tragic events of the last two weeks had its genesis in political opportunism. When some of our politicians 'associate with gunmen', that is political opportunism. When private-sector interests find nothing wrong in making political donations to political parties whose members are associated with gunmen, that also is political opportunism. It is not, therefore, those politicians only who are to blame, but those political donors as well.
As we mourn the unnecessary loss of lives caused by the corrupted approach to the extradition proceedings, a column written by Claude Clarke in this newspaper on March 28 this year comes forcefully to mind. Clarke wrote then:
"We should have known better. Many of us were prepared to put the most favourable interpretation on this 'new and different' Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader's choice of 'the mother of all garrisons' to be his home constituency, and were willing to believe that his purpose was to reform from within, and in so doing create a model on which all other garrisons could be reformed. But recent events have proven us to have been far too generous with our trust.
"Two and a half years after coming to office, and 15 years since he walked away from the JLP and declared his independence from the garrison form of politics, Golding's constituency is as deeply steeped in garrison politics as it ever was.
"In two and a half years as chief executive of our country, Mr Golding, despite his earlier strong human-rights advocacy, has missed every opportunity to take a public stand in defence of the rights of our citizens, that is until he was confronted by the case of Christopher Coke. His stout defence of Mr Coke's rights, from all appearances at the risk of Jamaica's international relationships and economic well-being, speaks powerfully to the value he places on this individual."
It seems to me that once again, spin-doctors are seeking to bamboozle the Jamaican people into thinking that somehow Mr Golding is now new and different and is committed to leading the fight against garrison politics. Let us not forget what Mr Ian Boyne, writing in this paper, said on April 17, 2005.
"Bruce Golding's missteps and blunders since Edward Seaga's departure have raised fresh questions and old doubts about his leadership ability. Many are now wondering aloud whether the old man was right, that Golding was not really ready for the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
"His gratuitous remarks in the Senate when the process to his election in his West Kingston garrison constituency was not fast-tracked to his liking, coupled with the thinly veiled threat issued then, was as unbecoming as it was uncivil. His party's dramatic about-turn on accepting the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its original jurisdiction, despite his own commitment to that in his acceptance speech at his party conference, does not augur well for his consistency or sense that he is in charge of his own party.
"As though that were not enough ammunition for the critics and doubting Thomases, Bruce Golding, speaking in his old stamping ground of Spanish Town - territory of blood, mayhem and terror - resurrected the image of the tough-talking, fierce garrison member of parliament, warning the lawful authorities that it would be "bangarang" if his idea of human rights were not followed.
"The JLP masses, including the terrorists and criminals, must have been jubilant. Bruce is no 'salad', no 'bwoy' who dem can push around. Bruce know how fe chuck badness. His credentials are in place - he is now declared fit to take over from strongman Edward Philip George Seaga."
It is the recall of his 'bangarang' opposition in 2005 to measures by the security forces to capture dangerous criminals that makes it so difficult to trust Mr Golding as the crime fighter-in-chief. In addition, many people remember his presence and strident defence of his West Kingston constituency against the police who were trying to apprehend gunmen wanted for the murder of several policemen, a security guard and the shooting up of the Cross Roads Police Station in 2005. What is clear is that bangarang against the security forces is not a qualification for fighting crime. The road-to-Damascus-like conversion is not believable. The last nine months of dithering, dilly-dallying and delay over the extradition request for 'Dudus' leaves no reason for confidence. It left us mayhem, a shattered international reputation and significant damage to our economy. It has left us with a lame-duck prime minister and a compromised government which saw nothing wrong in trying to deceive the White House, the Departments of State and Justice of the United States and, even more important, the Jamaican people.
Mrs Simpson Miller and her colleagues in opposition have become the real hope for rescuing our country from the partisan, inept, incompetent and corrupt government that after 18 years in opposition has proven to be such an abject failure in less than three years. The over 400,000 voters who voted for the People's National Party in 2007 now seem on the verge of being absolved by history as having done the right thing for their nation.
Lambert Brown is president of the University and Allied Workers' Union and can be contacted at Labpoyh@yahoo.com.