By any means necessary, Trevor?
A.J. Nicholson, Contributor
Like the spin doctors and the apologists, Trevor Munroe begins with this: By any means necessary, the present prime minister must remain in that position at this time. What is the best argument to support that endgame? The fact that principles which undergird our system of government are to be sacrificed is irrelevant, and if it is necessary to deflect the principle that is to be upheld, so be it. So, when that is attempted by the professor, for the apologists, his arguments are brilliant and everything that he says is agreed with.
In taking aim, he ends his full-page reply to the question that is publicly posed to him by me in the following fashion: "I have to respectfully reject the sixth-form debating point that I am sending 'mixed signals' by not equating the suspensions of Spencer, and Hibbert, with the resignation of Golding, neither charged nor about to be charged, as far as I am aware, with any criminal offence.
Equate, Professor? On the contrary, I said no such thing, and that is not how it is seen within Jamaica, in the diaspora and in the wider international community. I cannot improve on the observation of public commentator Dickie Crawford: the allegations against Spencer and Hibbert, serious as they are, amount to 'kindergarten stuff' compared to the devastating impact of Golding's actions on Jamaica and its image during that nine-month misadventure, and continuing.
Too often, unfortunately, we are forced to take note of ministers and heads of government across the globe being accused of corrupt practices. Such accusations, by themselves, do not place countries in jeopardy of being labelled narco-states. The question is: in the recent history of democratic government across the world, how many, if any, heads of government have so corrupted the system of the administration of justice and so savaged the rule of law on the altar that Jamaica's prime minister erected for himself, namely, the sacrifice of his political career, and for the reason that he was prepared to do so.
And, the basic and fundamental issue is this: if the head of government is to be excused by a mere apology, how do we deal with lesser infractions in the future? I wonder whether the damage that this has done to Jamaica is fully appreciated by the apologists.
And, Munroe should, by now, have reflected that this exposure-to-criminal-liability reference is rather empty. For, why did Minister Ronald Robinson, whose actions appear to have been only on the fringes of the tragi-comedy, resign? No criminal charge was, or was about to be, instituted against him; he used one word, 'inappropriate', to describe his actions.
Further, Trevor should not be deceived: with the evidence that is in the public domain, an astute director of public prosecutions, some of whom have served Jamaica with distinction, including the successful prosecution of political leaders, would make a charge of perverting the course of justice, brought against the present prime minister and the attorney general, stick.
Let my position be fully understood. We are firmly on board regarding the commitment that the crime and corruption monster must be tamed, and eventually destroyed. But, that cannot be achieved by any political public relations sprucing up of an image. Any such plan, short or long term, cannot be wrapped in a programme to make the prime minister, any prime minister, 'look good'.
We must be determined to slay the dragon, for the reason that we wish to live in peace; not driven by a wish for someone, who constantly shows scant respect for the rule of law, to be seen as an arch crime fighter.
Some of the possibilities put forward by Professor Munroe may assist in the strategic programme. They may provide points of departure in structured deliberations and action to tackle the monster, which the leader of the Opposition maintains should constantly be part of the parliamentary agenda. That crime-fighting agenda must be in trustworthy hands - not in the hands of someone who reverses himself at every turn.
Munroe's cornerstone argument is that "Golding has had to reverse himself and is in fact now presiding over an opportunity for Jamaica to make advances against the monster of crime such as has not happened under any prime minister". But then, no leader of government, since 1944, has, unlawfully or otherwise, caused Jamaica to be regarded and seen in such a horrible light. And, 'reverse himself' and 'an opportunity', Professor? On reflection, he might wish to reconsider; for, that has been Golding's trademark, certainly during the last 15 years of his political career since 1995.
Let us consider eight examples of his opportunistic reversing.
1: During the deliberations of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional and Electoral Reform, which reported to Parliament in July 1995, the opposition members, including Golding, convinced the government members that, for several reasons, they should abandon their preference for an executive presidential system such as obtains in the United States, and agree to Jamaica adopting a ceremonial type of presidency, as is the case in, say, Trinidad and Tobago.
And, we were recently reminded that, not long before, in Budget Debate contribution, he had stridently proclaimed that the executive presidential system was not the direction that Jamaica should choose. Soon, Golding, experiencing grave discomfort in the Gang of Five mix-up in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), resigned from that party, asserting, as his reason, that the report of the Joint Select Committee had recommended that Jamaica adopt the ceremonial type of presidency, and, reversing himself, that he was always in favour of the executive presidential system. He left to found the National Democratic Movement (NDM) to champion that cause.
2: On his NDM Damascus road journey, he swore to Jamaica that he had abandoned the type of politics that was practised in the other political parties, denouncing the 'garrison' elements. He returned to the JLP, which had projected no change during his departure, and after threatening to bring a defamation action against a media house that had predicted that he would. Golding, opportunistically, reversed himself!
3: Not only did Golding return to the JLP, but he returned, not to contest a seat in un-garrison-like places, such as St Elizabeth or Trelawny, but at the heart, the mother, of all garrisons. Perhaps, the mother of all reversing, as Jamaica has come to rue! He had reversed across the Rubicon - the point of no return.
4: For him, as leader of the Opposition, the positions of minister and political party officer were inextricably linked - you cannot jump out of one skin into another. As head of Government, the positions of prime minister and party leader are poles apart, and ne'er the twain shall meet, buttressed by the ruling of the Speaker of the House. Golding's reversing traits contaminated the Speaker.
5: The use of the "awesome power of the prime minister", against which he forever railed while in Opposition, was soon put to the test when he came to occupy that office. His prime ministerial plunge into the Professor Vasciannie confirmation as solicitor general and the dismissal of the Public Service Commission not only represented a complete reversal of his "awesome power" mantra, but he was forced to reverse himself when confronted with a lawsuit.
6: "I sanctioned the initiative." Up until today, Jamaica has not been told the full story about that shocking Manatt, Phelps & Phillips reversing. The back-pedalling from Dr Peter Phillips and the Opposition seeking a headline to the revelation that he had authorised the very first step is material that bedtime stories are made of.
7: The minister of justice will sign the Authority to Proceed and tender her letter of resignation at the same time, since constitutional rights do not begin at Liguanea. That is plain talk, which carries the authority of the prime minister, who appoints ministers and has the power of dismissal. Surely, that edict could not be reversed, and certainly not when it was issued from the highest court of the land, Jamaica's Parliament.
8: After a public apology by the prime minister, under a state of public emergency, the security forces move into Tivoli Gardens to serve an extradition warrant on a fugitive, who has been forewarned. The fugitive is not found, and persons are killed downtown and uptown, even in their homes. But, the old Tivoli Gardens is no more and there is a reported dip in the horrendous murder rate.
Munroe translates that phenomenon into "Golding has had to reverse himself and is now presiding over an opportunity for Jamaica to make advances against the monster of organised crime".
The Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay, Howard Gregory, pronounces that "this country stands in need" in the most urgent way of political leaders who are above reproach, whose hands are clean, and who are prepared to make laws and lead us on a path on which we can tackle corruption, dismantle garrisons and end criminality". How does that square with trusting a leader for whom opportunism is always a reason to dissemble and constantly 'reverse himself', Trevor? Can a leopard change its spots?
Jamaicans could hardly take their eyes off that ball.
A.J. Nicholson is opposition spokesman on justice. Feedback may be sent to email@example.com