The collapsed relations between the leaders of the People's National Party's (PNP) East Rural St Andrew constituency organisation offer that party another chance to begin an overdue, but necessary, overhaul of the practice of politics in Jamaica.
Unfortunately, it is an opportunity that is unlikely to be grasped. For the PNP, it seems, does not perceive Jamaica to be in a crisis of political management and fails to realise that the problems of East Rural St Andrew are a subset of the national catastrophe.
That, at least, is the message that has been conveyed by the PNP's general secretary, Peter Bunting, in revealing the party's latest strategy for dealing with the dispute embroiling parliamentarian Damion Crawford, PNP local government councillors in that constituency, and party supporters.
"I don't see anything fundamental (in the dispute) that can't be resolved with some mediation," Mr Bunting told this newspaper.
Our expectation, therefore, is that what always happens in these situations will happen again. The PNP stalwarts will gather up the faction, preach about unity as a prerequisite for winning elections, then paper over the cracks.
Yet, what East Rural St Andrew reveals is the stress on political representation in a system of patronage, especially in a circumstance of diminished state resources. Which is not to dismiss the claims of his critics that Mr Crawford, the new MP, is autocratic and non-inclusive in his leadership style.
The bottom line, however, is that this fight is over how taxpayers' money has, or has not, been doled out by politicians. That cash, in this case, is funnelled through that trough called the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), around which politicians of all hues are always ready to build ramparts.
If Mr Crawford has the moral high ground, it is not because he repudiates the CDF, as he should, but because he wants to spend most of the money on education programmes for children. Councillors want a greater say over its allocation. Very vocal PNP supporters call for white rum and curried goat feeds and other direct handouts.
In other words, CDF, as metaphor, represents a mutually parasitic process. Politicians afford mostly poor, undereducated voters petty patronage in exchange for their votes and power.
ERODING ROLE OF STATE
This concept of politics eviscerates the professional bureaucracy and diminishes the agencies of the State, allowing an almost untrammelled ascendancy of legislators/political executive and the parties they represent. It is, indeed, a short cut to corruption and those offshoots of patronage, political garrisons.
Of course, the PNP understands well this approach to politics and parasitism. It has, it is widely held, played out in the PNP's most recent leadership contests.
At times, too, some of its leaders, including Mr Bunting, have spoken out eloquently against it. There, has however, been a gap between declared sentiment and concrete action.
Ultimately, though, the obligation for leading reform rests with the leader, in this case, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. She, up to now, has not assumed full ownership of this process.
She could start, among other things, with a repudiation of the CDF in her speech to the PNP conference next Sunday.
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