By Gordon Robinson
Sixteen SUVs? Say it ain't so! Tell me I misheard. Or misunderstood. Not 16 brand new SUVs. Plus five more luxury cars. When tax waivers are included, my conservative estimate of the taxpayers' cost is more than $100 million. Tell me that a recession-hit poor country's Government has NOT just bought 16 brand new SUVs for Cabinet ministers. I feel like Amadou Diallo. This body blow feels like 41 shots all on target. So, with apologies to The Boss:
and we'll take that ride
cross this bloody river
to the other side.
(16 SUVs) cut through the night.
You're kneeling over his body in the vestibule
praying for his life.
Wait a minute. What's that I hear? The information minister has assured the media the purchases were approved by Cabinet. Well, whoop-de-doo! That makes it OK. But who are the beneficiaries of the purchases? Aren't government ministers and Cabinet members one and the same?
So, let me see if I get the minister correctly. It's OK for a poor country just hit by a natural disaster with at least two eastern parishes reeling and rocking from the shock to spend more than $100 million buying 16 SUVs for Cabinet ministers because it was approved by Cabinet ministers? Will we soon hear the SUVs have been sold to their custodians for J$500,000 each?
Lord, deliver us.
Is this democracy? Are we beseeched to go to the polls; are the sick, lame and infirm lifted and carried to vote; do corporations make huge campaign contributions; do we vote one out and another in so that 16 brand new SUVs could be bought for 16 new ministers? Is this what politics is all about? Did this happen in an economy that contracted 0.6 per cent in the third quarter alone?
Is this why our BOJ governor has been making obviously flawed growth projections all year? So that ministers could buy 16 brand new SUVs? Don't you dare tell me the JLP also did it. So what? Better put me out of my misery. Shoot me now.
Well, is it a gun, is it a knife?
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret)
no secret my friend.
You can get shafted just for living in
your Jamaican skin.
(16 SUVs )
Hold on. More coming through from the information minister. She says some ministers have been driving their own cars. Well, skewer me with a Japanese spanner. Belizean Prime Minister George Price took the bus to work. Many Jamaicans, who can't afford to drive their own cars, take the bus to work. It's a privilege to be able to drive one's own car.
What's the information minister saying now? Ministers driving their own cars can't get 'gas cards'. WHAT? Are you really trying to tell me that the Jamaican Government has no process by which ministers can be refunded for gas bought to drive their cars on government business? Every other civil-service 'travelling officer' must present claims and wait months to be reimbursed. None drive gas-guzzling SUVs which cost more than $100 million AND incur massive monthly petrol bills.
Are Cabinet members Saudi oil barons that they can deliberately, premeditatedly commit taxpayers to supporting monthly gas bills for 16 SUVs (plus five luxury cars)? Schools still offer pit latrines; police stations are falling apart; hospitals lack basic equipment; pensioners must live on miserly stipends; yet 16 SUVs must be purchased and maintained for ministers? Don't they care? Or is it just a matter of sheikh, rattle and roll.
CAN THEY CROSS IT?
When we 'canna cross it' during floods, will Cabinet ministers cruise by in one of the 16 SUVs and splash us? While we slip and slide in the Port Maria mud, will 16 SUVs flash by heading to a north coast jaunt (oops, sorry, 'retreat')?
16 SUVs, and we'll take that ride
cross this bloody river to the other side
16 SUVs, I got my boots caked in this mud
Baptised in these waters (we're baptised in these waters)
and in each other's blood (and in each other's blood).
Nothing but the lyrics of the legendary Bruce Springsteen's poignant American Skin (41 shots), inspired by the fatal police shooting of Amadou Diallo as he reached for identification, will suffice to describe the blatant, boorish, brutish betrayal of every Jamaican by this vulgar display of greed.
It's official. We have no shame. We have no leadership. We have no hope. Lord, deliver us.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.