Mon | May 21, 2018

The principle of restricted choice

Published:Tuesday | January 22, 2013 | 12:00 AM

By Gordon Robinson

We'd talked up this clash for weeks as the school's domino championship.

Gene Autry and I played against Little D and Duppy in a best-of-five final. Kibitzers were rows deep. The tension was thick. With the score at two-all in sixes; five-all in the fifth six, I pulled double-six and gratefully posed it. Duppy, on my right, contributed six-five and Autry introduced five-four. In a flash, Little D went two fours. I played four-deuce; Duppy matched double-deuce; Autry played deuce-five; and Little D five-three. Only one of mine (four-three) could be played. But where? Threes? Or fours?

My play looked like deciding the championship. So I took my time. Why'd Autry cut my deuce while leaving the four end open? Either he'd no more fours or he was the man with fours playing a cute game. But Little D had unhesitatingly turned the game fours. Did he have fours? Or was he, like me, left with a choice only of ends?

The key was Autry's deuce-five play. Why'd he reintroduce five having just cut five? This 'cut-and-bring-back' suggested his problem was with deuces, not fours. Surely, he couldn't be short deuces AND fours? And fives? Also, double-four was offered all around the table. Unless Little D started with five fours (unlikely since Autry played five-four instead of five-deuce when five first reached him), surely, if he held it, he'd play double-four instead of going two fours? So, sly fox Autry was 'cooping' fours.

I swung the game fours and it was effectively over. American style, we crowned ourselves world champions to the tune of Autry's victory chant, "Don't joke with Gene Autry!"


In dominoes, 'cut-and-bring-back' suggests restricted choice. Elsewhere, I'm not so sure. Take politics. We cut Michael Manley in 1980. The People's National Party restricted our choice by not offering a new leader, so in 1989, we brought him back and cut Eddie Seaga. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) restricted our choice until 2007, but we never brought Seaga back. That year, we cut Portia Simpson Miller. True to form, Jamaica's choice continued to be restricted, so we brought her back in 2011.

How'd the 1989 bring-back work for us? We got FINSAC, Shell waiver, and economic stagnation. How's the 2011 bring-back working for you? Next time, will you 'bring-back' Young Andrew whom you cut in 2011? Or will you insist the JLP give us unrestricted choice?

Take 'Independence'. We cut England in 1962. Yet, whenever we want to pass new laws, we look to England for templates. We use 19th-century English court judgments to force us into incongruous decisions about 2012 Jamaica. We hang (pun intended) on to the Privy Council as if our lives depend on it.

Seriously? England? The country we can now call Terrorist Heaven? Who can't run its own legal affairs? That's our legal mentor?


Remember Abu Qatada? He's a Jordanian formerly named Omar Mahmoud Othman who entered the United Kingdom on a forged United Emirates passport; changed his name; became a radical Muslim 'cleric'; and started issuing 'fatwas' left, right and centre. England has tried to deport him since 1999 after his conviction in Jordan for terrorist conspiracies. Obstacle One was the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which held Qatada might be tortured if returned to Jordan.

A mad scramble ensued, which included the humiliating spectacle of Home Secretary Theresa May flying to Jordan to beg for assurances Qatada wouldn't be tortured. Finally, England received these assurances; the ECHR removed its objection; but an English Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal allowed Qatada's appeal against deportation, finding he wouldn't get a fair trial in Jordan.

Well, blow me down. We want to 'cut-and-bring-back' a country that can't even cut a known terrorist from its shores and has already spent more than £1 million ensuring his comfortable lifestyle in a London council house with lavish benefits, all provided courtesy of British taxpayers. Can you imagine America enduring a similar struggle to deport an unwanted immigrant?

But, if a Jordanian citizen can't get a fair trial in Jordan, why is Jordan a significant British trading partner? Why is Jordan's king regularly a Buckingham Palace guest?

Maybe England's choice is restricted. Ours isn't. We don't need to bring back that weak-kneed, culturally confused country as our legal model. We don't need the Privy Council. To those still riding the 'distance means impartiality' train, get off it. Distance guarantees ignorance of local needs and cultural jingoism, NOT impartiality. Impartiality is guaranteed only by integrity. Is integrity available only in England?

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to