By Ronald Mason
Renewal is a natural part of the process of growth. Nature and the persons who seek self-actualisation see it as a necessity. So do political parties.
Currently, the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is in the throes of renewal. Audley Shaw is challenging the incumbent Andrew Holness. It is not the fact of a challenge that makes this worthy of scrutiny, but how the challenge process is being played out.
The JLP does not have a history broad-based internal democratic tendencies. They have evolved over nearly 70 years by having a strong leader-centric ethos: from 'Chief' Bustamante to 'One Don' Seaga. It is worth recalling that the leaders have all come to the top post without the input of the broad base of the parties membership - its delegates.
What does this challenge portend? A victory for Mr Holness will be a ringing endorsement. The delegates will send a message that support is there for the youth experiment. It may be whether it will be a kilometre-wide and a centimetre-deep support base.
The political parties in Jamaica are organised along the principle of maximum representation for the grass roots: groups for the PNP and branches for the JLP. The stratification winds its way up through constituencies and regions up to annual conference. In this election challenge, it will be important to analyse the results. This should answer the question as to how deep the support for the winner is.
It is a feature that political parties in Jamaica need strong leadership. The strong leader with a broad mandate can be reasonably assured of prolonged occupancy of the position. In this challenge, Andrew Holness has already laid the groundwork by noting his intent, if he is defeated, to challenge again for the top job.
This statement is against the allegation that, as a leader, Andrew Holness has not met with 42 losing parliamentary candidates for the JLP. Here lies the potential for multiple challenges: Andrew Holness wins with the majority support from the parliamentary group and Audley Shaw's thin loss is mostly credited to the 42 losers. Is that a strong leader?
The general understanding of corruption is that someone received a tangible benefit for illicit activity. In this case, the normal usage is limited by political association.
Richard Azan bears the label of being politically corrupt, according to the contractor general, and the partisan political elite have already been begging for his head, served on the platter by the prime minister.
But I am struck by the glaring absence of a grass-roots call for Mr Azan's resignation. The poor people who benefited from the unauthorised intervention of the minister in providing them with a safe, decent place to 'eat a food' will never call for his resignation. Us-vs-them is once again at play, and Richard Azan never got a personal benefit.
Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell will justify his contact with a competing entity on the basis that his sole objection was to secure the lowest per-kilowatt rate and on the legal definition of a hard, inviolable timetable. If the public is sold on the probability of lower electricity bills, it will be seen as the ends justifying the means. Again, personal gain by Mr Paulwell is not likely to turn up any.
As a country, we are reaping the historically loose penalties for corruption. Over the years, persons have been fingered for unexplained personal gain. Both sides in Parliament have been labelled by The Gleaner as the gangs of Gordon House. However, no head has been offered in sacrifice. The question will be, why now?
Crime is out of control. We've reached four murders a day across the country. The police seek more legislation, yet they have been accused of sloppy investigation which leads to problems with prosecution and the ultimate goal of conviction.
The method of crime scene investigation as seen on television news does not appear to employ best practices. Rarely does one see a crime scene properly secured and the investigation being diligently done to find hair, body fluids, shoeprints, etc.
The minister with responsibility for quelling crime boasts of acquiring new vehicles. I have recently seen a two-door small SUV. What is the operational use of this vehicle?
Punishment for those caught leaves a lot to be desired. The court fine of J$80,000 and three years probation for gun crimes is not enough. It is no wonder that a mayor is justifying an-eye-for-an eye jurisprudence.
Communities are continually resorting to vigilante justice, and it is likely to spread. Fear prevails across the land. Persons are expressing fear of being on the streets after dark. Popular dancehall personalities are gunned down and the police investigate a link to someone who is remanded. What manner of correctional service do we have? A person has cell phones, DVDs and thumb drives in the cell with him!
The country is losing patience, and one can see the political directorate being caught in reaction mode.
Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator and talk-show host. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.