It saddens me to see Dr Herbert Thompson drawn into the vortex of the partisan political bickering and sullied because of it.
I'm not arguing about whether the ECJ ought to have been offered an award by the PNP, whether he ought to have agreed to accept it, or whether he ought to have informed his fellow commissioners about the event.
I heard Ambassador Burchell Whiteman taking responsibility for a letter whose clumsy construction could have led one to believe the award was for Thompson. Dr Thompson has acknowledged that mistakes were made by him in handling the matter.
If you squint really hard, you can actually just see Mr Holness' point about the offer and receipt of the award being inappropriate. So for the sake of argument, we can accept that. But even so, there must be proportionality of the punishment to the mistake.
Here you have a man who, by all accounts, has contributed so much to education, and has also given his time and energy to developing a critical national institution like the ECJ. Is that a scalp Mr Holness really needed on his wall? I cannot help but feel that this is a result of the looming internal election in the JLP and Mr Holness' desire to appear as merciless and uncompromising a warrior as Audley.
Has Dr Thompson's acceptance of the award on behalf of the ECJ really compromised his ability to act impartially? Has it really clouded his judgement so that he would be unable to make principled decisions on the ECJ? I don't think so.
However, if one says that Dr Thompson's judgement is now suspect and he, therefore, is unfit to be chairman of the ECJ, I can't imagine how he continues to be fit to serve as a member. So I imagine that despite the attempt to staunch the bloodletting at the resignation as chairman, the hounds may yet have success in ousting Dr Thompson from the ECJ completely.
This is one scalp too many. It is not uncommon to meet people who express a desire to be part of building Jamaica, but who hang back because they can't stomach or bear the stigma of party political connection. Here is an example of why. Dr Thompson has declared for neither party, and nobody in their right mind believes he was, or is, about to do that, but just by being in the orbit of the parties, people tek him a tun pappyshow.
A horrific tragedy has befallen four families and the Holmwood Technical High School community. This underscores the terror I feel whenever I head out on to the road. I get the sense that things have improved somewhat, but getting into a car on our roads is taking a gamble. I, therefore, feel a great dependence on the police, on whom we rely to slow down the maniacs.
Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, my absolute favourite interviewee on television ("it sipple like huckro!"), used the occasion to re-argue his plan to require that motorists turn up with their driving records before registration. But the question remains why there isn't enough coordination in the police force, or between the police force and the Transport Authority, for that information to be present automatically?
Furthermore, how do the police explain men operating public passenger vehicles with more than 100 tickets apiece? One of the drivers had 115 tickets, while the other had well over a hundred as well! Are we to understand that the police have no means of checking whether there are 100 outstanding tickets before proceeding to issue a further 15? What exactly is the purpose of the ticket system?
rural school buses
The tragedy has reignited interest in a plan to introduce rural school buses. Now, under normal circumstances, I would say that such a plan is a good idea. The problem, though, is that it's not clear that Jamaica is politically mature enough to sustain a state-sponsored bus service. We have one, but we're still working up to the maturity to be able to keep it. The signs aren't particularly encouraging. For example, a recent minimal increase in bus fares required a Cabinet-level decision. That, in turn, excited an Opposition response.
So, after years without an increase, while inflation has been affecting everything else and the company has been bleeding dollars, an increase absorbed the whole political leadership of the entire country. Isn't it obvious that if basic decisions require the upper-upper management of Cabinet to get involved, it is unsustainable and a recipe for disaster?
What is more, media reports at the time revealed that the problems at the JUTC are deep and systemic. One key arrangement is that employees are paid a minimum of 40 hours for the week regardless of how much they actually work! Thus we don't actually have a bus system so much as a vector for patronage. In other words, the JUTC, by its very design of politically determined rates and politically engineered payments to the workforce, will always post gargantuan losses. A rural school bus system, developed without first tackling these issues, will only aggravate the losses.
Also note that the Government is all but conceding that it cannot properly regulate the private system that currently fills the need. That's quite an admission. Is it really beyond the capacity of the State to see to it that the drivers of public passenger vehicles have somewhat fewer than 100 tickets and operate the buses with some care?
So now the State is now being encouraged to take over the process completely, in the belief that having failed at the simpler job of regulating the minibus system, it will somehow magically do better at the harder task of running and regulating a public bus system.
Daniel Thwaites is a partner of Thwaites Law Firm in Jamaica, and Thwaites, Lundgren & D'Arcy in New York. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.