Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Confessions of a frustrated Jamaican voter

Published:Monday | December 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Michael Abrahams

Online Columnist

My first encounter with voting in a general election was many years ago at a time
when the People's National Party (PNP) was in power. While not being completely
comfortable with the way the country was being run, I did not feel confident that
the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would have been a better option, and voted to keep
the Government that we had. They won.

By the next election, I was dissatisfied with the Government, but still not confident
that the JLP would be any better. I was truly conflicted. On election day, in the
booth at the polling station, I looked at the ballot paper, saw the head and the
bell, and realised that I could not bring myself to vote for either of them. I,
however, had a third option - a Rastafarian candidate. So I put the 'X' beside the
conquering lion and vacated the booth.

A few elections passed and apathy took over, leading me to abstain from voting,
but in 2007, I decided once again to exercise my right. The PNP had been in power
for 18 years and I was dissatisfied with the country's progress. I was proud of
Portia Simpson Miller being our first female prime minister, but still had concerns
about the Government, and the Trafigura affair did not help matters. I decided that
I would vote for change, not because I was enamoured with the JLP but because I
was dissatisfied with the Government.

The JLP won the election and Mr Golding's inauguration speech was one of the best
I have ever heard. I was initially optimistic, but soon became uncomfortable when
I saw people who I considered to be of questionable character rise to positions
of leadership within the government. Then there was the crass, crude and sinister
behaviour. One member of parliament told a TV anchor to "go to hell!"
before hanging up on her on live television. Another MP and government minister
hurled expletives at police officers in public and verbally assaulted a senior female
journalist using derogatory language. In a bizarre incident, another MP took a wanted
man out of police custody and later paraded him on a political platform. Then, the
prime minister clearly stated during an interview in the United Kingdom that he
would not tolerate gays in his Cabinet, which is discrimination at the highest level
and illustrated a lack of respect for members of the LGBT community. Then there
was the Manatt-Coke affair and the ensuing Tivoli Gardens massacre where at least
76 civilians were slaughtered. There was also the JDIP saga and the seemingly excessive
amount of money spent on the Christiana highway. My friends and acquaintances, many
of whom have never themselves voted, called me a Labourite and chided me for bringing
these people to power. I was terribly disappointed and disillusioned and decided
that I had had enough.

Leading up to the next election, the PNP candidate for my constituency was someone
who had come to my gate on more than one occasion, and had a reputation for being
a decent and hardworking man with integrity. On the other hand, the current MP at
the time, from the JLP, had a very bad reputation and was mired in controversy.

So, on election day, I put my 'X' beside the head. Again, I picked a winner, but
soon felt like a loser when, shortly after her inauguration, Mrs. Simpson Miller
announced a cabinet even larger than the one she criticised Mr Golding for and demanded
that he reduce. I felt betrayed. Then came the SUVs, the representation of the flag
with the absence of the colour green, the lack of transparency with the Goat Islands
deal, the Azan affair, the inept handling of the chikungunya epidemic and corresponding
lack of accountability, the million-dollar phone bill, the $4-million private jet
flight, and the NHT-Outameni controversy.

And then there is the arrogance, rudeness and insensitivity: "two likkle lizard",
"flexi-rape", "articulate minority", "wild creatures".
Now there is vote buying in Westmoreland and a bill being passed to allow taxpayers'
money to be used to fund political parties. All this while many schoolchildren are
still using pit latrines, children's homes are being closed, and poverty is high.

Meanwhile, we slip two places in the international corruption rankings, as the
prime minister continues to play dandy shandy and hide-and-seek with the populace
and the media. With all this slackness, the apathetic non-voters in my space now
call me a Comrade and blame me for helping to put the country in the mess we are
now in. Then, when I criticise the Government, I am labelled a Labourite.

To be honest, I am weary and wary of both parties. I am tired of voting for the
lesser of two evils. It appears to me to be six of one and half-dozen of the other.
Everyweh me tun, makka jook me.

All I desire is a leader and a party with integrity who will put the people first.
I don't care if it is orange, green, blue or purple. Yes, if the KC old boys had
a party and showed promise I would vote for them - as long as they allow women to
attend their meetings.

Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email
feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.