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Circus clowns come to Half-Way Tree

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2016 | 12:00 AMGordon Robinson

That loud, rustling sound you hear in trees throughout Jamaica is the collective sigh of relief by three million Jamaicans that their PM has finally been touched.

Why are Jamaicans, by and large, so happy to learn the general election will be held on February 25? It’s not because they intend to vote for pot or kettle, because I fully expect more than 50 per cent of the population and a similar swathe of the electorate to treat these polls as they would the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It’s simply because they’re sick and tired of the three-ring circus they’ve endured for six months now and just want it to be over.

Jamaica was put on election alert by Peter Phillips in July 2015 and has since been fed a steady diet of putrid, populist politics until, overstuffed with rancid rhetoric, they’re just looking for a ready receptacle in which to regurgitate. Jamaica has been waiting to exhale for six months. As it did, I drifted off into the past.

Remember this?

My leader born ya
My leader born ya
That’s why I nah lef’ ya
No, I nah lef’ ya
He gave I a message
to all those people
who no love progress ... .

The JLP keeps pushing the slogan ‘Poverty to Prosperity’, but it contributed significantly to our current poverty, especially between 2007 and 2011 when public debt rose by $713 billion from 115 per cent of GDP to 142 per cent. In what appears to be a deliberate attempt to lose the election, Andrew Holness announced the ‘prosperity’ strategy is to be driven by Audley Shaw, who presided over 2007-2011’s economic collapse.

I hold no brief for Peter Phillips, and he’s definitely NOT my Man of the Year, but at least he has proven he can take and follow IMF instructions. Audley Shaw entered into an IMF agreement but wasn’t able to implement or achieve agreed objectives.

Said you jook them with land lease.
Jook them with land lease.
Then you jook them with the Pioneer Corps ... .

Despite this blatant political propaganda in 1976, neither programme produced significant economic activity. Both now lie fallow in the dust bowl of history.

Jook them with JAMAL
Jook them with JAMAL
Then you jook them with free education ... .

Adult literacy rates have been generally on a steady decline since 1990. They peaked at 88 per cent (2003), but were down to 87 per cent (2012). The figure for 1995 was 85 per cent. There’s no excuse for any country not to be 100 per cent literate in 2016. Free education, which caused a sensation when announced as former education minister, ‘Teacher’ Edwin Allen, crossed the parliamentary floor to shake Michael Manley’s hand, disappeared soon after. Now, parents must pay fees AND ‘auxiliary’ fees for poor-quality education. Who’s ‘jooking’ who?

Equal pay for women
Equal pay for women
Jook them with the minimum wage ...

Equal pay for women remains a fantasy. The minimum wage was just increased to J$5,600 per week (J$8,200 for security guards), which means that, if minimum wage workers walk to work and are fed by employers, they still can’t afford rent, electricity or running water.

The Message, written and recorded in 1976 for the PNP by Neville Martin, helped win a second term in an election held during a state of emergency with many JLP activists in detention camp. It’s the only political party anthem to reach the local top-10 charts.

So, as I watched the PM announce the election date to a sea of orange-clad PNP supporters, I only felt depression. If ever there was an advertisement for fixed election dates, it’s the song-and-dance routine that’s characterised this six-month election campaign. To have a February election only because the PNP is at last ahead in the polls exposes:

- an infuriatingly disgraceful, self-serving, unpatriotic, narcissistic contempt for Jamaica; AND

- the anti-democratic, totalitarian, unjust nature of the laws that allow this to happen.

Suppose the JLP is elected (unlikely on performance to date)? How is it supposed to craft a budget based on its manifesto commitments in time for March? Even if the PNP is returned, surely this next Budget should be in accordance with any new, fresh commitments made or at least out of courtesy, put on hold pending the election outcome?

This nation is in critical condition. We must ensure the Half-Way Tree spectacle, whereby Jamaica’s constitutional affairs were converted to party political revelry, never happens again. Election dates must be fixed (preferably in October) and entrenched. Until then, prime ministers must announce election dates in Parliament.

Peace and love.

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