Sat | Nov 27, 2021

Daniel Thwaites | The Integrity Commission Emergency

Published:Sunday | May 5, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Events this week took me back to ‘Monica’s War’ in August 1998. Officially, it was named ‘Operation Infinite Reach’, a set of missile strikes ordered by President Bill Clinton against suspected military bases in Sudan and Afghanistan. On the quiet, the media people knew that the timing of the attack, if not the whole decision, was based on dealing with the fallout from the world’s most famous blowjob.

Here’s further context. Media coverage of Monica Lewinsky’s congressional testimony was severely truncated by coverage of the newly launched war. Plus, the airstrikes had begun three days after Clinton had begun giving Grand Jury testimony about his freakiness and friskiness in the Oval Orifice. Because what sells better than sex? War.

By the way, in those days Hillary wasn’t preaching “believe women” and “#metoo”. Her distinct worry was that people would in fact believe the woman, especially since there were so many others saying #metoo.

It didn’t end there. By December 1998, the Articles of Impeachment were up for votes in the US House of Representatives. Verrrrry suspiciously, bredda Bill announced at juuuuust the right time that Operation Desert Fox, a bombing campaign against Iraq, had been launched.

This is why we must never tire of reading Roman Republican and Imperial history. Because it is there you see, without all the obfuscations and niceties that we use to shield us from what’s going on, the way politics in the capital determines the war programme in the provinces.

Anyway, why dredge up these uncomfortable little details? Because they are grand examples of an ever-present temptation for those with executive power, whether it’s Tiberius Caesar, Clinton Caesar, or Holness Caesar.

And I have to tell you that the timing of the announcement of the state of emergency (SOE) covering St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland warrants careful scrutiny.

It nuh look good

The Integrity Commission’s report detailing Holness Caesar’s failure to make adequate and proper declarations for 2017 was about to drop. The prime minister! It nuh look good.

Then people are still wondering why Ruel just up and quit the job so suddenly. No official explanation or report has been forthcoming and it’s pretty clear that the Government would rather we all just forget that Ruel ever existed.

And the contractor general’s report that notes how the Government jus’ ah giwweh beach, was to be in the next morning’s headlines.

Ah soh mi see it. The SOE declaration was in the back pocket, ready as sword and shield if the headlines got too dicey. Instead of ‘Monica’s War’, we have the ‘Integrity Commission Emergency’.

At the same time, it’s quite clear that the Opposition ought to have tested the last state of emergency in the courts. At least then Justices Sykes and Batts coulda psyches dem and batt this rubbish out the park, and finally give us some authoritative guidelines about the legitimate basis of invoking emergency powers.

So far as I can tell, we are not in the wake of a natural disaster, at least if you put the NWC one side. Despite the strenuous efforts of the NSWMA, plague hasn’t yet broken out. And we’re not at war with a hostile nation, although I would cheer the Government along if it decided to retake the Cayman Islands. But why then are we granting the executive extraordinary powers?

Because it’s how we reward the security forces and their civilian satraps for incompetence. Having shown that they are utterly incapable of performing the police function that is the first job and responsibility of the state machinery, the recurring brilliant idea is that the remuneration for ineptitude is more police power.

Having failed to put any permanent reforms in place during a previous whole year of emergency, what exactly is the great leap forward that’s to be expected now? And when is it supposed to end? Or are we to get accustomed to a more or less permanent state of emergency now?

And that’s a serious danger that we now court. Emergency powers are becoming normalised and the conventional bar for declaring it is dangerously low.

DANGER OF POLICE STATE

I fully understand the poor people who simply want to see the mad killings come to an end. But they need to know that in places too numerous to mention, this has been achieved by police using ordinary policing powers effectively. The failure they’re experiencing isn’t because the police need to be able to lock up their children and neighbours indefinitely.

So we have martial law over roughly 20 per cent of the country, an Opposition flat on its feet, and Government getting suspiciously comfortable wielding executive diktat.

In short, Jamaica is in danger of becoming a police state. We were creeping along merrily in that direction, and now with momentum, it’s becoming a full-scale gallop.

Consider JamaicaEye and NIDS. They might conceivably have their place in a society replete with protections for the individual, but are the tools of a tyrant if we were to have them in our current situation.

Can we finally be spared the horse-crap about how there are good men and women in the JCF and blah blah blah. Trust me, I know there are very many good ones. But there are far too many rotten ones. Anyone who doubts the serious, deep and abiding corruption need only look at this Chedwin Park killing and the made-for-movies drama following on it. Perhaps it is now clear that the JCF has to be dismantled, debugged, and then rebuilt piece by piece.

Anyway, this is just how it happens. People fear for their safety, so they invite the tyrant to protect them and voluntarily cede rights and liberties that they ought to jealously guard. Politically it becomes too much of a liability to remind people that once, not so long ago, they needn’t have lived in fear of cop or robber. That’s when you’re grateful that they’re scanning your eyeballs, your fingers, and your battam, meaning, your foot-battam.

Look, if the Government and its agents were unable to acquire evidence, statements, and witnesses to procure the prosecution of the criminal masterminds after one whole year of emergency powers, what gives you the feeling that another dose of those same powers is likely to allow them to get it done?

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.