Thu | Dec 1, 2022

Orville Taylor | Conference 79 for the JLP

Published:Sunday | November 20, 2022 | 12:12 AM

By the time this column is out, there will be the ringing of bells, in a tsunami of green. Neither green nor orange is a colour that forms part of my wardrobe or décor. Yet, I have to admit, that in a robust democracy like ours, it is quite a...

By the time this column is out, there will be the ringing of bells, in a tsunami of green. Neither green nor orange is a colour that forms part of my wardrobe or décor. Yet, I have to admit, that in a robust democracy like ours, it is quite a spectacle when the parties rally.

For all the naysayers, who love to highlight the worst things about our little piece of rock, our freedom of electoral choice, ability to openly criticise our politicians, complain about our police and to peacefully protest, are rights which many jurisdictions do not have entrenched.

In this little Caribbean country, the middle 30 per cent of uncommitted voters swing either green or orange.

Senior Labourite, Desmond McKenzie, has stated in no uncertain terms that there will be no tolerance to supporters hanging from motor vehicle windows. It is imagined that he is also saying the same for lawlessness which has tended to accompany political rallies. This must be the day-to-day commitment of his party and the people must believe him.

It is a low-level implied promise. However, given that his party has made other promises with the best of intentions; if it cannot deliver an organised and disciplined conference, among its own, one can’t see how it can fix the other national problems.

A major campaign promise of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in 2016 was an increase in the sense of security and thus, a reduction in the number of homicides. To date, we look like we are on course for the most murderous year in our modern history, and interestingly, the JLP was in power when we reached the high watermark.

LOSING BOTH BATTLES

The time to grab hold of both the crime monster and the confidence is now, because Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his JLP are on the verge of losing both battles.

After the uprising of taxi operators and threat of anarchy, Government had to demonstrate that it can both enforce law and order and still appease the citizens.

True, the general electorate were not in support of the taxi ‘strike,’ over the refusal of the Government to give an amnesty on unpaid traffic tickets. After all, an exasperated Commissioner of Police, Major General Anthony Anderson, noted that one particular offender had more than 100 unpaid tickets.

However, rather than this being an excuse, it is actually an embarrassment and indictment on the system of law enforcement.

Perhaps it might now be a basis to push forward the National Identification System. But, there is technology available that would make the maverick driver a guest of the State long ago. It is unacceptable that a police officer, writing a ticket, can be ignorant that the driver has outstanding fines.

Visiting Geneva, Switzerland, 32 years ago, I saw first-hand how such technology is available. It must be less expensive for us by now. In any event, the economics of crime make it clear that any money spent on acquiring the technology would pay major dividend in the end. Far more criminals would have been caught.

After almost seven years at the helm of the nation, it is now old news that the People’s National Party (PNP) had run the country for 18 years. And yes, it was under the PNP that homicides passed the 1,000 mark.

The JLP needs reminding that they were voted in to be better than the PNP. So, they cannot continue to waste time on the eternal yesterday.

CREDIBILITY DEFICITS

Both parties have credibility deficits, and recent utterances by one of its most provocative and offensive members will not help the party. Moreover, it has not spoken in clear and definitive terms, to either disavow itself from the repugnant comments, or worse, he was not even given a slap on the wrist.

In the middle of a crisis, regarding ‘real babies’, the most popular Christopher Tufton, minister of health and wellness, is fighting his own battle, including another wave of coronaviruses, though not COVID-19. Then against the run of play, he seems to have extended the olive branch to (former) JLP parliamentarian George Wright, who was suspected of having beaten his spouse.

The issue of forgiveness is not only human, but in a Christian country, it is indispensable. Nevertheless, the path towards forgiveness must be i) an admission of guilt, ii) remorse and iii) a willingness to make amends. Being wrong and strong shows contempt to the internal processes of the JLP, and of course, every standard of accountability, justice and transparency.

Holness’ party needs to decide if it is unconditionally embracing Wright, and throwing its credibility and principles against the wall.

A bright spark might be that most of major public sector unions are about to sign their new collective labour agreement. However, the one government entity, the police, whose mantra is to fight crime, including domestic violence, still seems to be poles apart with the finance minister.

Today is crucial, let’s see what is next behind the rhetoric.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.