Gordon Robinson: Sham democracy
My informal polling over the past two years has consistently shown Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) winning the next election by a landslide.
By and large, Jamaicans, including the much-heralded People's National Party (PNP) base, are angry at this Government for so callously eroding their earning power and contemptuously ignoring their desperate plight, while appearing to live high off the hog. Hamstrung by a fatally flawed electoral system, Jamaicans have used elections to vote governments out. In recent history, no government has been voted 'in' although several have survived discontent levels not high enough to merit being voted out.
Despite my personal polls predicting a JLP win, I remain steadfast in my view that the PNP should emerge victorious after the next election. The truth is, Jamaica only maintains a farcical illusion of democracy. In Jamaica, elections aren't so much about the will of the people as about the will of the garrison. On election day, street generals from one garrison or another ride roughshod over potential angry voters who 'elect' to stay in relative safety at home rather than a candidate.
This Jamaican electoral reality is compounded by voters' awareness that they're enslaved by a colonial relic I call 'Westmonster' that doesn't permit them to elect a government. Westmonster, also known as the 'Anti-Democracy', only allows voters to elect local representatives. In Westmonster (especially in small, developing nations with relatively tiny electorates), a political party can secure more than 50 per cent of the popular vote yet fail to form government because it hasn't won a majority of constituencies.
FEAR + FUTILITY = APATHY
This subconsciously forces angry voters wanting change to swallow the dogma that teaches, "If I send a billy goat down here as candidate, you must vote for the goat." Angry voters may find themselves voting against their preferred MP as the only way to try to elect the government of their choice. This totalitarian combo of fear and futility produces apathy. Is this democracy? Or slavery? Who'll pay reparation for the last 50 years of mental enslavement of the Jamaican electorate, resulting in a society in 'a chronic'?
There's consensus among professional pollsters that the political parties are currently in a statistical dead heat. Let's see. The PNP is definitely in heat, as evidenced by the arrogant disregard for democracy unfolding before the electorate in many constituencies. Recently, PNP public infighting exposing a rank desire for personal 'power' over any representational objectives made a fractured JLP appear the party of unity. In one constituency, the PNP orders a candidate selection, then overturns the democratic result without alleging fraud or corruption of any kind in the process.
Elsewhere, an incumbent PNP MP announces he won't be seeking re-election, then recants. In a subsequent TV interview, he hints of his intention to run, no matter where or for whom and turns up in Parliament wearing a green tie. Then he arrogantly announces at a political rally, "Trick you!" The constituency rejects him as its candidate, but the party bends over backwards to foist him on the electorate somewhere, somehow.
Is this democracy? Or attempted enslavement in furtherance of a raw lust for 'power'? Will the PNP pay reparation?
Elsewhere, a bitter candidate run-off selection process results in another losing MP, after which the party's constituency office is the subject of suspected arson. Is such a scorched policy a sign of democracy? Or political slavery? Who'll pay reparation for property destruction without thought of consequence?
An MP makes a petulant public put-down of his region chairman ("Dis a PNP, dis a nuh Miss World"), which is an alarmingly sexist remark for a candidate running for a political party led by a woman to make. Is this a sign of an issues-driven democracy? Or mental slavery? Reparation, anyone?
Jamaican politics won't voluntarily change this contemptuous characteristic. Change will have to be forced on it. As long as Westmonster continues to impose a winner-take-all philosophy followed by winner running amok for five years without having to account to a single member of the electorate, there'll be no change.
It's Westmonster fostering the desperate strategies currently on full public display. The jockeying for positions of even partial authority over public spending, the anxiety to burrow one's snout in Jamaica's fiscal trough, make it clear beyond peradventure that Jamaica's politics has NOTHING to do with 'people power'. Politics in Jamaica is yet another example of Goodman's Law. Remember Goodman's Law? Don't ask if it's about the money. It's ALWAYS about the money!
Watch for the following manifestations of this corrupt phenomenon. If the PNP wins despite its record of non-performance, save in simpering fealty to a foreign multinational lending agency whose purpose is to Impose Monetary Frustration on poor Jamaicans, it'll feel emboldened to do exactly as it likes. Any signal for change from the electorate will be ignored with impunity. For example, should its parliamentary majority be reduced, there'll be no corresponding policy shift.
Should any minister lose his/her seat, watch for a swift Senate appointment and return to Cabinet. Garrisons will safely return Omar Davies (age 68), Peter Phillips (age 66), 'Chicken Feed' Pickersgill (age 72), and Ronald Thwaites (age 70) to Parliament. ALL will be senior Cabinet members without regard for relevance or national priorities to promote a youth agenda.
Should JLP win, no regard will be paid to the electorate's rejection of the 2011 JLP Government. Audley Shaw (age 63), a miserable failure as finance minister, will be reappointed as an example of internal party politics' victory over democracy. The JLP's Paleface Party faction, many of whom actively undermined Andrew Holness' leadership and, consequently, JLP's electoral chances, will all secure key leadership appointments. The urgency that the future of Jamaican leadership should depend on youth will be ignored in favour of staid, obstinate past failures like Delroy Chuck (age 65); Pearnel Charles (age 79) and Mike Henry (age 80).
How much longer will we bend over and take this without Vaseline? How much longer will we fool ourselves into believing Westmonster gives us a say in Jamaica's future? Jamaica is where it is today BECAUSE we've had no say for 300 years.
Even so, the current parlous state of national affairs is OUR FAULT. Why? For at least the last 50 of those 300 years, we've contentedly swallowed (without rinsing) the political dogma spewed by both parties that we only need to 'vote dem out' in order to make it better. Ably assisted by a deliberately underfunded and underequipped education system, we've not done independent research on possible alternatives to Westmonster and how these alternatives can be tailored to suit our circumstances. We've neglected or failed to understand that what we need isn't "my party in government". We need accountable government from whichever party.
Make no mistake about it, the mission of this new generation is to ensure accountable government as soon as possible by any means necessary. This generation is enumerating in underwhelming numbers because they know they're not living in a real democracy. Jamaican youth have no interest in electoral farce. Thanks to modern media, they know Westmonster renders Jamaican elections ineffective and corrupt. They know they have NO VOTE, NO VOICE, NO HOPE.
A vote for your local constituency's parliamentary representative, without a corresponding vote for the prime minister of your choice, is NOT A VOTE. Voting for legislators only while pretending to be voting for government is NOT A VOTE.
Being forced to vote for an MP you may be against in order to put his/her party into government is an abuse of your right to vote and insult to your intelligence. It's NOT A VOTE. A vote for a political party in a winner-take-all system, followed by five years of that winner ruling by unaccountable whim and fancy, is NOT A VOTE.
People, don't despair. Jamaican political dinosaurs are facing extinction. Political climates are changing. Incumbents are being booted worldwide. Youth understand change can be achieved without having to join or participate in inherently corrupt electoral processes. Their exemplars abound. King and Mandela changed systems of apartheid (Mandela from prison) without seeking elective office. Gandhi expelled an imperial force.
Soon, it'll be Jamaica's turn. Young Jamaicans are fed up with 'jobs' being misspelled 'J-E-E-P'; with 'growth' misspelled 'I-M-F-T-E-S-T'; with 'health care' misspelled 'C-H I-K-V' or
'K-L-E-B-S-I-E-L-L-A'; with 'education' misspelled 'C-S-E-C', 'C-X-C' or 'C-A-P-E'. They're on the verge of making history.
They WILL get up; stand up for their right to a real vote. They won't forever fall for the cruel, cyclical electoral trick perpetuated by PNP/JLP twice per decade for half a century. Jamaican youth will demand to be heard. Count on it.
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law.
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