Fri | Sep 24, 2021

Mark Wignall | Halfway in and halfway out

Published:Sunday | July 18, 2021 | 1:16 AM

Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

In a July 8 press release from the Office of the Prime Minister, which announced his appointment as a member of the Privy Council, an important part of it states, “Prime Minister Holness is to attend a meeting of the Privy Council in order to take...

In a July 8 press release from the Office of the Prime Minister, which announced his appointment as a member of the Privy Council, an important part of it states, “Prime Minister Holness is to attend a meeting of the Privy Council in order to take the oath or affirm in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen”.

Bear in mind that the announcement arrives at just about the time that two senior members of the Holness Cabinet, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, minister of sports, youth and culture, and the ultimate veteran of the Jamaica Labour Party, Mike Henry, have been awakening and stirring the pot in calling for reparations from Britain over the generational atrocity of slavery.

Because no one, not the academics at The University of the West Indies or the regional politicians can reasonably assess the amount that all could agree to in striking the ‘best bargain’, Henry has pegged it to the payout the slave owners were paid by the British government after abolition. In excess of £10 billion in today’s money.

But something doesn’t seem right. Think about it. The British monarchy operates on the basis that when it claims its royalty, the common man will buy into the idea that he is little more than chattel himself, fit only to mentally genuflect before the monarchy and its heirs and successors.

We do this probably because this denigration of ourselves lets us off the hook and places a bigger responsibility on ‘our betters’ to lead us not into temptation. We are led to believe that the concept of royal blood is real. And if that is so, our blood, tainted as it has been by an excess of humanity, is merely the great detritus of life.

Prime Minister Holness will be going to physically accept that he is a lesser human being than the monarchy, but it will not be all bad. He will still leave with a bauble and a bangle proclaiming him as Most Honourable.

I cannot see how this shameful and public show of genuflection can place Jamaica in any better position to make a claim for reparation that is more credible.

Can we say to the British monarchy, “We need each other and I need you to embellish that political side of me because significant numbers of our people are still in mental enslavement. Plus, let us separate the issues.”?

Or, are we saying to the country, which is so much more powerful than we are, that we understand the rules of playing politics at the highest level even as bowing and scraping cannot be left out of the equation?


PM Andrew Holness, like all political leaders before him, has once again been forced to admit that the criminal fetish that has been overcoming this country for the last 40 years at least has been destroying us.

The PM knows that specific laws seemingly designed to push back against the domestic side of our violent nature are more prepared for stillbirth than its growth into a viable society. Late last week I was on Red Hills Road when I saw five police vehicles speeding northwards. The front vehicle was marked, and it had flashing lights. No siren was on. The other four were unmarked sedans, and their lights were also flashing. The men in the cars were heavily masked, in hoodies, and in full camouflage gear. One man who was beside me stared at them as they sped by. Then he said, “A di killer dem dat?”

I knew exactly what he meant, but I asked, “What yu mean by dat?”

“Let us face it. There are some criminals in this society that normal policing cannot deal with.” As we spoke we agreed on a number of troubling issues. ‘“Recently the prime minister luck out against corporal punishment. Are you in favour of this approach in the schools and in the home?” “No sah. Dat dey boat sail long time. Dese children haffi get lick, or dem will lick yu dung.”

I left the argument at that as I was against corporal punishment but had a bit of accommodation for ‘special policing.’


‘Moral suasion’ is not a term well known at street level. I asked the man, “Do you believe that Britain should pay for the great wrongs of slavery?”

“Yeah, man,” he said.

“So, do you believe that if we claim reparations money on the basis that we deserve it and need it we will get it?”

“Yeah, man,” he said again. “And if they don’t pay, what else can we do?” He paused and then began to talk of other matters. And that has been my problem with reparations for many years now. Obviously, things have changed considerably since the terrible onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What new thing has the pandemic presented to us to buttress our claims? One, would it assist developing countries like Jamaica to make the case that our economies have been doubly ravaged, and, at the very least, a look at debt forgiveness is more crucial at this timei And if Britain says to us that all economies have been ravaged, what do we do?

Wait until another Jamaican prime minister rises from the floor to claim his national dignity? I would love to hear from Babsy Grange and Mike Henry and PM Holness, all speaking from the same table.

Surely Ms Grange and Mr Henry could not both be headed to Britain with fire in their bellies and history on their sides while PM Holness is headed to the palace of the terrible monarchs of old to sit in the waiting room until he is summoned.

To remind him that serfs still exist.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to and