Tue | Oct 19, 2021

Gordon Robinson | PNP heading down a rabbit hole

Published:Saturday | September 18, 2021 | 12:06 AM
The PNP is about to paint itself into a politically unfashionable but nationally beneficial corner where its options are limited to supporting direct elections for PM or being exposed as political gold-diggers. No matter how hard it tries to stand firm, its political roll of twine will continue to unravel.

An afternoon radio hostess, apparently linguistically challenged, usually ends her show with “Coming up: the BEST news in the land”.

Sigh. Since the content of “news” is never all good much less “best”, I’m sure she means something more like “best produced/presented news”. But I wish I had her on hand now to announce that the BEST political news I’ve seen appeared on Gleaner’s front page of Tuesday, September 14. It seems the People’s National Party (PNP) will at least temporarily Rise United as One to move a seminal Resolution intended to allow its full membership to vote in internal elections.

Based on Gleaner’s report, it’s a foregone conclusion the Resolution will pass at PNP Conference. Gleaner suggested it “could mark a tectonic shift in political party governance and potentially diminish the influence of bribery and corruption in leadership selections”.

Fair enough. But, in my opinion, the Resolution’s most positive consequence isn’t a reduction of bribery’s electoral influence. The money-for-votes trade is rampant in national elections despite a two million-strong electorate so I don’t see why it wouldn’t influence a 45,000 participant election as easily. My wholehearted support for the Resolution is based on the slow march towards democracy that it signals. Previously, only an elite group of “delegates” was allowed to vote. The most grievous injury to democracy was that some delegates “selected” from PNP “Affiliates” were under no obligation to be PNP members. So while non-members voted, the majority of members had no vote.

Kudos to PNP for leading Jamaica on its journey to democracy!

But I wonder if party leaders thought this through. I hope so because I don’t want to encourage a volte face by pointing out possibly unseen but inevitable consequences of this excellent policy shift. Politicians aren’t adept at noticing anything located beyond the tips of their noses so I’ll take it upon myself to bring the future closer to their bifocals.

CHANGING ITS NATIONAL MANIFESTO

There’s no way a political party can change its own constitution to ensure its entire membership votes directly for party leaders without changing its national manifesto to include a similarly direct vote for prime minister. Why should 45,000 party members be allowed to vote directly for party leader but three million Jamaicans remain disenfranchised in electing a PM? Any other PNP position would be an embarrassing example of political hypocrisy and expose its internal policy shift as pure political gimmickry.

The thing about gimmickry is it doesn’t stand up to intense enquiry and is usually exposed by conduct. Karma is, after all, a beach, and sand will get inside your rear-end.

He: Darling, go home, your husband is ill.

She: He? Is he ill? Let them give him a pill.

Oh, come, my dear Franz, just one more dance,

Then I’ll go home to my poor old man,

Then I’ll go home to my poor old man.

PNP is about to paint itself into a politically unfashionable but nationally beneficial corner where its options are limited to supporting direct elections for PM or being exposed as political gold-diggers. No matter how hard it tries to stand firm, its political roll of twine will continue to unravel.

He: Darling, go home, your husband is worse.

She: He? Is he worse? Well I am no nurse.

Oh, come, my dear Franz, just one more dance.

Then I’ll go home to my poor old man.

Then I’ll go home to my poor old man.

How do you support direct elections for PM and still want Cabinet chosen from House majority MPs? Suppose, perish forbid, the elected PM’s party loses the parliamentary vote? Murder! Police!! What to do? Elementary, my dear Watson! PNP now falls further down the rabbit hole of good governance and must support Cabinet selection from outside Parliament (subject to parliamentary confirmation) or at least a limit on the number of parliamentarians who can be ministers.

Then, Karma ensures it never rains but it pours.

He: Darling, go home, your husband is dead.

She: He? Is he dead? There’s no more to be said.

Oh, come, my dear Franz, just one more dance,

Then I’ll go home to my poor old man,

Then I’ll go home to my poor old man

While PNP dances the night away patting itself on the back, it might dawn (pun intended) on it that PNP can’t implement full internal democracy and call for direct election of PM yet still support an unelected blot on democracy, the Senate, constituted at the whim of one individual whether THAT individual is directly elected or indirectly selected. As PNP heads spin from its spiralling fall down democracy’s rabbit hole, denouement is nigh.

He: Darling, go home, the will’s to be read.

She: What’s that you said?

He: I said the will’s to be read.

She: Oh, no, no, my dear Franz, this is no time to dance.

I must go weep for my poor old man.

I must go weep for my poor old man.

Growing up, Harry Belafonte’s voice was a staple in my home. Mummy and Grandma were big fans. Today’s insta-generation may have memories going back as far as post-Catch-A-Fire Bob Marley’s influence on the world but I assure them that, before Bob, Harry Belafonte was one of the artistes most instrumental in bringing Caribbean music to American attention. He paved the way for many of those who followed and influenced several American stars. Furthermore, he has always been Jamaica’s great friend.

Zenzile Miriam Makeba (‘Mama Africa’) was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Makeba and Hugh Masekela were two of the most effective freedom fighters in the long, grim war against the evil apartheid. She boldly recorded music in her native tongue for the international market, most notably Qongqothwane (‘The Click Song’) when, by law, South Africans were only permitted to speak Afrikaans.

One More Dance, written by Rosemary Primont and C.C. Carter, was a hugely popular Makeba/Belafonte collaboration recorded during Belafonte’s live 1960 concert at Carnegie Hall. It tells the story of a wife of an older man whose façade of marrying for love is slowly stripped away. Belafonte also performed another gimmicky duet (with Odetta) about a congenitally lazy husband and an increasingly exasperated wife called A Hole in the Bucket. Regular listeners to Uncle Desmond’s University of Music recently received a timely reminder of these creative gems.

I hope PNP knows the rabbit hole down which it’s about to jump ends with PNP choosing to become an activist for comprehensive Constitutional Reform or a leader in political hypocrisy.

ADVOCATE FOR CHANGE

A recently viral video featuring Floyd Green, formerly a very promising Cabinet member, breaching every tenet of political leadership by enthusiastically participating in a mask-less, physically crowded birthday party on a No Movement Day has become social media sensation. But, for me, it only emphasises the urgent national need for PNP to eschew political expedience and become an advocate for change.

Why has one video featuring one minister’s disdain for laws he insists we obey so shocked and disappointed us? Don’t we KNOW Jamaica has, for decades, experienced bona fide political leadership only occasionally? Don’t we KNOW this condescending contempt for ordinary Jamaicans has always been the shameful stance of 95 per cent of our politicians? Don’t we KNOW we are to blame? We created tribal altars upon which we blindly worship these leadership charlatans. They don’t WANT to lead. They only want us to follow like deferential sheep.

And. We. Do!

MPs pass laws (including tax laws) that include automatic “exemptions” for themselves. By this sleight-of-legislative-hand they create their own God complexes and learn they’re above us. Laws are mere tools to keep us subjugated to their needs. Any resemblance to “peace, order and good government” (Constitution, Section 48) is accidental.

Pointing fingers at misbehaving ministers thrills political opponents while keeping governance shams alive. Recently, ministers were fired for corruption found in portfolio agencies. An MP was shunned for blood found in stool. Nothing changed. Taxpayers’ money is reportedly still funnelled to one facing criminal charges. Nevertheless, on Wednesday, PNP, having recovered quickly from its flirtation with statesmanship, scrambled faster than Lamar Jackson to publish a shallow, puerile release calling for Green’s resignation so it could claim political credit for what was already decided.

But, if the only consequence of this drunken disrespect is yet another fired minister, it won’t cause a scintilla of difference. What his swift “I will withdraw from Cabinet” probably achieves is to cauterise JLP political bleeding.

Meanwhile, PM hinted Green will get another job no doubt to ensure minimal if any loss of income. Both parties happily call this “accountability”.

Either we fundamentally change this rotten system or suffer self-important, despotic jackasses forever.

Peace and Love!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com