Gordon Robinson | Never speak against the family
Jamaicans are among the world’s best in many things, including reggae music, Olympic sprinting, and creating political storms in tribal teacups.
Recently, it was announced that Jamaica’s Government had nominated its Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, to run for Commonwealth Secretary General.
You could be forgiven for thinking all Jamaicans would be excited at the prospect of a homebred, nurtured and grown Jamaican woman on course to give service to the Commonwealth in a post where she’d have the opportunity to influence that organisation’s evolution.
Not. So. Much!
Continuing a time-honoured tradition of putting tribal politics over national or regional interest, Comrades of all sizes, shapes, and nationalities threw a hissy fit because a Jamaican Government had skillfully negotiated international diplomacy to Jamaica’s and the region’s benefit.
Tribal Twitter was the first to show its contentious head reminding this JLP Government that at a recent CARICOM meeting, attended by Jamaica, a resolution of support for the incumbent was published.
So what? PM explained (perhaps not totally transparently) that there was no other candidate in the running at that time and hinted that Jamaica’s “support” then was more a failure to oppose than positive backing.
Without going into detail, it’s clear the incumbent, a former UK Labour Party attorney general who has been under attack by the current Conservative UK Government, is NOT going to be re-elected. In those real-politic circumstances, what should Jamaica do? Should Jamaica fall on its regional sword on behalf of an Englishwoman with faded Caribbean traces and risk going from some to zero representation? What’s the problem with Kamina, anyway? Her Caribbean and diplomatic pedigrees are unassailable, so what could the fuss be REALLY about?
THE REAL ERROR
It’s clear that Jamaica’s nomination already has the support of many members of CARICOM, a regional institution where unanimity is often a fleeting illusion. But Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, leader of the centre-leftist Antigua Labour Party (Party of The Birds), exposed and exacerbated CARICOM disunity by publishing a crass and undiplomatic statement calling the nomination “a monumental error”. THAT show of public petulance was the monumental error.
Speak softly, love
And hold me warm against your heart
I feel your words;
The tender trembling moments start.
We’re in a world, our very own
Sharing a love that only few have ever known
So what is Kamina? Chopped liver? Is she or IS SHE more “Caribbeaner” than a lady who migrated to England at age two and never returned?
Gaston is a youth in life and politics (born 1967; entered politics 1999) so may not have seen or heard Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) admonish his eldest “Sonny” (James Caan), “Never speak against the family”. He definitely can’t have known of the devastating repercussions of Sonny’s faux pas or understood their message. Vito’s youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), saw and understood, so he subsequently repeated the admonition to jealous brother Fredo (John Cazale). Neither Sonny nor Fredo survived their indiscretions.
I’d bet dollars to donuts Andrew Holness saw that seminal movie and has digested its principle. Because in Parliament, on Tuesday, in an oblique reference to Gaston’s gaffe, he said he’d address any concerns from CARICOM heads of government through established protocols.
“Jamaica will conduct a dignified campaign,” the PM promised.
Obscure history buffs should recognise that as a diplomatic reply to Gaston based on a direct quote (translated into English from the original Latin), as reported in Rome’s Daily Stone Tablet of March 16, 44BC, of Marcus Junius Brutus’ last words to Julius Caesar. Everybody is well acquainted with Caesar’s famous last words after being surrounded and attacked by fellow political leaders. When he saw Brutus about to apply the death blow (as legend hath it), he reportedly exclaimed “et tu Bruté?” which, loosely translated means “ #YouToo?”. What isn’t so well known was Brutus’ riposte, which (in Latin) was “Futchenzee offenzee!”
The PM’s parliamentary announcement, which was shorter and pithier than most of his Gordon House ramblings, was followed by four insipid questions from Opposition Leader Mark Golding.
Question Number One was (paraphrased); “When was the decision to nominate Senator Johnson-Smith made?” This appeared an oblique attempt to characteriSe Government’s position at the recent CARICOM meeting as hypocritical. Then he asked whether Jamaica’s candidacy would fail to receive CARICOM support and if the situation could’ve been avoided by “properly laying the wicket”?
Mercy. This must be the Guy Lombardo Show!
As a lawyer, Mark should know not to ask questions without first having a foundation or “laying the wicket” for the question. Does he know that Jamaica hasn’t “laid the wicket”? PM sensibly avoided answering any of the questions. Instead, he repeated his announcement and explanation for the apparent change of heart.
In my opinion, there was no “change of heart”. International diplomacy just doesn’t work that way. Obviously (and PM admitted this), Jamaica had been in discussions with Commonwealth power brokers for some time.
Equally obviously, the plan to nominate Kamina was one of some vintage, required strategic planning, and involved delicate negotiation.
Rest assured, no Government wakes up and makes this kind of announcement out of naked ambition without more. It was planned by Government then negotiated with and supported by Commonwealth heavyweights. I’ll bet dollars to donuts the Government consolidated support, especially from the UK Government, before making any announcement. At the time of the recent CARICOM meeting, Jamaica was clearly not ready to show its hand.
So. Flippin. What??
Finally, we have an international political issue around which all Jamaicans can and should unite in support. Even if, like me, you don’t support the Uncommonwealth, you should know that it exists; is an avenue for international cooperation; and is a useful tool in the event Jamaica decides to make a national push for “reparations” for which so many are calling. As a tool, it’s far more likely to achieve that popular objective than whining to royal guests. Jamaica is one member of the Commonwealth that intends to become a republic like many other members. So why shouldn’t Jamaica seek the influential post of Commonwealth secretary general?
Would local Tribalists with time on their hands to carp and complain on Twitter about “Massa’s Commonwealth” propose we exit the Organization of American States (OAS), another creation of historical Massas? Or resign from the United Nations in a huff because of veto-powered members’ historical (and one member’s current) atrocities?
C’mon man, join the real world! Soon enough I expect cantankerous CARICOM Comrades to read the tea leaves, light candles, sing sankies, and find their way home in support of a supremely qualified CARICOM colleague. Jamaican Comrades should do the same.
Wine-coloured days warmed by the sun
Deep velvet nights when we are one.
Speak softly, love
so no one hears us but the sky.
The vows of love
we make will live until we die.
My life is yours and all because
you came into my world with love so softly love
Most readers will be shocked as I describe The Godfather by Mario Puzo as a love story despite its abundance of blood and gore. It was popular for its exposure of organised crime’s modus operandi but was really about love, especially for family. Everything Don Vito did was for his sons from the day they were born into his world. For those confused by the façade, Francis Ford Coppola’s movie, faithful to the book in every detail, featured an intelligent spoiler-alert theme song Speak Softly Love, written by Lawrence Kusik, Nino Rota, and Parti Siae and recorded by the magnificent Andy Williams. It remains, in my opinion, the best movie ever made.
The Godfather revolutionised how art portrayed Organised Crime, which led to seminal successors like Martin Scorcese’s 1990 classic Goodfellas (Robert Di Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco) and HBO’s The Sopranos by David Chase (James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, and Edie Falco).
Let’s continue to quarrel over Jamaican political issues like crime, inflation, education, and health. When it comes to Jamaica seeking high international office, we should speak softly to each other and never speak publicly against the family.
Peace and Love!
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com