Tue | Mar 21, 2023

Mark Wignall | Bigger things for Nigel Clarke?

Published:Sunday | March 12, 2023 | 12:21 AM
JLP Area Council One meeting held at the Girls Guide Headquarters, Waterloo Road in November 2022.
JLP Area Council One meeting held at the Girls Guide Headquarters, Waterloo Road in November 2022.

I have a friend, a math professor, who tells me that he once instructed Nigel Clarke when he was studying financial mathematics. “Looking back, what stands out is his burning ambition, not just to do well at university, but to attain something...

I have a friend, a math professor, who tells me that he once instructed Nigel Clarke when he was studying financial mathematics. “Looking back, what stands out is his burning ambition, not just to do well at university, but to attain something really big on the national stage.”

After delivering his contribution to the 2023-2024 Budget, I am once again finding reason to call the finance minister a rock star. It is not something I enjoy doing nor is it even something I believe Dr Clarke needs.

Years ago, from the 1980s until not so recently, the most exciting feature of a finance minister’s speech was the after-presentation get-together. A chat shop, a few drinks of expensive wine, and noshing on spicy finger food. The earlier presentation was somewhat a part of the pleasant evening, but no one cared much to speak with anyone who was too overloaded on details of the parliamentary speech. The boredom was long forgotten.

During Eddie Seaga’s run as prime minister and minister of finance, and the long years he spent in Opposition as spokesman on Finance, his budget speeches were rated by a significant percentage of voters as his strongest political feature.

Dr Clarke is obviously a fast learner, and his political adaptability will suit him well in less than a decade as the march of time forces a bigger political opening for him. Even as Clarke tries to add value to the delivery of effective governance by the JLP administration, he knows of the societal realities and the negatives they bring to the table.

The proverbial fly in the intment is the very real, frighteningly high rate of violent crime and homicides. Attaining a ‘normal’ homicide rate is much more difficult than successful wage negotiations with teachers and policemen, but it’s all tied in. It’s not as simple as, say, tackling the NSWMA’s problems by buying new trucks or boosting the problematic transport sector by adding a fleet of electric buses.

Reducing the murder rate requires that the politicians and their technocrats invoke the workable solutions from urban planners, sociologists, educators, criminologists, the Church, and centres of influence all across the island. Simply filing a one-off report, setting it and forgetting it will not work. The nation is overloaded on that. For us to get it right, all of these institutions will have to work together for about 10 years. Extraordinary problems require extraordinary solutions.


Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, who is in charge of crime and security, can be forgiven for his hyperbole when he was asked about the conviction of 15 members of the Clansman-One Don gang. “It is a victory for the criminal justice system and law enforcement in Jamaica. The verdict, in this case, represents to the world and Jamaica that there is a robust criminal justice system in Jamaica.”

Bailey has his team to thank, and I understand that. But we are still in the range of the starter’s block instead of closer to that surge towards the finishing line when it comes to having “... a robust criminal justice system in Jamaica”.

My resource person in legal matters, a Jamaican lawyer who works abroad, said: “Truth be told, the DPP is the most important resource for law enforcement. A well-funded, properly resourced DPP working closely with the JCF is a real danger to criminals. The more convictions and jail terms the DPP secures, the better. It also puts criminals on the back foot. Minister Chang’s silence about what the Government is doing to resource the DPP is puzzling and disappointing. The first step to helping law enforcement (aside from properly resourcing law enforcement) is a strong capable DPP.

“Here in the US when the US Department of Justice indicts criminals, the conviction rate is very high, and criminals fear the US Justice Department because it is well-staffed, well-resourced, and capable of mounting stout prosecutions. The minister is missing the mark in my opinion. The silence about what the plans are for the DPP is deafening.”

I may have spoken to the DPP about three times. Or maybe more. The only problem I have with Ms Llewellyn is, well, not really her but the extraordinary time some cases languish before they are speedily adjudicated. I know of a large financial entity that lost a huge appeal case (money-wise) and now has the other party (an individual) tied up with the intricacy of appealing to the Privy Council. But that for another time.

The DPP has never been afraid to admit that her organisation is underfunded. That we know. So, Minister Chang, while I can appreciate that other entities like the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine, PICA, and the Firearm Licensing Authority are indeed offering critical support to law enforcement, I suspect that in a bang- for-the- bucks comparison, the DPP would show a better value-added to fighting crime in Jamaica.


The PNP-commissioned poll results are being carried in the usual serial fashion in The Gleaner. Looking at some of the findings so far, one cannot draw any conclusion as to what the parties’ comparative strengths are.

In a telephone conversation recently, a well-known politician figured that he had to remind me that in Jamaica, it is an age-old habit of voters to vote OUT the party in power instead of voting IN the Opposition. And there are times, like in October 1980, when both things come together for a massive blowout.

Most political leaders usually have a key person or two who they listen to and trust. I have been told that PM Holness’ two key persons are Dr Nigel Clarke and Dr Horace Chang. In other words, in any decision to call or not call an election one would expect that Chang would be the key man. Ably supported by the young Dr Clarke.

“I think we would expect to find that we would have slipped,” said a powerful JLP insider to me last Tuesday.

“Plus,” I said to him, “do you really believe that if the poll findings were still placing the PNP in also-ran territory they would give the go-ahead for publication? As I write this column it is Thursday evening. I cannot say what the findings will be for the weekend, but I believe that something has shown up that has given the opposition PNP a pleasant jook.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.