Wed | May 31, 2023

Gov’t may have to go it alone

Published:Tuesday | January 25, 2022 | 12:06 AM


AS THE newspaper and TV daily menu of murder continues and bodies pile up, we have to ask: Is this going to continue through the several months it will take for the new Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs to bring the constitutional changes that will allow freer use of states of emergency (SOEs)?

This madness in the face of raging murder will indeed be the product of the go-it-alone rather than national approach that I recently highlighted.

It must be noted, first of all, that this approach is the Labour Party government’s. The PNP, from what I have observed, has repeatedly signalled its desire for a policy that is nationally chosen. Determined to follow its selected SOE road, and not being able to change the mind of the People’s National Party (PNP), the PM has taken the next step of changing the Constitution. Doing that, with Delroy Chuck’s Ministry of Justice apparently unwilling, has meant, for Holness, establishing an entirely new ministry under Marlene Malahoo Forte.


But as a recent Gleaner (21/1/2022) letter writer pointed out, his previous decisions – on Senate appointments, NIDS and chief justice appointment – presumably on her advice, have shown serious disregard for the Constitution. This points to a very bleak future for what will emerge from the new ministry regarding the Constitution.

The Constitution is not a stone monument. It needs amendment in some very important areas, for example, the structure of the Senate, our ultimate court of justice, etc. However, it cannot be treated as a tool to be manipulated to suit every political party-selected policy.

Underlying the go-it-alone approach is a powerful individualism. As a driving component also of the Jamaican personality, it works against the sense of community, of oneness with other members of the country who require and deserve care. This is the real need (not discipline, which many Jamaicans have plenty of just to survive harsh livelihoods) if 78 per cent of the population is to get its anti-COVID jabs.

The problem is that, in the JLP, go-it-alone individualism has deep roots. Seaga’s ‘my way or the highway’ we well remember. But that was directed only at dissenting party members, not at the nation. In fact, when, in 1983, the JLP got the House to itself because of the PNP’s boycott of the election, Seaga took steps to have their voice in the Senate. In the 21 nominees he presented to the governor general and were approved, he included eight whom he considered had either PNP backgrounds or were independently minded.

The roots go further back – to Bustamante. His determination, rebuffing earlier trade union leaders, to be sole labour leader in the island; his refusal to allow his Bustamante Industrial Trade Union to join the federation of unions established by the PNP; and the concentration of power in his own hands.

But Andrew Holness is printing a fresh page in the JLP history book, with content that speaks of months of murderously harsh events for many, mainly those in poorer communities.