Sun | Dec 3, 2023

Letter of the Day | The boos could get louder

Published:Thursday | November 24, 2022 | 12:06 AM


The recent booing of the prime minister’s wife, Juliet Holness, at a jerk festival in Florida is significant. This may well be a first for a Jamaican first lady and we must read between the lines. I’m sure this was the culmination of many things; frustration, anger, and despair as many in the diaspora are still very closely connected to Jamaica. The irresponsible comments made by Mrs Holness recently that “anywhere not safe to live, Comrades live there” was out of line. She referred to these places as ‘garbage dumps’. Despite the booing, Mrs Holness continued on stage defiantly as if she were at a political rally.


I’m sure many Jamaicans living abroad have relatives and friends living in the ‘dumps’ to which Mrs Holness referred. Perhaps some lived there too themselves, before migrating to greener pastures. Poverty is not a curse, it can also be a blessing. Government’s responsibility is to find solutions to current problems. Crime and corruption, gender-based violence, unemployment, and the rising cost of living are major problems facing Jamaica. The PM recently announced that seven out of 14 parishes are now under states of emergency, which means that at least half of Jamaica is not safe! The lack of basic amenities supporting settlements and the fact that 20 per cent of Jamaicans live in squatter settlements are realities facing many Jamaicans.

A few weeks ago, the PM ordered the demolition of houses constructed in Clifton, St Catherine, sparking controversy and outrage. The PM defended the demolition, describing them as illegal settlements, and a breeding ground for crime and gang activities. Many single mothers with children currently live in squatter settlements. People living in poverty are victims of circumstances, it is not a choice. So while the party chairman warned that the PM will be shielded from critics, he should be enlightened that criticism will follow the prime minister. The PM said recently that he has passed the stage of wanting to win political popularity and favour. He says it no longer matters as legacy is more important. What legacy? Maybe Mrs Holness is on the same trajectory but I don’t know of any politician who isn’t concerned about popularity.

At the recent JLP conference, the attacks against the Opposition continued. Why not focus on the achievements of the PM since 2016? Why dwell on 18 years of previous PNP rule? And the audacity to demand 20 years of rule under one political party as if this is a ‘one don’ Communist state. I was also confused when Mrs Holness described the administration as accountable. There were so many times the PM and government refused to respond to questions related to controversies. A government in control should not fear criticism but embrace it with confidence. When they tell people at the JLP conference that the government is pressing for visa-free travel for Jamaicans travelling to Canada, USA, and UK, we must wonder if they really believe people are stupid.

So don’t be surprised if the boos which started in Florida eventually reach Jamaica, and get louder.