Jamaican voters missed the boat
Gordon Robinson, Contributor
My word, Jamaica really is PNP country, isn't it? It also appears that, in PNP country, any expressed opinion contrary to the accepted dogma of PNP perfection attracts more vilification than Harry Potter expects from Lord Voldemort. Any hopes I might have harboured regarding a more mature approach was dashed by the torrent of vitriolic abuse, including from PNP officials, received after my last two columns ('Good grief! I wuz wrong!', Sunday, January 1; 'Congratulations, Portia! Now what?', January 3).
On New Year's Day, my admission that, like all pollsters, my election prediction (unlike theirs, mine was expressed to be humorous) was way off the mark was brushed aside in favour of a flood of invective because I pointed out why I'd hoped for a more mature electoral decision and specifying why I believed the other result would've been the more advanced choice. How dare I? As usual, those who ran out of epithets resorted to the old standard of political labelling, calling me a 'Labourite'. 'Hypocrite' was second most popular.
Yet, after my tongue-in-cheek column ('More Domino Awards', December 27) was published with my satirical prediction of a JLP landslide, I received calls and emails from the entire island along the following lines: "But I thought you were a big PNP!" The most pleasant name I was called then was 'traitor!'
I've noticed, during my brief stint as a public commentator, that whenever my writings are critical of the JLP, the responses are effusively complimentary and I'm made to feel like a national hero. But, on each and every occasion that I'm even mildly critical of the PNP, the abuse and name-calling never ends. What's that all about? As I've already written, my good friend, Derrick Smith (who I know from horse racing, NOT politics), complains every time he sees me that I favour the PNP, while my good friend, Errol 'Jiggs' Ennis (who I know from horse racing and music, NOT politics), keeps telling me I'm a rockstone Labourite. I love it.
I know that it's supposed to be frightening to be publicly labelled 'PNP' or 'Labourite' when the other side is in power, but the bad news for my many detractors is that it means absolutely nothing to me. Thanks to my hard-working parents who sacrificed their lives for my education, not only do I not need favours from any Government, I actually refuse to take on any work whatsoever from any government source. I do frequently represent political leaders in their personal capacities, but I won't accept any 'government contract'. This has been my policy since the turn of the century when the result of my acceding to a request (by a PNP Government) to give national service was greeted with brickbats and character assassination. On The Old Ball and Chain's explicit instructions, it won't happen again.
I'm not a member of either party. I've never voted. I've never been on any voters' list. I agreed with Gene Autry, from we were teenagers, that I'll not vote until a sitting government dares to ban either dominoes or horse racing, at which time I'll lead an enthusiastic movement to vote them out. So, don't bother trying to frighten me with labels. It's been tried. I don't care. You needn't agree with my opinions. You needn't even read them. You'll find any number of political sycophants in our national newspapers writing what you want to read. I regret to advise that my opinions are mine. As such, I plan to keep them.
Which brings me to young Damion Crawford's arrogant, dismissive assertions regarding the 48 per cent of the electorate who didn't vote. According to him, they usually do nothing to contribute to the nation. He excused Betty-Ann Blaine because, he said, at least she formed a political party, even though she won't win anything. If we take Damion literally, one can only contribute to nation building politically. Is Damion saying that a doctor who gives free service to his community; a teacher who tutors thousands over a lifetime; a private citizen who helps to send his gardener's daughter to school; a businessman who employs others, just because they don't vote, make no positive contribution to Jamaica?
Damion, this proves you're not ready. It's caused me to regret rooting for you all the way through the campaign and on election night. Listen to your more mature Comrade, Julian Robinson, on the same subject. He's paying attention. You're obviously in over your head.
Last Tuesday, one of the more polite online readers asked:
"... The polls have never been a problem before, so why now?"
In my opinion, Jamaican political polls have always been a problem, and those who revere the great Carl Stone (still the best) need to check the history of the Stone Polls (pre-and post-Stone's death) carefully. I make no comment on the expertise of Stone or any other pollster, only on the accuracy of all Jamaican political polls.
This column first appeared in 2009, so this is my first opportunity to publish my views on these polls. They've always been a problem for me, and I'd prefer if critics responded to my reasoning instead of simplistically rejecting my conclusions. But, you're entitled to prefer labelling to debating. It's still a free country.
Back to Jamaica as PNP country. To my JLP friends (I have many), Raposo's lyrics (as recorded in 1970 by Frank Sinatra) say it best:
"It's not that easy bein' green
Having to spend each day the colour of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer bein' red
(or yellow or gold) or something much more colourful like that."
Fortunately for me, I'm neither green nor orange, just red, fat and ugly. Accordingly, I intend to exercise my constitutional right to hold every single Jamaican government to account based on my opinion of what's going wrong, regardless of whether I voted for or against it, or not at all. Damion, that's one way we all contribute.
"It's not easy bein' green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
and people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standin' out
like flashy sparkles on the water
or stars in the sky."
It remains my opinion that the Jamaican electorate missed the boat in this election. In a situation where there's no substantial philosophical difference between the parties, the electorate had the opportunity to suppress its personal preferences and send messages regarding governance. One, that we should never again vote for a party leader who we'd already voted out of office. Two, especially in that scenario, four years isn't long enough for a new government to be fully tested and rejected. As you scour your dictionaries for more colourful names to call me, remember my premises. Both parties have corruption issues. Both have economic management issues. Both have presented pretty promises but failed to perform. Pot and kettle.
blame on the jlp
But, as I've repeatedly said, the JLP has only itself to blame. It failed to "stand out like flashy sparkles on water". It had no 'Star Bwoy'. It promised "bitter medicine". It threatened public servants. Worse, in the context of the beauty contest that elections have become, it enraged the sensibilities of every well-thinking Jamaican with offensive, bitter attack ads against Portia Simpson Miller. Just like Young Andrew, Portia was offering herself to be a Jamaican prime minister. Young Andrew proved as lacking in vision as Star Bwoy himself who, during the 2006 PNP leadership tussle, failed to foresee the damage he was doing to his own party by denigrating a possible leader. Similarly, now that Portia is prime minister, how will Young Andrew explain those disgusting ads to foreign leaders?
The bad news for Young Andrew is that, like it or not, clear thought, based on the above factors and applied to the JLP's present predicament, can only result in his resignation as party leader. Of course, that won't happen. Why? The good news for Young Andrew is that the electorate's message to all leaders is that it matters not how we vote today. You can always try again. Maybe next time ... .
"But green is the colour of spring
and green can be cool and friendly-like.
Green can be big like an ocean
or important like a mountain
or tall like a tree."
A 'born PNP' emailed me after the election to tease me and give one PNP supporter's view of why the election went the PNP's way as follows:
"... People power resonated with the people. No more police to lock off the dance ... . No more taxman to collect from entertainers and big businesses and to embarrass them with the 'video light'. No more police losing jobs for corruption. No more fight against the small ganja farmer, no more getting approvals to build and no more Brother Desmond bulldozing your building. The young professionals heard that they were going to have to pay a higher tax rate. The pensioners heard that they would lose their pensions."
So we free up de place? Well, here's the bad news for the PNP. Crank up your name-calling machinery. You'll need it. I'll be watching you like a hawk as closely as I watched Driva and the JLP Government. If you use borrowed JDIP money intended for infrastructure development to bush gullies, I'll be crying foul. If 'tax reform' doesn't result in more people paying taxes so each can pay less, I'll be crying foul. If my next light bill still has GCT on it, I'll be crying foul. If the external debt increases significantly, I'll be screaming foul. If interest rates or inflation starts creeping up again, I'll track each and every increase in these columns.
If you don't move immediately to bring full independence to Jamaica after 50 years, including abolishing the monarchy; making the governor general the first public-service job lost by 'attrition' (no Jamaican queen, please); eliminating Privy Council appeals; and by keeping MPs out of the Cabinet so they have time to play dominoes or drink a juice with constituents and return their phone calls, I'll be showing you a yellow card. In five years' time, Jamaica will produce the red.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.