Corruption and the Queen
By Din Duggan
"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer."
Those were Portia Simpson Miller's first public words as prime minister-designate of Jamaica. The massive crowd that had assembled at PNP headquarters erupted as she 'blessed' the gathering. With that, Queen Portia was off and running, hitting the proper note on virtually every subsequent occasion.
This is in stark contrast to Prince Andrew's team, which seemed to have been collectively suffering from foot-and-mouth disease (which, based on my medical training - gained primarily from watching ER and House - is marked by a persistent inability to avoid inserting one's foot into one's open mouth).
The prime minister's inaugural address was true to recent form - she delivered an impressive speech that was both inspiring and practical. In roughly 15 minutes (if we discount the long list of acknowledgements seemingly extending from former PMs and foreign dignitaries to stray dogs up the road in 'Standpipe'), the prime minister lucidly outlined the party's agenda.
Mrs Simpson Miller touched on some of her Government's upcoming challenges - identifying the framework for a new agreement with the IMF, maintaining tight fiscal policy while strengthening the social safety net, and making Jamaica more hospitable to businesses.
Two items were particularly impactful: her pledge to stamp out public corruption and her declaration that "time come" to "complete the circle of our Independence" by becoming a republic, fully free from the British monarchy.
The 2010-2011 Global Competitiveness Report lists corruption as the third most problematic factor for doing business in Jamaica. A recent worldwide study of governance ranked Jamaica 18th of 20 Caribbean countries for corruption - above only Haiti and Dominican Republic.
Corruption substantially impedes our economic growth - reducing investor confidence in institutions and increasing the costs of conducting business. The social impact of corruption is significant - it fuels public distrust of government and an environment of lawlessness and disorder. It is critical, then, that Mrs Simpson Miller adhere to her pledge of zero tolerance for corruption.
Many are sceptical. Mrs Simpson Miller seems like a genuinely loving person. But will she be able to place love for her country over love for her Comrades? Will she show affection for justice if one of her ministers is suspected of corrupt behaviour?
In Jamaica, the political will to battle corruption has been weak. Relationships are deeply interwoven. The woman who accepts contributions from illicit sources may be a close cousin. The man who accepts bribes may be an old college roommate or a domino partner.
As prime minister, Mrs Simpson Miller must demote these bonds and place love for and commitment to her real family - the people of Jamaica who entrusted her with the stewardship of our nation - above all other interests and affiliations.
Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which a victim of imprisonment or bondage displays a seemingly irrational degree of affection and loyalty towards his captor, even after being freed.
On August 6, 1962, the national flag was raised in a newly independent Jamaica - a moment of tremendous jubilation. We were finally free to establish our own Constitution and diplomatic relations. More important, Independence marked the culmination of 300 years of bondage at the hands of the British Crown and an opportunity to invigilate our own destiny.
Great Britain has never been an affectionate parent or benevolent guardian to Jamaica. It has, throughout our history, simply used us - and many others - to further its imperialist pursuits. For centuries, our ancestors toiled in slavery, creating wealth for distant foreigners. Even after securing Emancipation, we were, for more than a century, further oppressed and dehumanised by the Brits.
Decades after Independence, we hold steadfast to vestiges of colonialism both in our system of governance and in our attitudes towards one another - particularly our deeply embedded class divisions.
Our entire existence has been marked by submission - both physical and mental - to our captors. It is appropriate, then, that at this moment in our history, 50 years after gaining political independence from the British Crown, we will make one final gesture towards mental emancipation by freeing ourselves from our London Syndrome in replacing the Queen - a descendant of slave traders - with our own indigenous head of state - a descendant of slaves.
Thus far, the prime minister's words have been mostly acceptable to the people. Only time will tell the true meditations of her heart.
Din Duggan is an attorney working as a consultant with a global legal search firm. Email him at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or view his past columns at facebook.com/dinduggan and twitter.com/YoungDuggan.