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Finding regional common ground

Published:Sunday | March 18, 2012 | 12:00 AM
From left: Jacinth Byles and her husband, Richard Byles, are having a conversation with Jamaica's High Commissioner-designate to Britain, Aloun Assamba, at the Sunshine Foundation's fund-raising dinner and entertainment.
From left: Minister Peter Bunting, Paul Scott, Justice Minister Mark Golding, and Mark Linehan, CEO of Digicel, are absorbed in their conversation.
From left: Digicel Foundation's Lisa Lewis, former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, Dr David McBean and Richard Fraser are engrossed in their discussion.
From left: Mark Linehan, Digicel CEO, speaking to Julian Robinson, junior minister in the Ministry of Science and Technology, and former PM P.J. Patterson.
Sushil Jain (left) listens keenly to National Security Minister Peter Bunting.- PHOTOS BY Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer
From left: Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, Odinga Lumumba, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and K.D. Knight are caught on camera.- photos by Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

Chester Francis-Jackson, Contributor

It would appear that the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration is all set to emerge from the self-imposed cocoon, after what could easily be described as a lacklustre four years or so on the international (and particularly regional) stage. When it came to setting the agenda for a regional platform, Jamaica has always been front and centre of international matters, dialogue and activism.

This rebirth comes at a time when nothing short of a strong diplomatic offensive designed to open new doors to markets and partners is a prerequisite in forging new alliances. Such alliances would chart a new financial course to help steer the country out of the current financial malaise and social quagmire.

Crucial to the process of re-engaging old allies and forging new ties is beginning the dialogue, and the administration and its power players have started to facilitate such an atmosphere with a number of engagements designed to build or mend bridges.

So, on Friday, March 9, the Sunshine Foundation, co-chaired by Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding and Information Minister Senator Sandrea Falconer, hosted a fund-raising dinner at the Wyndham Kingston hotel's ballroom. Former president of the Republic of Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo was special guest presenter, and dears, it was a charmer.

accomplished leader

Jagdeo is easily one of the most accomplished leaders the region has produced. He has chalked up many firsts in his list of accomplishments in his relatively young years. In fact, there are those who question if he is truly a politician, after he pushed through legislation in Guyana, enforcing term limits on the office of the presidency.

This political anomaly aside, Jagdeo has earned rave reviews for the innovative and Caribbean-inspired model he employed as president of Guyana to create change and engineer social transformation of that country's underclass.

On the face of it, his was an arduous task, as first he had to dismantle the apparatus of what was considered state socialism to a more private sector-driven capitalism while retaining elements of the socialist model to serve the interest and needs of the majority underclass. Reviews of his stewardship are still pouring in. International and regional commentators are agreed that Jagdeo achieved more than just a modicum of success in his hybrid of state-driven socialism and free enterprise that led to the burgeoning of the entrepreneurial class and spirit.

In this respect, Jagdeo's visit and presentation made for a most interesting intervention as in these times of economic deprivation, it is not the strong who will survive, but the truly ingenious. Jagdeo's presentation artfully and engagingly demonstrated that in this time of economic famine, there is an oasis of funds available through international agencies, etc., but only those privy to their machinations and goings-on, bolstered by the negotiating skills and savvy and know-how will ever be able to access these funds! And crucially, that access comes sometimes by ignoring the expected protocol of being defined by one's political office, opting to engage directly. What is played out at times is that while most clamour to see the titular head of an organisation, it is the operatives/field officers who take the decisions affecting the life and well-being of their constituents.

And in this respect, the US$1,500 (approximately J$130,500) a plate fund-raiser was a financial and educational success for the private-sector leaders and members of Government in attendance. Jagdeo, without seeming to, called on those employed in the business of developing strategies and programmes for personal, corporate and national advancement to think outside the box in seeking to devise solutions to age-old problems. And dears, to a country more often than not caught up with form over substance, his intervention was a timely delivery.

marvellous evening

Dears, it was a marvellous evening, beginning with libations and lovely fare and with an august body of private-sector leaders, socialites and members of the political directorate in attendance, it made for a sumptuous outing.

Among those out were former People's National Party President/Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, who introduced the guest speaker; party Chairman, Minister of Water, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill; National Security Minister Peter Bunting; Education Minister Reverend Ronald Thwaites and his charmingly elegant wife Marcia; Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson; Local Government Minister Noel Arscott; Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding; Information Minister Senator Sandrea Falconer who gave the vote of thanks; Junior Tourism Minister Damion Crawford; Senators K.D. Knight: Norman Grant, Angela Brown Burke and Lambert Brown; Jamaica's high commissioner-designate to the United Kingdom, Aloun Assamba; Revered Danny and Shirley Williams; Steve Ashley; Yvon Desulme and his très élégant wife Cynthia; Gordon and Diane Tewani; the lovely Fionna McNeill; Raymond Reece; the lovely Susanne McKenzie-Constantine; Michael Vaccianne.

Also out were Anne Shirley; Richard and Jacinth Byles; Linton Walters; Robert Stephenson; Mark and Karen Myers; Digicel's Mark Linehan, the fabulous Trisha Thompson and the charmingly fab Lisa Lewis; LIME's Garry Sinclair and Tara Playfair-Scott; Tarun and Catherine Handa; Dr David McBean; Carolyn Llewellyn; Courtney Bramwell; Dollis Campbell; Millicent Lynch; George Price; Sophia Fraser-Binns; PNP Youth Organisation President Junior Rose; plus several scores of others.