Fear­mon­ger­ing: trade­mark Seaga and JLP

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Floyd Mor­ris Sen­a­tor Floyd Mor­ris is PNP deputy spokesman on labour and so­cial se­cu­rity. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and mor­ris­floyd@gmail.com.

IT IS well doc­u­mented in com­mu­ni­ca­tion stud­ies that fear­mon­ger­ing is an art used by po­lit­i­cal pro­pa­gan­dists in cam­paigns. It is a strat­egy used to cre­ate fear and doubt in the minds of cit­i­zens on is­sues.

In Ja­maica, this tac­tic has been used on dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions by the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP). Specif­i­cally, this strat­egy was used in the 1962 gen­eral elec­tion when the cit­i­zens were told by the JLP that Rus­sian ships were out at sea, ready to take over if the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) had won the elec­tion.

In 1980, this tac­tic of fear­mon­ger­ing fea­tured promi­nently in the elec­tion be­cause of the close re­la­tion­ship that ex­isted be­tween the Man­ley regime and the Rus­sian and Cuban gov­ern­ments. On both oc­ca­sions, the PNP lost the elec­tions, and in 1980, more than 518,000 cit­i­zens came out and voted for the JLP as they were fear­ful of los­ing their free­dom.

Ja­maicans place an in­trin­sic value on their free­dom. If you doubt me, just re­visit the famous state­ment made by one of our na­tional heroes, Sa­muel Sharpe: “I would rather die on yon­der gal­lows than to be a slave.”

Re­search con­ducted by prom­i­nent and dis­tin­guished schol­ars at the Univer­sity of the West Indies (UWI) such as Mun­roe, Stone, and, in re­cent times, Pow­ell, Waller, and Bourne, has con­sis­tently shown the cit­i­zens of Ja­maica demon­strat­ing that democ­racy is their pre­ferred choice. Any politi­cian or po­lit­i­cal party that seeks to re­lin­quish this fun­da­men­tal right from the cit­i­zens would need to have a per­ma­nent bed at Bellevue.

I am, there­fore, shocked and dis­mayed at an ar­ti­cle writ­ten by for­mer prime min­is­ter of Ja­maica, the Ed­ward Seaga, in The Sun­day Gleaner on Oc­to­ber 23, 2016, un­der the cap­tion, ‘Fear­ful fu­ture of the PNP’. In this ar­ti­cle, Mr Seaga sought to chron­i­cle his per­spec­tive of what tran­spired in the 1970s with the Man­ley regime and the demo­cratic so­cial­ist poli­cies that were pur­sued. The ar­ti­cle was rid­dled with false­hoods as to what re­ally tran­spired in that pe­riod .

But I leave in­di­vid­u­als such as P.J. Pat­ter­son, D.K. Dun­can, Peter Phillips, Paul Burke, et al, to deal with these false­hoods. My fo­cus is to demon­strate how ir­rel­e­vant the ut­ter­ances of Mr Seaga are in 21st-cen­tury Ja­maica.

PO­LARISED GEOPO­LIT­I­CAL LAND­SCAPE

The era of the 1970s was in­flu­enced by the tremen­dously po­larised geopo­lit­i­cal land­scape. The world was di­vided in terms of East and West, with the United States hav­ing hege­monic dom­i­nance in the West and the USSR con­trol­ling the East. Ja­maica was caught in that po­larised en­vi­ron­ment, and both po­lit­i­cal par­ties, the JLP and the PNP, were in­volved in this ide­o­log­i­cal di­chotomy.

Mr Seaga was a ma­jor ac­tor in that en­vi­ron­ment. More than 800 Ja­maicans were killed in the elec­tion year 1980. Mr Seaga must not come and pre­tend to be in­no­cent of what tran­spired in the 1970s as the records are there to show that the JLP was in­volved in a con­stant bat­tle with the PNP for power, con­tribut­ing to sab­o­tage and a scarcity of goods. The day af­ter the elec­tion in Oc­to­ber 1980, food – some of which was Michael Man­ley and Ed­ward Seaga, bit­ter ide­o­log­i­cal en­e­mies in the 1970s and ’80s.

rid­dled with weevils and worms – was in abun­dance on the streets of Ja­maica.

For Mr Seaga, who I have grown to re­spect and love, to come in mod­ern Ja­maica to pro­mote an en­vi­ron­ment of fear is most un­for­tu­nate. The Cold War ended in the early 1990s, and we are in a new era, one in which China is prac­tis­ing a mar­ket econ­omy while pre­serv­ing com­mu­nism to or­gan­ise its so­ci­ety.

This is an era in which Rus­sia has more mil­lion­aires than the pop­u­la­tion of Kingston. An era in which the pres­i­dent of the United States has vis­ited Cuba. It is an era in which Bernie San­ders, a ci­ti­zen of the United States, the citadel of cap­i­tal­ism, cam­paigned in the Demo­cratic primaries on a demo­cratic so­cial­ist plat­form. San­ders

en­er­gised a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the US pop­u­la­tion and gave Hil­lary Clin­ton a run for her money. Is Mr Seaga aware of all of these hap­pen­ings?

In the 1970s, the Man­ley regime in­tro­duced some of the most far-reach­ing so­cial pro­grammes and leg­is­la­tion to transform the lives of the marginalised and dis­pos­sessed within our so­ci­ety. When Man­ley in­tro­duced free ed­u­ca­tion up to the ter­tiary level in 1974, it was be­cause more than 50 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion was not ac­cess­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and Man­ley wanted to ca­pac­i­tate the Ja­maican poor peo­ple.

When Michael Man­ley in­tro­duced free health care, it was be­cause the ma­jor­ity of the cit­i­zens could not af­ford qual­ity health care. When the Man­ley regime re­pealed the Sta­tus of Chil­dren Act, pop­u­larly known as the Bas­tardy Act, it was an ef­fort to re­move the stig­ma­ti­sa­tion of chil­dren born out of wed­lock, and, there­fore, could not at­tend cer­tain of our high schools. The es­tab­lish­ment of Na­tional Min­i­mum Wage leg­is­la­tion was to pro­tect our cit­i­zens from the bla­tant ex­ploita­tion that was tak­ing place in the labour mar­ket.

Mr Seaga and his ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive as­so­ciates op­posed some of these pro­gres­sive pro­grammes and poli­cies un­der the guise of Man­ley in­tro­duc­ing com­mu­nism in the coun­try. The dom­i­nant rhetoric com­ing from the Seaga-led JLP at the time was that these pro­grammes and poli­cies were pre­cur­sors to com­mu­nism. Sur­pris­ingly, these same poli­cies are now be­ing pro­moted and im­ple­mented by the Hol­ness-led JLP. Is An­drew go­ing com­mu­nist?

The Man­ley-led PNP never had any in­ten­tions of mak­ing Ja­maica a com­mu­nist so­ci­ety as pos­tu­lated by Mr Seaga. The PNP and Michael Man­ley had democ­racy en­trenched in their DNA. This is why we led the fight for uni­ver­sal adult suf­frage in 1944. This is why we low­ered the vot­ing age to 18 so that youths could vote in na­tional elec­tions af­ter 1972. Fur­ther­more, the con­sti­tu­tion of the PNP has deep-but­tress­ing demo­cratic roots, and this is why our mem­bers of par­lia­ment have to face the peo­ple who elect them ev­ery year to ac­count for their ste­ward­ship in their con­stituen­cies and in Par­lia­ment.

The right to vote is a fun­da­men­tal tenet of any democ­racy. In 1978, un­der the Man­ley regime, the Elec­toral Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (EAC) was estab­lished. This in­sti­tu­tion has mor­phed into the cur­rent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Ja­maica (ECJ) and has done a Her­culean job in pre­serv­ing our democ­racy. Mr Seaga him­self played a role in the for­ma­tion of this in­sti­tu­tion. Do you be­lieve that Michael Man­ley would be mov­ing to es­tab­lish com­mu­nism and put in place all these mech­a­nisms to en­trench democ­racy?

As for me, I am unrepentant in my sup­port for democ­racy. I trea­sure free­dom and value the right to own prop­erty. I rel­ish and cher­ish free­dom of ex­pres­sion. At the same time, I am an un­apolo­getic demo­cratic so­cial­ist be­cause un­like Mr Seaga, I un­der­stand what that means and more so in a unipo­lar world. Com­mu­nism sup­presses free­dom and the right to vote; demo­cratic so­cial­ism does not. Com­mu­nism does not per­mit pri­vate own­er­ship of prop­erty; demo­cratic so­cial­ism does. Com­mu­nism does not al­low for com­pet­i­tive party pol­i­tics; demo­cratic so­cial­ism does. Com­mu­nism frowns upon free­dom of speech; demo­cratic so­cial­ism does not. And com­mu­nism does not al­low for free me­dia; demo­cratic so­cial­ism does.

The PNP of Nor­man Man­ley, Michael Man­ley, P.J. Pat­ter­son, and Por­tia Simp­son Miller has al­ways val­ued and trea­sured those prin­ci­ples that are in­trin­sic to our democ­racy. The cit­i­zens of Ja­maica, there­fore, have noth­ing to fear of the PNP now or in the fu­ture. We must not sub­scribe to ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion rhetoric. It is de­signed to scare vot­ers, but this time it will not work be­cause the world has pro­gressed, and, like­wise, the cit­i­zens of Ja­maica.

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DEMOC­RACY IN DNA

GUEST COLUM­NIST

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