New national vi­sion needed

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Peter Espeut is a so­ci­ol­o­gist and ru­ral-de­vel­op­ment sci­en­tist. Email feed­back to col­umns@ glean­ Orville Hig­gins is a sports­caster and talk-show host on KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­

THE PAR­AL­LELS be­tween the be­hav­iour of the Amer­i­can peo­ple in the re­cent US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and the be­hav­iour of the Ja­maican peo­ple in the re­cent gen­eral elec­tion are in­struc­tive. Many of us are scan­dalised that so many Amer­i­cans voted in as pres­i­dent a man who ut­tered such out­ra­geous racist and misog­y­nis­tic re­marks on cam­paign plat­forms, and was caught in so many lies. But are we re­ally any bet­ter? Do we have any rea­son to feel su­pe­rior?

Would you who be­lieve in free­dom and democ­racy vote for a political party that, while in of­fice, used their power to cre­ate zones where Ja­maicans of other political per­sua­sions are ac­tively ex­cluded? Would you vote for a party that en­cour­aged links with gun­men, drug deal­ers and ex­tor­tion­ists? Would you vote for a party that gave jobs and con­tracts and tax waivers to their sup­port­ers and donors?

That is ex­actly what the ma­jor­ity of Ja­maicans do ev­ery time they go to their polling sta­tions!

There is enough ev­i­dence link­ing both the Peo­ple’s National Party (PNP) and the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) with the for­ma­tion of political gar­risons and the dis­tri­bu­tion of guns to their sup­port­ers, and de­spite many and vo­cif­er­ous calls from civil so­ci­ety for the link be­tween pol­i­tics and crime to be bro­ken, it hasn’t happened. Not one step has been taken to dis­man­tle gar­risons, to re­cover the guns dis­trib­uted, or to bring political gun­men to jus­tice or re­pen­tance. The po­lit­i­cally aligned gangs con­tinue to kill at will, and few ‘shot­tas’ are ever caught or brought to jus­tice by the state ap­pa­ra­tus.

Why should we vote for peo­ple who sup­port this kind of sys­tem? Are Trump sup­port­ers worse? Or bet­ter?

Don­ald Trump has re­fused to dis­close his tax re­turns publicly. But Ja­maican political lead­ers don’t dis­close to the pub­lic their as­sets or li­a­bil­i­ties ei­ther! Who is bet­ter?


The 2016 US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign saw a long string of sto­ries show­ing scan­dals in­volv­ing Trump, both large and small – from ques­tion­able busi­ness deal­ings, to hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, to al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault. I do not have the space to re­cite the litany of PNP and JLP scan­dals over the last 50 years, from the miss­ing schools in the 1960s, to the shady land deals, to Cuban light bulbs, to Ou­ta­meni; it would far ex­ceed my word limit. Now, hon­estly, I ask you: Who is worse?

Are we hyp­ocrites, or what? With all the bleat­ing about Trump­ism, are we re­ally more con­cerned about cor­rup­tion over­seas than lo­cal cor­rup­tion? It has al­ways seemed to me that many Ja­maicans – high and low – are happy to dip their noses into the political trough, espe­cially around elec­tion time.

The real fear Ja­maicans have is that Trump will close the door to le­gal im­mi­gra­tion (and make il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion much harder), and that is the real con­cern – not his al­leged dis­hon­esty or misog­yny.

Trump sup­port­ers (mostly less ed­u­cated white men and women) voted for him, not be­cause he gave them Tshirts, caps, arm­bands, curry goat, and money, but be­cause they bought into his vi­sion of a USA bet­ter for them.

I want to know what Ja­maican vot­ers vote for when they go to the polls. A grow­ing num­ber stays away, largely be­cause of dis­af­fec­tion with both political tribes.


There was a time when the PNP had a vi­sion of a new Ja­maica, and it at­tracted the sup­port of the teach­ers, nurses and farm­ers’ unions, and the literati and artsy crowd; they still have their nom­i­nal sup­port to­day, more it seems from tra­di­tion and by re­flex than from any shared vi­sion for Ja­maica, which seems to have some­what faded.

The JLP, it seems to me, never had any grand vi­sion. Quite re­mark­ably, they were able to gar­ner the sup­port both of the low­est level of work­ers, and the high­est level of the pri­vate sec­tor – two classes of per­sons typ­i­cally at log­ger­heads. These par­ti­san loy­al­ties now seem to be blurred, and ev­ery­thing is self-in­ter­est and op­por­tunism.

As we go to the polls on Monday, nei­ther of the ma­jor par­ties of­fers us a national vi­sion, even to make Ja­maica great (again? Were we ever great?). Nei­ther has pub­lished a man­i­festo, so we will have noth­ing by which to judge their success (or fail­ure).

Some of us will want to send the PNP a mes­sage, and oth­ers will want to re­in­force the power of the JLP. Some will vote mind­lessly, by habit and re­flex.

In truth, nei­ther party de­serves our vote. His­tor­i­cally, lo­cal-gov­ern­ment is­sues have been poorly ad­dressed. And we don’t even have a lo­cal Trump to vote for, who, de­spite the in­evitable foibles, prom­ises real change, or to fix a bro­ken Kingston.

IWITH ALL the bash­ing it has re­ceived lately, this is one fight the Ja­maica Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion (JFF) didn’t need. The JFF board has now locked horns with Danny Beck­ford, the out­spo­ken pres­i­dent of the St Ann Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

Danny has been sus­pended from all foot­ball-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties for six months for re­fus­ing to apol­o­gise for that no-holds-barred let­ter he wrote to Cap­tain Ho­race Bur­rell and copied to the board a few weeks ago. This isn’t the end of the mat­ter.

It’s un­like Danny Beck­ford to take this ly­ing down, and one sus­pects that Cap­tain Bur­rell and his board will dig in their heels and do what­ever they can to keep Danny away from the in­ner sanc­tums of the JFF hi­er­ar­chy for the pre­scribed pe­riod.

Make no bones about it: It can’t be easy for Bur­rell and his board to feel com­fort­able sit­ting with Danny in a board meet­ing af­ter that ad­ver­sar­ial let­ter that found its way into the pages of The Gleaner on Oc­to­ber 24.

The let­ter was scathing against Bur­rell and the gen­eral sec­re­tary: “The first move is for you, as pres­i­dent and your gen­eral sec­re­tary, to leave the foot­ball ad­min­is­tra­tion ASAP so that the proper way for ad­min­is­ter­ing our foot­ball can now move prop­erly apace ... . ”


The rest of the board did not escape Danny’s wrath. He felt the board mem­bers were there mainly to rub­ber­stamp Bur­rell’s de­ci­sions and were com­plicit in his di­vide-and-rule tac­tics.

These are strong words, of­fen­sive words, even, and it’s dif­fi­cult to see how Danny and the rest of the board can sit cor­dially around a ta­ble to dis­cuss any­thing. Were I a mem­ber of the board, I couldn’t see how I could have a pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with some­one who thinks so lit­tle of me.

If I were to have ad­vised the JFF, I would have told them not to go this route. I would have sent out a let­ter to the press, re­spond­ing to ev­ery ac­cu­sa­tion made by Beck­ford. I would also ques­tion the fact that Danny had Ho­race Bur­rell, JFF pres­i­dent.

con­tin­ued to al­low the St Ann Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion to be spon­sored by the very man who he now felt was so bad for foot­ball. The Cap­tain’s Bak­ery was spon­sor­ing the St Ann FA for a long time, up to about two years ago. The as­sump­tion must be that for all those years, Danny was sat­is­fied enough with the Cap­tain to con­tinue ac­cept­ing his money. If I were the pres­i­dent of the JFF, I would ask if there isn’t some strange co­in­ci­dence that Danny’s caus­tic let­ter came only af­ter the Cap­tain had ceased spon­sor­ship to the St Ann Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

An­other is­sue that can­not be over­looked is the fact that the Phoenix Foot­ball Club, owned by Craig But­ler, is now a ma­jor spon­sor to the St Ann FA. The JFF should have taken the op­por­tu­nity to spec­u­late publicly whether Craig, who is a known an­tiBur­rell man in re­cent times, had any in­flu­ence on Danny’s ac­tions. The JFF has a lot of rea­sons to won­der about the sin­cer­ity and cred­i­bil­ity about Danny’s let­ter and should have fought the battle along those lines.

De­spite this, the board may have just over­stepped its bound­aries. I am not con­vinced that Danny Beck­ford should have been sus­pended, given the facts be­fore us. The let­ter was vit­ri­olic, even rude, but it was sup­posed to be a pri­vate let­ter to the pres­i­dent and his board. I am not sure what FIFA or JFF statute pre­vents a man from writ­ing a pri­vate let­ter to his col­leagues.

Danny told me per­son­ally that he Beck­ford

has asked the JFF to pro­vide him with the statutes or by-laws he has bro­ken. Up to the time of his sus­pen­sion, he said he had not re­ceived any point-by­point ex­pla­na­tion.


I my­self have spo­ken to high­rank­ing board mem­bers, and based on what was quoted to me, I am not con­vinced that there is an iron-clad case against Danny Beck­ford.

There is talk from the JFF that he has brought the JFF into dis­re­pute. That, how­ever, is de­bat­able. It can­not be proven that Danny had any­thing to do with the let­ter be­ing leaked to The Gleaner. Un­less they have con­crete ev­i­dence that he did, I don’t see how those charges can stick.

Danny, of course, might ap­peal, and where that will go is any­body’s guess. Who will he ap­peal to if, in fact, he does? What is the like­li­hood that any such body will over­turn what the board has done?

This lat­est brouhaha is not mak­ing Danny look bad at all. Pub­lic sen­ti­ment is on his side. Cap­tain Bur­rell has taken a lot of flak in re­cent times. This won’t help.

The one thing in Bur­rell’s favour is that it is clear that it is his en­tire board who is in on this, as op­posed to him only.


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