New national vision needed
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?
A HISTORY OF SCANDALS
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.
A NEW JAMAICA
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 ... . ”
DIVIDE AND RULE
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.
NO CASE AGAINST BECKFORD
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.