Ja­maica should mourn Castro

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -

WE DOUBT that Dirk Har­ri­son, the con­trac­tor gen­eral, will find much, if any­thing, that is il­le­gal, even if pro­ce­du­rally un­to­ward, in the Gov­ern­ment’s J$600-mil­lion elec­tion-eve job pro­gramme. Nei­ther will the po­lit­i­cal om­buds­man, Donna Parch­ment Brown.

In that sense, their sep­a­rate probes into the af­fair will be deemed by some as merely sym­bolic. But they are im­por­tant. They sig­nal to Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness and his Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) that while gov­ern­ments ap­pear ca­pa­ble of act­ing at will, im­punity in demo­cratic so­ci­eties is not of­ten with­out con­se­quence, even if the price isn’t im­me­di­ate.

But for our part, on this par­tic­u­lar is­sue, we are es­pe­cially dis­ap­pointed with Prime Min­is­ter Hol­ness.

As is widely known, Ja­maicans will vote to­day in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions. Mr Hol­ness’ party, which nar­rowly won the na­tional gov­ern­ment in Fe­bru­ary, hopes they give it a firm hold on the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and greater lee­way to pur­sue its poli­cies. That is quite un­der­stand­able. What we find dis­agree­able, though, is the ap­proach of the ad­min­is­tra­tion to­wards its ob­jec­tive.

POL­I­TICS OF PA­TRON­AGE

The pol­i­tics of pa­tron­age runs deep in Ja­maica. It contributed to an ex­treme di­vi­sive­ness and of­ten spawned violence and the cre­ation of the ‘gar­ri­son’ com­mu­ni­ties which de­lim­ited one party’s sup­port­ers from the oth­ers. Hap­pily, such at­ti­tudes are sub­stan­tially less in­tense than they used to be. This news­pa­per is in­vested in Mr Hol­ness in lead­ing a deep­en­ing and widen­ing of this change.

In­deed, the prime min­is­ter has him­self de­clared him­self a key agent of trans­for­ma­tion. He of­ten re­minds that he is the first leader of Ja­maica’s post-In­de­pen­dence gen­er­a­tion who nei­ther contributed to the cre­ation of the old po­lit­i­cal cul­ture, nor is in­vested in its main­te­nance.

In­deed, with his one-seat ma­jor­ity in the na­tional Par­lia­ment, Mr Hol­ness, in his swear­ing-in ad­dress in early March, ac­knowl­edged that “there is no ma­jor­ity for ar­ro­gance” and the fact that his party had not won a “prize”, but had been given ‘a test’ by the peo­ple.

“There is no ab­so­lute agency of power,” Mr Hol­ness de­clared. “This means that the win­ner can­not take all, or be­lieve we can do it alone.”

BIG PO­LIT­I­CAL TEST

Mostly, the Gov­ern­ment has per­formed rea­son­ably well, main­tain­ing ra­tio­nal eco­nomic poli­cies, and avoid­ing sharp swings that weaken con­fi­dence. Un­for­tu­nately, it stum­bled at its first big po­lit­i­cal test.

In the fort­night be­fore the mu­nic­i­pal vote, the Gov­ern­ment launched a ma­jor clean-up project that is pro­vid­ing hun­dreds of short­term jobs in com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try. Op­po­si­tion MPs and other rep­re­sen­ta­tives claim that un­like what is nor­mally the case with projects of th­ese types, they were not in­formed about this one, or in­volved in its de­sign or ex­e­cu­tion. They claim that the aim was to give an elec­tion ad­van­tage to the gov­ern­ing party.

Gov­ern­ment spokes­men re­tort that the cleanup is nec­es­sary, with which we agree. They say that its tim­ing this close to the elec­tion is co­in­ci­den­tal, which we doubt. The project, in de­sign and tim­ing, we feel, was aimed at do­ing what po­lit­i­cal par­ties have too long done in Ja­maica: use pa­tron­age to pur­chase elec­tions. It is an ap­proach to pol­i­tics that, in cir­cum­stances like th­ese, as­saults the dig­nity of poor peo­ple, against which Mr Hol­ness, by im­pli­ca­tion, in­veighed in March.

We hope this marks the end of its use in Ja­maica. THE ED­I­TOR, Sir: THE WORLD has lost an icon. A feel­ing of de­spair should over­shadow Ja­maica if not the en­tire Car­ib­bean at this mo­ment, upon the pass­ing of the Cuban rev­o­lu­tion­ary Fidel Castro.

De­spite the dis­taste­ful things, most of us were led to think of him, es­pe­cially in Ja­maica, as a friend. Some of the kind­ness he has done for Ja­maica in­cluded the field of medicine, ed­u­ca­tion, re­cre­ation and en­ergy. I will avoid the dis­taste­ful Cuban bulb pro­gramme, as that was a stab in the back of the Cuban kind­ness from our own rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Not so long ago, there was a two-year pro­gramme be­tween Ja­maica and Cuba, where bio­med­i­cal ex­perts were sum­moned to re­pair some of our fail­ing med­i­cal equip­ment, no­tably dental ma­chines.

TRE­MEN­DOUS BOOST

In the field of ed­u­ca­tion, Ja­maica gained a tre­men­dous boost. Among the do­na­tions are Jose Marti High and G.C. Foster Col­lege.

In West Africa, it was the Cuban med­i­cal staff that un­doubt­edly changed the Ebola sit­u­a­tion and got it un­der some con­trol.

Fidel Castro was no saint, but is there such a thing? Fidel Castro man­aged to turn Cuba into one of the most sci­en­tific and ed­u­cated coun­tries to­day. I be­lieve the cur­rent Ja­maican Gov­ern­ment should show our re­spect and at least de­clare 10 min­utes of na­tional mourn­ing for our pass­ing brother. ZAVIER SIMP­SON za­vier_simp­son@hot­mail.com fitted sig­nif­i­cantly, and con­tinue to do so, from Cuba’s con­tri­bu­tion to their de­vel­op­ment. In recog­ni­tion of his role in that re­gard, the CARICOM Heads of Gov­ern­ment be­stowed an hon­orary Or­der of the Car­ib­bean Com­mu­nity on Pres­i­dent Castro, the only such hon­our granted to a non-CARICOM cit­i­zen.

The Car­ib­bean Com­mu­nity joins in sol­i­dar­ity with the gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Cuba and mourns with them the pass­ing of this truly great and iconic fig­ure whose name sym­bol­ised a revo­lu­tion. ¡Viva Fidel! A true friend of the Car­ib­bean Com­mu­nity. ROO­SEVELT SKERRIT Prime Min­is­ter of Do­minica Chair­man of CARICOM

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