Jamaica Gleaner

In­de­pen­dent Ja­maica and the trib­al­ism virus

- Ron­ald Ma­som Ron­ald Ma­son is an immigratio­n at­tor­ney and Supreme Court me­di­a­tor. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and na­tion­sagenda@gmail.com.

WE ARE cel­e­brat­ing the an­niver­sary of hav­ing at­tained po­lit­i­cal In­de­pen­dence. We are no longer a colony, and it fol­lows that the as­so­ci­a­tion that should rise to the fore­front is na­tion­al­ism. Sadly, I do not find ma­jor dis­plays of na­tion­al­ism af­ter all these years of in­de­pen­dence.

We have seen that it is much more the party, whether JLP or PNP, above all else; the de­sire to be dressed in party-coloured cloth­ing to at­tend an Area Coun­cil meet­ing or a Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing. These meet­ings are pri­mar­ily to deal with the mat­ters in­ter­nal to the re­spec­tive party. How­ever, the in­grained obli­ga­tion of fi­delity and loy­alty is now clearly es­tab­lished.

Would one be any less loyal to the cause if the par­tic­i­pants wore beige, brown or plum-coloured cloth­ing? Not at all, but wear­ing green or or­ange makes the state­ment as to the dom­i­nance of the party – loy­alty to the party above and be­yond that owed to the coun­try.

This fos­ters the trib­al­ism virus. We see a fel­low Ja­maican dressed in the colour and we in­stinc­tively form judge­ments. The for­ma­tion of the judge­ment then leads to the shap­ing of the in­ter­ac­tion. The in­ter­ac­tion may well be in­dif­fer­ence at best or hos­til­ity at worst. This would not have been the au­to­matic re­ac­tion had the trig­ger of the party colours been ab­sent. Have we not climbed suf­fi­cient rungs of the lit­er­acy lad­der to func­tion with­out or­ange or green garb?

Re­cently, there has been a spir­ited de­bate on the mer­its, or lack thereof, on the PetroCarib­e debt restruc­tur­ing. Just imag­ine how much more valu­able it would have been had the pro­po­nents and op­po­nents met in the public square and de­bated as per­sons, who in their own right, were qual­i­fied to ex­press a tech­ni­cal opin­ion. It was not to be.


We have a party vig­or­ously op­posed, while the IDB, IMF and all the fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts in full sup­port, with the other party, beam­ing in the glow of hav­ing se­cured the deal. As a Ja­maican, not af­fil­i­ated to ei­ther party, are you not in­clined to set­tle with the opin­ion of the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial ex­perts? This de­bate was not an­chored in eco­nomic anal­y­sis. The pro­posal is dif­fer­ent but grounded in the sup­posed ‘good deal’ and whether it will re­sult in 10 per cent re­duc­tion of a debt that was not in­cluded in the to­tal stock of debt re­ported by the Gov­ern­ment. Trib­al­is­tic eco­nom­ics. Here is to lies, damn lies and trib­alised sta­tis­tics. How did trib­al­ism come to per­me­ate the be­ing of ed­u­cated, ra­tio­nal lead­ers who are oth­er­wise suc­cess­ful per­sons?

Is this a threat to de­vel­op­ment? Can we get to the stage where the mer­its of the aus­ter­ity pro­gramme or the growth agenda are de­bated, as to their value for na­tional con­cerns? I doubt it will be done any­time soon.

With the po­lit­i­cal par­ties ex­ist­ing pri­mar­ily for the sake of win­ning and re­tain­ing po­lit­i­cal power, na­tional ob­jec­tives are sec­ondary. It is al­ways best for us to gov­ern the coun­try, each will say. You lost cred­i­bil­ity with the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial mar­kets. You squan­dered scarce re­sources on an ill­con­ceived JEEP.

There is pro­por­tion­ately very lit­tle gen­uine de­bate in the Par­lia­ment. The out­come is al­ready as­sured by the ex­tent of the par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity. Par­lia­ment no longer, if it ever did, de­bates the mer­its and al­ter­na­tives of a pro­posal. There is no room for per­sua­sion or in­de­pen­dence. The trib­al­ists shall re­main green and or­ange. The cheer­ing sec­tion has been mo­bilised. De­fend the party at all costs and Ja­maica be damned.


No strong de­bate on the mer­its of the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice. The PNP woos one JLP sen­a­tor and the JLP leader tram­ples the Con­sti­tu­tion to stop the PNP from achiev­ing the stated goal. Will the CCJ ben­e­fit Ja­maica in clearly quan­tifi­able and iden­ti­fi­able ways? No, the Or­anges wants that achieve­ment and the Greens are de­ter­mined, even at the ex­pense of abus­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion, to stop them. The trib­al­is­tic virus is ram­pant.

Where is the spirit that soars on see­ing our land in the morn­ing and find­ing sat­is­fac­tion there­from. The war­ring tribes con­tinue un­abated. Joan Gor­donWe­b­ley is un­ac­cept­able. She was too ex­treme. Her ac­tions in the po­lit­i­cal arena en­gen­dered fear and loathing. She is not fit and proper.

Noel Don­ald­son, of St James, from the same house, will be wel­comed with open arms. He is per­ceived as a lot less di­vi­sive.

Keith Blake, the JLP coun­cil­lor in Port­more, is booed on his at­tempt to de­liver a mes­sage from the leader of the green house. This is the same mes­sage de­liv­ered by Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange at the In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions, rep­re­sent­ing the leader of the green house. Re­mem­ber, the leader of the green house was de­liv­er­ing a mes­sage in his dual ca­pac­ity as leader of the Op­po­si­tion, a con­sti­tu­tional of­fice that he holds, a con­sti­tu­tion he has de­based.

The trib­al­ism virus con­tin­ues to spread.

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