24 April 2005

The Company They Keep

Common Sense
John Maxwell

I had the luxury of listening to an entire BBC World programme by direct telephone link from London last week. The programme was Talking Point, and I had phoned the BBC in answer to their invitation to ask questions of Mark Malloch Brown, the chief of staff of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The BBC kindly phoned me back and enquired what was my question? It was about Haiti, I said. I was put on to somebody else, who, like everyone else in this tale, was charming to a fault. I explained that I wanted to ask Malloch Brown about human rights in Haiti.

Well, they weren't sure that they would get round to that subject since the programme was really about UN reform. Some of it was, but there were several questions, from questioners who had obviously joined after me, about subjects like human rights in Darfur, the Congo and so on.

As I suspected, I never got to speak to Malloch Brown, although various people from time to time enquired whether I was 'still there'. I must say that I most unworthily had suspected, soon after the charade began, that I was never going to be allowed to ask Mr Malloch Brown my question. I kept on waiting, however, until the end of the programme.

The Haitian people have been waiting for justice for 200 YEARS. Last week, the UN Security Council paid a visit to Haiti, ostensibly to see what was going on down there, to "review progress achieved in areas such as security, development, the political transition, human rights, institution-building and the humanitarian situation".

In a statement issued a month ago, the council said the following, inter alia:
"Assistant Secretary-General Hédi Annabi on major developments in Haiti since 18 November, 2004.

Mr Annabi stressed that since the outbreak of violence last year much has been achieved in Haiti, thanks to the Haitian people and the support provided by the international community.

The fact that the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has almost reached its fully authorised strength level has substantially enhanced its capacity to respond to security threats, producing noticeable results and thus contributing to the improvement of the security situation in the country, including through joint operations with the Haitian National Police."
As I write, I have heard not a word of the results of the Security Council's mission to Haiti. I presume that they had a good time - good food is available in French restaurants, the beaches are beautiful and uncrowded, and the thugs who rule Haiti tolerate no barking dogs or any other kind of dissent.

The UN Security Council and its boss, Mr Bush, must be well pleased. I wonder which PR agency can be credited for this coup?

The people of Haiti, on the other hand, are not satisfied. They allege that the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) has simply provided reinforcements and legitimacy for the thugs who rule Haiti.

The Haitian Lawyers Leadership (HLL), for instance, suspects that the current MINUSTAH campaign to pacify the slums is really aimed at targeting Lavalas supporters, Aristide supporters and in particular, a resistance leader called Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme.

The HLL believes that what will happen is a replay of the US Marines' murder of the Caco resistance leader, Charlemagne Peralte, in the first full-scale occupation in 1919.

Dread Wilme is described by HLL as "the armed suspect accused of defending pro-Lavalas people in Cite Soleil against paid police enforcers like Labanye, the ex-military, renegade police and paramilitary.

Defending pro-Lavalas against systematic and state-sponsored terror is the alleged crime and logic for the current UN offensive and cordoning off of Cité Soleil residents to hunt for Emmanuel Wilme".

"Like Charlemagne Peralte, Emmanuel "Dread" Wilme, may be summarily executed by foreign troops and dragged, as a trophy, through the streets of Haiti to cow the peaceful demonstrators who are demanding return of the constitutional government; to demoralise, to "shock and awe" the Haitian poor with the overwhelming, unjust and illegal power of foreign troops in Haiti."

The Haitian people have been through purgatory, courtesy of the US, several times. Since the occupation, they have endured the Duvaliers, Cedras and other criminal puppets who brutalised their way to power and wealth.

So, what else is new?

Here in Jamaica, the Government of this sovereign sister to Haiti, the Government which owes some of its genesis to Dessalines and the Haitian people, is now preparing to send back to their Haitian murderers, the people who have fled from the thugs who now govern regnant and rampant Haiti.

The excuse is that the UN Human Rights Commission has run out of money for this humanitarian project. So, while we can lose billions of dollars in crazy make-wealth-for-capitalist schemes, we cannot spare half-a-million Jamaican dollars a month to prevent a few hundred people from being raped, scalped, beaten to death and otherwise forced to end their support for the lawfully elected president of Haiti.

It has not occurred to our Government of the formerly 'young, gifted and black' to seek help from South Africa or the African Union. As in 1994, we are simply consigning the refugees to their fates - whatever that may be.

We are imbued with brotherly love but, it seems, we can't find any brothers to love. We are part of the wealth-seeking consensus, the globalisation-seeking consensus, and because of this, we will soon be subsidising American universities with millions of Jamaican dollars because of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), as predicted nearly a decade ago.

The US universities have awoken to the easy pickings available in Jamaica, and their sole ventures and joint ventures with Jamaican 'sucker institutions' are going to do their little bit toward cutting the US trade imbalance.

Two cheers for Progress!!

President Aristide has recently been appointed by President Mbeki of South Africa to be that country's ambassador to the African Diaspora, in addition to his job as president of Haiti. A few days ago, President Aristide appealed to the world to help his country out of its misery.

As he pointed out: "In 1994, who could have expected free, fair and democratic elections in South Africa with Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Oliver Tambo and other leaders and members of the African National Congress in jail, exile and hiding?"

In a direct challenge to the misbegotten Security Council position on Haiti, President Aristide asked: "Today in 2005, who can expect free, fair and democratic elections in Haiti with thousands of Lavalas in jail, exile and hiding?"

"To repair the tragic mistake of the February 2004 kidnapping and coup d'etat and reverse the disastrous events that it unleashed, the following steps must be taken:
  1. Thousands of Lavalas supporters who are in jail and in exile must be free to return home.
  2. The repression that has already killed over 10,000 people must end immediately.
  3. There must be national dialogue.
  4. Free, fair and democratic elections must be organised in an environment where the huge majority of Haitian people are neither excluded nor repressed as they have been up until today.
"Their continued peaceful demonstrations calling for my return and the restoration of constitutional order must be heard. Racism should not maintain a "Black holocaust" in Haiti where African descendants proclaimed their independence 200 years ago. What an historic paradigm for all the nations!" Indeed.

An Author Of The Black Holocaust

One of the architects of the Bush policy towards lesser breeds without the law, such as Haiti, Cuba and ourselves, is Mr John Bolton. He was the lawyer who infamously walked into a Florida counting office in 2000 and announced that he was there to stop the recount.

He and others such as our recently departed ambassador, were part of the legal phalanx which won Florida, the United States and the World, for Mr G W Bush, as he was then. For such important work, he has to be properly rewarded, but he had to wait for his desserts until the dust apparently died down. But John Bolton has never been a man to lie low.

It was he who decided, all on his own, that if Cuba was not producing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, she was on the point of doing so to supply them to terrorists around the world.

It took a delegation led by former President Jimmy Carter to nail that lie, but it was disproved eventually, unlike some other whoppers told by Bolton's elders and betters.

Bolton is notorious for his denigration of the United Nations, so when President Bush, as he now is, decided to reward his loyal henchman, where more appropriate (in the Bushian sense) to send him than to the United Nations.

The move has the same kind of lunatic logic as would putting a convicted child molester in charge of an orphanage, or a pyromaniac in charge of the fire brigade.

Perhaps fortunately for the rest of us, some of the people Mr Bolton has dissed on his way up are beginning to speak out about the character of the man. He turns out to be a bully of extraordinary vengefulness, chasing one USAID contractor halfway across former Soviet East Asia because she wouldn't do what he wanted her to do.

He tried to get various civil servants fired because they disagreed with his idiosyncratic view of America's enemies. To put it mildly, he is a thoroughly noxious specimen and a danger to world peace.

He is a former sidekick of the notorious Otto Reich, himself formerly the gauleiter (or perhaps Tetrarch) of our part of the Third World. Both are the intellectual spawn of that dedicated racist, Jesse Helms, the former senator from South Carolina.

No one knows how Otto Reich's pet terrorist, Jose Posada Carriles, made his way back into the United States where he is now seeking political asylum. But in my perhaps prejudiced mind, Reich and Bolton and other members of the Florida vigilantes must somehow be responsible for the return of this convicted murderer and terrorist.

Whatever happens to Mr Bolton's nomination, and it now seems doomed to implode, we can, I am sure, expect more action in these parts designed to prove that we do not deserve to be counted as people with commonly recognised human rights.

Clearly, regimes which can tolerate the impunity of Posada Carriles, the imminent trial of Haiti's former minister of justice, the forced return of refugees and the hunting down of people for their politics cannot believe that Haitians, Jamaicans and Cubans deserve to be treated according to the Conventions of Geneva or The Hague or, for that matter, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

17 April 2005

Let Them Eat Statistics

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It is easy to laugh at our parliamentarians, throwing their packaged visions of capitalist perfection at each other across the floor of the House of Representatives. Last week, as is customary, when the minister of finance opened the Budget Debate, the pillow fight became quite rowdy, and the learned minister was forced to confess that he didn't know what economic harmonisation meant.

Now, if his opponents had been speaking algebra, the language of economists, he would have known. For the present generation of parliamentary economic experts, any bright new buzzword immediately becomes a war cry if published in TIME, and a policy if published in Forbes. People who can't run their own businesses can tell the world how to run the country.

Problem is, the country is not listening. Parliament appears to have lost the attention of most Jamaicans. Gone are the days when the finance minister's speech was reprinted verbatim in the Gleaner and pored over in the boardrooms of banks and other important institutions.

Today, all that is important is the Reverse Repo rate and the level of NIR, whatever those mean to the ordinary man.
I never imagined 30 years ago when I was fighting to establish a National Minimum Wage that domestic helpers would be called upon to pay income tax so soon.

The fact that many now are liable is not a function of development, rather the reverse. The income tax on those at the bottom of the economic ladder demonstrates how depraved the idea of economic development has become.

The finance minister, Dr Davies, almost apologised for not being brave enough to introduce at once the 'tax reforms' recommended by the Matalon Committee - a bunch of brand new capitalist proposals that could have been written, one imagines, by Adam Smith or Jeremy Bentham if those two dead heroes had not cared as much as they did for the welfare of the poorest.

An increase in the General Consumption Tax - already at a ferocious 15 per cent - is to go up by a point. Our neoliberal experts regard such a tax as eminently fair, since everyone is equally affected.

It is quite equitable, considering that both Mr Matalon and the man who washes his car windows at the stoplights are equally prohibited from stealing bread.

The law is unambiguous. The problem the neoliberals don't recognise is that in a society in which most people are barely above subsistence level, consumption and income are almost precisely the same; so that a tax which arbitrarily removes 15 per cent of one's earnings is much more onerous to someone who earns the minimum wage and consumes all of it, while company directors may earn $20 million and consume only a fraction of that in order to keep themselves alive.

To the woman at subsistence level, buying an inhaler for her asthmatic child is an expensive luxury which she must afford if her child is to remain alive. That means that for a few days, her children may have to do with sugar and water and a crust of bread.

Prisoners of the state are better fed. In Jamaica, as in the United States, the gap between rich and poor is a gulf as wide as the Atlantic Ocean. And, in pursuit of the same goal of "Wealth", both governments are increasingly pauperising their working people. They claim the playing-field is level, but it is as level as a ski jump.

While the Government claims that at 12 per cent inflation is under control, one wonders whose control? Inflation is not necessarily evil - if everything is subject to its influence. The problem is that in this age of 'labour market reform' and industrialisation by Free Zone, the workers' wages are pegged to some notional standard, made like almost everything else these days, in China.

The minister of finance was proud that Jamaica had got out from under the IMF, claiming, quite correctly, that he is a good friend of the former consigliere at that institution, Stanley Fischer. If Dr Davies and Mr Fischer are friends - and they are - it can only be because Dr Davies has been following the IMF prescriptions without having been forced to do so.

Dr Davies speaks about the one-size-fits-all approach of the IMF - a description he would have indignantly rejected when used by people like me 12 years ago. In essence, Dr Davies now finds himself in a Procrustean bed of his own making, unable to direct the economic affairs of his country because the foreign capitalists who own him will not allow him any freedom. Of course, some foreign capitalists are also local capitalists - the banks, for instance.

Dr Davies can talk all he wants about reducing interest rates; in the boardrooms, the real owners laugh indulgently: "Let Omar have his little fun," they might say. Dr Davies regards as a signal achievement his lowering of the interest rate on student loans from the usurious 22 per cent to a merely oppressive 16 per cent. Big deal!

American television advertises interest rates half that for people with imperfect credit ratings who want to refinance their mortgages. They pay less than the Government and the people of Jamaica do for the pleasure of living the external version of the American Nightmare.

Why does it surprise anyone that nearly 80 per cent of Jamaican university graduates are living in foreign countries? If you have to pay J$1,024,000 a year for medical school and a fifth of that for interest to the Students Loan Bureau, how can you afford to treat the ordinary Jamaican sufferer?

The common or garden UWI Arts graduate is snapped up by the New York public school system and is able to buy a car within weeks of graduating from the UWI. No doubt the same is true of graduates from UTech and NCU. But WE are going to double the number of university places in a very short time, no doubt to provide more cannon fodder for Mr Bush.

There is one silver lining to this thundercloud, however; it is that Jamaicans abroad are now the largest source of real foreign exchange to this economy, and they are the real reason that this society is still, more or less, in one piece.

One imagines that Dr Davies and his colleagues are literate enough to have read some of the publications of the World Bank, such as those I mentioned last week. If they had read those or any number of others, they would have seen that education is the single most important motive force in development.

The problem is, of course, that development as seen by our experts are movements in the Gross National Product rather than improvement in the quality of life.

In 1999, when young Elian Gonzales and his father were both in the United States, the father was offered millions of dollars and all sorts of deals if he would decide to permanently reside in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Mr Gonzales was, at that time in the US, remember, well out of the reach of the Cuban Government. Vice-President Gore, Secretary of State Albright and Attorney-General Reno were ready to provide him with any protection necessary if only he would say 'YES'.

Yet, faced by the formidable array of the US Government, the American Press, the Cuban community in the US and the prospect of a life in God's Own Country as a rich man, the Cuban security guard said 'NO'. He wished to return to his home and his job and his friends in Cuba.

Cuba's presumed GNP is much lower than Jamaica's, about one half, if I read the statistics correctly. Yet their quality of life, according to JLP anti-communist visitors over the last few years, is way ahead of Jamaica's. Violent crime is almost non-existent, the medical services and education are excellent and so on.

In the calculus of human development it is the Cubans who are ahead of us, while we talk about achieving three per cent growth. Cuba, with about three times our population, will be opening in the next few years 1,200 art schools.

In any given year, the Cubans graduate more doctors than the UWI has graduated in its entire existence, and three quarters of the Cuban population is involved in some course of study. Jamaica is one of more than 50 countries to which Cuba lends doctors, engineers and teachers.

There are Cubans teaching now in Jamaican primary schools and 10,000 of them in Venezuela. In Haiti, to which we with our superior GNP can't send one agricultural expert, the Cubans have nearly 1,000 doctors and other medical and educational workers.

So, I salute the Cuban ambassador when she refutes the crude propaganda of the US Embassy here about Cuba's human rights record. I would like to ask the US to tell me how many people are in jail in Cuba and how many in the US.

I must say I haven't heard of the Cubans locking up lawyers for the crime of defending their clients, nor have I heard of any establishment in Cuba which tortures prisoners, except for one run by the US Government in the illegally-occupied Guantanamo Bay.

Meanwhile, we take our lessons from the United States with the result that hundreds of poor black youths are busily exterminating themselves and other Jamaicans because they have no reason to feel that they are worth anything.

A few years ago, I quoted some Jamaican research which reported that 16 per cent of teenagers in St Ann felt so bad about their prospects that they had either contemplated or attempted putting an end to their lives. Had they been in Kingston or Spanish Town they might have found other means of expressing their frustrations - by killing other people.

It is useful to remember that the Jamaican GNP showed an uptick when Diageo bought out the Desnoes and Geddes interests in D&G, although production did not increase as a result. GNP showed a similar uptick when Nestlé bought out Royal Cremo. Red Stripe is still here, but Cremo's Buckingham ice-cream sold in Jamaican shops is imported from the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, we don't pay our teachers enough to keep them in Jamaica or to attract male teachers into schools. We can't keep the boys in school when we do manage to get them there.

Communities are atomised in the interest of the Net International Reserves; families are devastated by unemployment and HIV/AIDS, businesses and farms destroyed by interest rates.

And we import ice-cream from the Dominican Republic, sorrel from Trinidad and tomatoes from the United States. The first tomatoes ever seen in the US came from Jamaica.
Happy Birthday, Mr Patterson!

10 April 2005

Don't Blame the Youth

Common Sense
John Maxwell

We can always 'take back the streets' - but we will have to keep taking them back over and over. The conquest of the Canterbury slum in Montego Bay, Tawes Pen in Spanish Town, August Town or West Kingston will never be concluded by force of arms. Those of us who believe that love rather than guns is the way to change the world really do have some ammunition, and wonder of wonders, some of it is supplied by the World Bank.

For one who regards the World Bank and the IMF as the moral equivalent of the Black Death, I must say that the bank, at least, does make sense from time to time. While its outgoing head, Mr James Wolfensohn, thought that corruption was the most important negative factor in development, and while the bank's policies will keep it in the poverty eradication business for another millennium, some of its less publicly important people do really useful work.

Where the World Bank makes sense is in its research. During the regime of Joe Stiglitz as chief economist, the bank began some important initiatives in extending its knowledge base. The results don't seem to have reached the bank's clients, although some of us might be vastly improved by reading some of the material the bank has published.

Michael Manley and the PNP fought the 1972 general election and won mainly on the issue of reducing crime and violence. Three decades later, Manley's successor, P J Patterson, presides over a country in which nearly five times as many people are being murdered as in 1972 and thousands more are maimed every year. Mr Patterson and his minister of national security Dr Phillips have an answer to all this. We must take back the streets.

According to the World Bank, it may be more appropriate to think of recapturing hearts and minds. They don't use that language, of course.

My references to Canterbury and Tawes Pen were provoked by re-reading two bank documents to which I have referred in past columns. The first is Caribbean Youth Development: Issues and Policy Directions; the other is Determinants of Crime Rates in Latin America and the World.

They are both downloadable from the World Bank's website or others which Google can find for you. The bank's researchers are on the side of the peacemakers - the softies like us who believe that there can be no winners in the class war.

In their paper on the determinants of crime, the World Bank researchers analysed mountains of data from all over the world to come to some conclusions which may seem obvious to some of us, but not at all obvious to our rulers.

First, the researchers understand that criminal activity is a matter of rational choice for potential criminals. They then examine the factors which motivate people to engage in criminal activity - the incentives which persuade people to crime.

They found that income inequality is perhaps the most important factor: economic downturns and other non-economic shocks can raise the crime rate and maintain it at levels unacceptable to societies. Their calculations leave the researchers in no doubt that there are rational economic incentives propelling people toward crime.

If you are at the bottom of society, where a criminal record means nothing adverse, you have nothing to lose by robbing or stealing. The greater the gap between the robber and his target, the more incentive there is for robbery, the greater the likelihood of a good return. The greater the gap between the top and the bottom of society, the greater the incentive to raid the rich. It is not so much poverty that motivates criminals as it is inequity and injustice.

The researchers - Pablo Fajnzylber, Daniel Lederman and Norman Loayza - will justly be pained at the crudity of my presentation of their very sophisticated analysis. All I can offer as excuse is that there is not enough space to treat their work more fairly. I suggest you try to get hold of the document.

The second document, Caribbean Youth Development: Issues and Policy Directions, is perhaps even more important. It makes some astonishing claims and, in my opinion, appears to prove them. One such claim is that a reduction in youth crime of one per cent would directly increase tourism receipts in Jamaica by four per cent.

If that doesn't stun you, you should be investing in the Doomsday Highway.

The lead author of this study, Orsalia Kazantopoulos, says that risky adolescent behaviour in the Caribbean costs us 'billions of dollars. in terms of direct expenditures and forgone productivity" due to crime and HIV/AIDS.

This study, in my view, is clearly justified in proposing that "Investment in preventing any one of these [risky youth behaviours] would have great returns for the country, particularly in the form of higher productivity."

Here are a few of the points made in the study:
  • In terms of foregone benefits, a single cohort of adolescent mothers in St Kitts is estimated to cost US$2 million; St Kitts has less than a tenth of the population of Jamaica.
  • Youth crime and violence in St Lucia generates more than US$3 million in lost benefits to society and US$10 million in lost benefits to private individuals, annually.
  • If female youth unemployment in Jamaica were reduced to the level of adult unemployment, GDP in Jamaica would rise 2.9 per cent.
Much better returns than the Doomsday Highway.

Youth is not the Problem

The report is unequivocal: Youth is not the problem. We already know that in our hearts, but many of us may only be convinced now that the World Bank says so. What is astonishing is how important the human touch is in achieving real development - development of people instead of concrete.

The report examines the main causes for risky and expensive youth behaviour. It finds these in broken families, broken and inadequate school systems, poverty and gender. These conclusions are not seat-of-the-pants guesses; they are backed by solid research.
"A key message arising out of the research findings is the interconnectedness of facts that predispose risky behaviour and outcomes. (Emphasis in original) Empirical analysis of risk and protective factors carried out using the nine-country Caricom data demonstrates that complex interrelations among family, school and community factor in the micro-environment. Study results show that changing any one of the risk factors will improve outcomes. The findings are consistent with international evidence."

What we need to do

The report also suggests a variety of low-tech solutions, many of which resemble what N W Manley began with Jamaica Welfare nearly 70 years ago.
  • Reform the educational system and maximise the protective effects of schools by improving access and retention, improving the quality of education, eliminating corporal punishment, using educational campaigns to reduce violence and promote conflict resolution; and institutionalising permanent school-based information and education campaigns on sexual abuse and exploitation.
  • Upgrading the public health system;
  • Institutionalising national level mentoring systems for youth at risk;
  • Reforming and strengthening legal, judicial and police systems by improving juvenile justice, increasing the control of weapons and reforming the police;
  • Using the media and social marketing to change norms and values related to key risk areas - sexual abuse and exploitation; early sexual initiation; corporal punishment; physical abuse; alcohol consumption; and drug use;
  • Making families and fathers a top public policy issue - putting in place measures to make parents more responsible for their children by legal measures and tax breaks and to use the education system, the public health system and the media to teach fundamental parenting skills; and finally;
  • Strengthening community and neighbourhood supports to adolescents and their families by establishing youth funds to finance innovative NGO and community-based initiatives for youth.
Again, as in the case of the document on crime, I cannot in this space do anything like justice to the World Bank report.

I believe that the Jamaican and Caribbean media should jump on these documents and air them thoroughly so that people armed with relevant facts for the first time at last, can begin a real dialogue about some of the fundamental things wrong with this society.

What I find so compelling about these two documents, and what I think you will find if you read them, is their plain, commonsense approach, not making any of the usual assumptions about culture and other mystification, but looking at what actually happens, and why.

Our treatment of our children is abominable. Great crimes are committed in the name of discipline - serving only to inculcate in the victims a mindless rage which is only temporarily slaked by anti-social behaviour. Yes, the researchers do measure rage, and like every other factor they attempt to quantify its effects. I believe that they are mostly successful.

Every now and then there is an opening in the Jamaican psyche which begs for the inauguration of a real public discussion about our real values and attitudes, and about why these values and those attitudes are not critically examined to see how much damage some may do or how others may be able to help us move forward.

One thing I can say is that if our streets are to run with blood, let it be metaphorical blood from the herds of sacred cows we need to slaughter rather than that of our children who, right now, are being cannibalised by their elders.

03 April 2005

The Long Good-Bye

Common Sense
John Maxwell

I got myself into a great deal of hot water 40 years ago when I wrote an editorial entitled "Who will tell the Old Man to Go?" Jamaica's first officially styled prime minister, Sir Alexander Bustamante, was, unfortunately, in his dotage when he became prime minister after the elections of 1962.

He could still crack the odd joke, but it was clear to anyone who knew him and to many who didn't, that he was past his prime. But then it was considered sacrilege to criticise the PM.

I was accused of being rude, offensive and a host of other unkind things. There was even a parliamentary debate about the paper I edited - Public Opinion - and about me. Neither The Gleaner nor the Press Association could see any reasonable objection to the Government's shutting me up by shutting us down, nor could the Inter-American Press Association, that bastion of 'Press Freedom'.

I recount this just to suggest my evenhandedness in these matters - in further consideration of which I submit the fact that I watched my paper being torn to bits by Norman Manley in front of a PNP NEC meeting in Mandeville and by the Hon Edwin Allen, minister of education, in Parliament a few weeks later. Great fun.

It was easy to criticise Bustamante, now a national hero, because most people knew that he was just along for the ride and that the real prime minister was Donald Sangster. Bustamante derided Norman Manley's refurbishing of Vale Royal as the Prime Ministerial residence; it was much more suitable, he said, for a maternity home.

So, at great expense he built Jamaica House, but refused to live there; just before he was due to occupy it, the place was struck by lightning, and a week or so later, when he was at the Caymanas Park races, the grandstand there was also struck by lightning. It was a 'Sign', some said.

Since Bustamante's retirement, only two prime ministers have spent any time in Jamaica House - Hugh Shearer and Michael Manley. I am not sure how long Shearer remained there, but Manley couldn't stand the place and moved to a (much smaller) protocol house. Sangster lived at Vale Royal, as did Seaga and Patterson. It seems that Norman Manley had the right idea all along.

Norman Manley's more important ideas have stood up in the nearly 40 years since he died, and the nearly 50 years since he ceased to be Jamaica's first and only Premier.

His emphasis on development was aimed not at concrete, but at people. Gordon House, the place where Parliament meets, expresses his thought perfectly. Gordon House has always been inadequate, and Manley knew it when he built it. He also knew that Jamaica could not afford the kind of Parliament building most people wanted, nor could we afford Jamaica House, which cost twice as much as a really grand Parliament building would have.

You will not be surprised to learn that Jamaica developed faster and more solidly under Norman Manley's guidance than it had before or has since. During his seven-year stewardship, agriculture accelerated to new rates of productivity, because of measures such as the Facilities for Titles Act and the various measures to give farmers access to cheap finance and stable markets.

In seven years, Manley changed the face of Jamaica. His free education initiative, which he admitted was even then inadequate, is still the basis for the Jamaican education system half-a-century and a million more people later.

He renegotiated the bauxite agreements and put the new money into capital development projects, especially in education; and he built most of the institutions which now bear the infrastructure of Jamaica: the Bank of Jamaica, the Planning Institute, Cabinet government; the social development agencies, the government's information services, the Army, the tourist industry, environmental law, and, of course, the now defunct JBC, killed by Messrs Seaga and Patterson.

While Manley was a socialist, he never made it an issue. As David Coore, speaking on his behalf at the time said: "Socialism is a label." In this he was much better advised than his son, Michael, whose rhetoric provoked a violent response from the Jamaica Labour Party, which recognised that if Manley were allowed to succeed, that would be the end of the JLP.

Today, half-a-century after Norman Manley came to office, another PNP prime minister has been announcing that he will, in the course of time, be demitting office.

This prime minister has said that Norman Manley was his mentor. N W certainly gave him preferment, seeing in him a talented young Jamaican who he thought had what it took to lead this country.

In my opinion, that was one of Manley's few mistakes. I cannot imagine Manley, about to demit office, admonishing the country to take up tasks which he ought to have taken up years before. I cannot imagine Manley leaving behind him a party so disorganised, so disunited and so undistinguished in leadership. Manley, unlike P J Patterson, was not afraid of bright people. He surrounded himself with them and there was not a yes-man in the lot.

Since then, the PNP has managed to go down to defeat in St Ann, where Ivan Lloyd won the first seat ever by a political party in the history of modern Jamaica. Not even Lloyd himself could win his own seat (for his son) for the JLP when he changed sides. That P J Patterson has managed to do so is no ordinary achievement.

The present PM has insulated himself behind a phalanx of advisers, consultants and plain yes-men to the extent that he himself is hardly visible. His admirers, like Maxine Henry-Wilson, extol his unobtrusiveness, his refusal to be "in your face".

This trait may be appreciated by the businessmen and other beneficiaries of the Government's version of development. It appears to be less and less effective among the great mass of those who Mr Patterson's immediate predecessor called "the sufferers".

Unfortunately for Mr Patterson and the rest of us, there are a great many more 'sufferers' than ever before. As the gap between the classes increases and the social services disappear, and as the Government takes itself out of the faces of the public, there is an increasing public sentiment that the Jamaican ship of state is not just rudderless, it has also lost its propellers - its screws, as sailors call them.

Among the middle classes there is a general air of 'wha'-fe-do?' A sense of purposeless bemused drifting while the background noises get louder and more alarming. So when Mr Patterson advises us to have 'vision' and to 'organise', these seeds of wisdom fall now on ground overgrown by weeds where once the soil was merely fallow.

When his admirers point to his memorials, the Doomsday Highway, the Cartade assault on Long Mountain, most people are noticeably underwhelmed, especially those who watch the progress of the petroleum price index.

Mr Patterson is not in anybody's face, though he has all the justification to be, for instance, as a leader in the Third World, a fighter against the brutal intimacies of the World Bank, the IMF and the World Trade Organisation. In our neighbourhood - the Caribbean - he has failed even to make a gesture of protection toward the Haitian people, and instead has reverted to his bad habits of 1994 when he sold out the refugees to the Americans in their floating slave barracoons. He is planning to deport nearly half of the refugees now here, effectively sending them back to their murderers and persecutors.

One would imagine that in the fight for survival, Jamaica would be at least in the front row, having occupied an honourable place there since 1958 when Norman Manley banned trade with South Africa in a hugely symbolic gesture against Apartheid.

Our relatively privileged position obliges us to defend those less able than we are and to succour the suffering. Neither internationally nor domestically has our prime minister made a single gesture in those directions.

Ten years ago when the university published its study of crime and violence in the urban slums, many of us believed that such a government as that promised by the PNP would move (as had Norman Manley before he even entered politics) to work for the development of the people, to work for peace, harmony, the reconciliation of families and the raising up of communities. They Cry Respect - the 1995 UWI publication - was a blueprint for what could at least have been attempted.

I am sorry to bore you with a nine-year-old quotation, but I am compelled to remind people of where we were then:
'What the people want above all, the people want peace. They are brutalised, terrorised, victimised and separated from the rest of us by what they call "The War".

They are orphaned and left childless by the war. Although the conditions for the war were set by politicians, they no longer control the parameters of the conflict. The people want an end to the war, an end to the guns and the 'donmanship.'

".Nutten naw gwaan inna de ghetto" because of the ghetto stigma which disrupts schools, destroys the possibility of work, tears apart families, kills men, women, children and babies.

"The people want some sort of mediation process to begin, involving the community institutions, the clubs, the church, the police and even the politicians. The people want the 'bad guys' removed from the area to be counselled, perhaps subjected to semi-military discipline, re-trained."

That was in May 1996. Now, when Mr Patterson talks about 'vision' and all the other virtues we need to display, I ask myself where, but WHERE, was Mr Patterson in 1996? At that time he was saying what Dr Phillips, his preferred successor, is saying now. Mr Patterson was instructing the police to use 'the full force of the law' to curb violence.

I will conclude with another quotation from a decade ago: "Peace is not simply an absence of war, it is a comprehensive programme engendering a unity of purpose and co-operative endeavour among all the people. It requires that we recognise a common interest in the welfare of all, that none of us can live content - or safe - if there is one of us in misery, terror or economic servitude.

We can neither be half free nor half rich. The wealthiest among us is as vulnerable to the unreason of the gun as is any handicapped infant vulnerable to abuse." Unfortunately, all the pretenders to Mr Patterson's throne, with the exception of Portia Simpson Miller, are cut from the same cloth as Patterson.

To a man, they seem to believe that people can eat statistics.