07 August 2005

A Man of Promise

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Traditionally, the Jamaican Press has employed outsiders to do the heavy lifting. So I was not surprised that when the Gleaner at last decided on a critical examination of the Prime Minister's record it turned to an outsider, one Dr Penrole Brown, hitherto unknown.

The Prime Minister's consigliere, Senator Delano Franklyn has produced the ritual defence of the PM, one of the central points of which is this statement: "To be the longest continuous [sic] serving prime minister in a democratic country, where the people are free to elect or reject a political party every five years, is a phenomenal feat."

It would be a phenomenal feat if one does not remember the process. Five years ago, in an open letter to the PM calling for his retirement I wrote in this column:
"You have now been Prime Minister for about as long as anyone else in the history of Jamaica and you share with Michael Manley the distinction of having been re-elected in a contested election. Your majority has been massive.

You have had nothing to fear from your opponents, who, for the last six years, have been a thoroughly demoralised, disorganised rump of a once proud party. The odds are that you could continue being prime minister for as long as you wish, barring Acts of God and the Queen's enemies." (June 11,2000)
Long before Mr Patterson was re-elected in 1997, I was contending that Mr Seaga was the PM's secret weapon; as long as Seaga remained where he was, Mr Patterson would remain where he was.

Nobody believed me then

Senator Franklyn's defence seems to depend largely on what he calls Mr Patterson's government by consensus but which other, 'bad-minded' people like me might call misgovernment by committee.

If, as some say, a camel is a horse designed by a committee, it is notably more successful than anything produced by Mr Patterson's committees - if they ever produce anything. (Some young journalist should be assigned to discover just how many committees and task forces Mr Patterson has set up and the results.)

Franklyn excuses the PM for taking no action on education for 12 of his 13 years of stewardship. As Mr Patterson might say now that two of his 'committees' reports "have come to hand, they are under the most active consideration with a view to evaluating the options for possible expeditious implementation".

These reports are from the Task Force on Educational Reform appointed 18 months ago and the national four-month long 'island-wide consultations to develop, articulate and validate the National Shared Vision for Education in Jamaica'.

Coming more than a decade after Mr Patterson's inauguration, I suppose one could say that this demonstrates Mr Patterson's passionate dedication to intensive procrastination.

Values and Attitudes

In the meantime, one wonders what happened to the National Consultation on Values and Attitudes which petered out a decade ago for lack of interest and leadership?

Last month, the minister of foreign affairs tried to reassure Jamaica that the government had not sold the pass to the forces of GATS - the General Agreement on Trade in Services in which Jamaica imprudently, committed itself to globalising education despite the warnings of people like myself as long ago as 1998.

In a column entitled 'Global Reich', I warned that the Multilateral Agreement on Investment - the precursor of GATS - would have dire consequences for Jamaica.

"At the heart of MAI is the idea that in a truly free world, every millionaire should have the same rights as every other millionaire. Or, forgive me, every MacDonald's or Disney investing in say, Jamaica, should have the same rights as Tastee's or the local jerk pork counter. Any country so bold as to try give incentives to a local manufacturer of say, shoes, would be compelled, in the interest of fairness to give the same incentives to Shell or Esso if they decided to go into the shoe-manufacturing business."

Under the subhead - A world safe for Neanderthals - I declared that the new globalisation, typified by the MAI/GATS was "the twentieth century equivalent of the Conference of Berlin, which, just over a hundred years ago, carved up Africa into a dish fit for King Leopold of the Belgians and his fellow cannibals." - Global Reich April 12, 1998

So it has proved, and no amount of 'clarification' is going to get the Jamaican government or the Jamaican educational system out of this hole.

Our one possible consolation is that the University of the West Indies, not being an entirely Jamaican institution, may escape the consequences of Mr Patterson's malign neglect. UTECH, now run by the brother of the minister of finance, will not.

I find it really difficult to understand those who are only now discovering Mr Patterson's ineptitude. Talking about sugar and its apologists nearly 10 years ago I forecast what was going to happen when the bottom dropped out of the European Union bucket and added:

"Sugar is the charnel house of our history. Remaining in sugar is akin to finding peaceful uses for the gas ovens of Auschwitz." I condemned those who continued to plead for Jamaica to remain a sugar producer and to continue hewing wood and drawing water for the rich and idle of the world.

I contended that sugar is "an important part of the reason Jamaica is slipping back into the poverty of the colonial era.

"We have turned over to sugar without question, the land which it has always controlled, despite its criminal inefficiency, despite all the injury it has caused us, despite common sense. Somebody said that only lunatics continue to do things which they know don't work." - Avoidable Disasters Dec 29,1996

'The Duty of a Leader'

Another avoidable disaster is Haiti. In 1994, 11 years ago, I pleaded (in the Jamaica Herald) for Jamaica to offer some of our admittedly meagre resources to help Aristide rebuild Haiti's human infrastructure in agriculture particularly, and in creating a functioning civil service.

I thought we should make amends for our earlier sell-out of the Haitian cause, allowing what I then called 'American slave ships - floating barracoons' to be stationed in Kingston Harbour from which the US Coast Guard could sally forth to capture and 'process' Haitian refugees - including those who had already landed in Jamaica - and dispatch them back to their murderers, rapists and 'face-choppers' in Haiti.

Last year, Patterson did allow President Aristide some time in Jamaica after he was rescued from his illegal rendition to the Central African Republic after his kidnapping by the Americans and transportation across the Middle Passage with his family as "cargo".

But Patterson accommodated Aristide with bad grace and it is clear that he'd bought Colin Powell's argument that Aristide was wrong for Haiti and needed to be removed. In this he was joined by the equally politically backward and subservient governments of Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago, all of them forgetting that had it not been for Haiti, we might all be slaves still.

In his betrayal of Haiti, Patterson betrayed the example of Norman Manley and his own heritage and historical obligation. Nothing more damning can be said of him

How could a Jamaican prime minister fall for the arguments of such creatures as Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, the intellectual spawn of the infamous and admitted racist Jesse Helms?

How was it possible to betray Haiti not once, but twice? The Haitian cock will crow again, but hopefully, by then we will have a Jamaican leader able to blow the trumpet in response.

There is more, much more. Mr Patterson's environmental record is an unmitigated disaster: his misbegotten Operation Pride land giveaways; his refusal to obey the government's own rules on Environmental Impact Assessment; his government's beach-stealing programme; the monstrosities of the North Coast and Doomsday Highways, Portmore, Kingston Harbour; his foiled attempt to despoil Hope Gardens; and his successful depredations on Long Mountain are just the most obvious.

But why go on?

I will conclude with some lines from a column published on September 15, 1996, almost exactly nine years ago and especially appropriate now as the police are seeking to recruit high quality leadership from abroad.

At that time (1996), the police were resisting Col MacMillan's idea of a graduate entry programme: "That would provoke the police establishment which is quite content with its appalling lack of police competence and forensic expertise.

It is why most politicians, including Mr Knight, believe in giving the police more money, more cars and more firepower and in hanging more poor people."

In the same column, I concluded with words which I have no reason to regret and which are entirely appropriate today:
"The people of Jamaica find themselves at a dead end. There is no vision, no grand ideal behind which Jamaica can unite.

All sorts of sturdy beggars, "warners" and false prophets abound, precisely because there is no one who can, or will, speak on behalf of Jamaica.

"Worse, none of the [three] party leaders appears to want even to listen to the people, to understand their suffering and to voice it.

"Almost everybody in Jamaica is aware of what is wrong with this society. What nobody knows is who has the will to fix it. It certainly is not P J.

"As Norman Manley said: 'The duty of a leader is to lead'. - PJ Must Go!" September 15, 1996.


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