One week to go before elections in Jamaica. Christmas which is this coming Sunday has been almost completely sidelined. Santa? Who’s that?
Much to the disappointment of her detractors Portia Simpson-Miller, the Leader of the Opposition, failed to fall flat on her face during the much hyped final debate on December 20. In fact she came off looking rather good overall, despite an inadequate answer or two, completely outshining the competition when she boldly said that she would have no qualms about having Gays in her cabinet, if they were qualified for the job. Andrew Holness, the current Prime Minister, stuck to the party line and refused to acquiesce to reason, deferring to public sentiment that he says he is loath to cross.
Portia on the other hand was not afraid to buck popular sentiment, opting for what is right, displaying courage and leadership in the process, two qualities sorely needed in these trying times. The truth is that Jamaican attitudes towards the vexed question of homosexuality are slowly but surely changing. For an excellent post on the subject read Ross Shiel’s Reactions to THAT gay question.
But they may not have changed enough yet and the backlash from the anti-gay brigade in Jamaica is a real threat (curiously the charge is often lead by the media itself as evident in the Observer cartoon above). The Gleaner’s Dec 23 editorial sums up the situation well:
Mrs Simpson Miller’s courage in taking this stance, and its timing, ought not to be minimised, or overlooked. She did it in the middle of an election campaign in a largely homophobic Jamaica, with her party in a tight race with the governing Jamaica Labour Party.
The easier option, as Mr Holness took, would be to waffle about respecting Jamaican sentiment. That would ensure, at least, that fundamentalist Christians would not be trotting out scriptures to illustrate God’s abhorrence of homosexuality. She now runs the risk of alienating anti-gay voters.
Winning will certainly be an uphill battle for her, especially in the face of defamatory videos circulated by the Labour Party’s G2K, in which they cobble together a number of clips, some of them out of context and doctored to fit, depicting her as a raging virago. One of them, now banned from the two major TV stations, plays on a quote from her campaign in the 2007 national elections in which she said ‘Don’t draw mi tongue’; no one now recalls what this was said in response to and its impossible to tell from the cunningly doctored video. Of course ‘don’t draw mi tongue’ in itself is a harmless Jamaicanism broadly meaning ‘Let me hold my peace, don’t make me get too candid.’ This was widely used against Portia in 2007 and has now been resurrected, interspersed with images of the candidate in full demotic mode, with clips from various speeches and interviews collaged together to give the impression of someone violating all the norms of respectability and decorum so beloved by the Jamaican bourgeoisie.
The Jamaica Observer, to the surprise of many considering their blatantly pro-government stance, actually came out with an editorial chastising the JLP for the ad on grounds of ‘civility’ and ‘decency’. But these are highly subjective measures, what is decent to me may be indecent to you. What about the legality of broadcasting a doctored video in which clips are neatly arranged out of sequence, with crucial segments missing to give a certain impression? is it accurate and ethical to splice disparate bits of video and audio together like this? Is this not a violation of Regulation 30 (f) of the Jamaican Broadcasting Commission which rules that broadcast content should not “contain any false or misleading information”?
Ace Observer columnist Mark Wignall sees nothing wrong with the G2K ad. According to him:
One very important question is, who is the author of these ads? Other questions are, are the ads fictional and hence, defamatory? As I saw it, no, and hence the ads have been authored by the subject of the ads and not by fancy technological cut and paste in an engineering studio.
Andrew Holness is the…worst nightmareHalf-way through its first five-year term of government since it was defeated in February 1989, troubled by its inability to attach the word “spectacular” to any part of its performance during that time, and buffeted by political storm winds associated with the Dudus extradition request, the general view at street level suggests major survival problems for this administration beyond 2012.
An examination of the 17 Cabinet members will easily present us with eliminations simply because leadership material is largely absent. On our “first-scratch” list would be: Cabinet Secretary Douglas Saunders, Grand-daddy Mike Henry the transport minister, a remarkably fit Pearnel Charles at 74 years old, Deputy PM Dr Ken Baugh whose heart is not in it, and Karl Samuda who needs a good rest now. Housing Minister Dr Horace Chang has much in his educational, organisational, political and professional past to be proud of, but in this the age of the pirates he would never make it. Sports Minister Babsy Grange has never indicated that she had more in her than what she now has.
Security Minister Senator Dwight Nelson was, like Golding, a child prodigy, but it is not my belief that he was cut out for the potential pitfalls of representational politics. He earned himself the moniker, ‘I can’t recall’, during one phase of him being grilled by seeking solace in replying ‘I can’t recall’ to a series of questions. As a Jamaican watching him that day, I felt ashamed for the state of my country, and while I recognise that there will always be sensitive matters underpinning national security, I expected a lot more from him than ‘I can’t recall’. Dwight Nelson should pack his bags and go!
Health Minister Ruddy Spencer reminds me of the late Hugh Shearer, a man who found real happiness after the west engineered his ouster as JLP leader in 1974 and replaced him with the fiery Seaga.
Heading our shortlist is the youngest Cabinet member: 38-year-old Andrew Holness, the education minister (a Seaga find) whose ministry operates in a poor country that will never be able to allow him to operate at his full competency level. He has what some would call a “caring” personality but he also will find it difficult to sail the seas with political pirates. He needs at least seven more years to toughen his hide. Andrew Holness is the…worst nightmare
The last two on the list are Daryl Vaz (47), Minister in charge of Special Projects and Information and Telecommunications, and James Robertson (44), Minister of Mining and Energy, second-tier personnel salivating outside the prime minister’s door like eager hounds in heat.
The reality is, the little man and woman at street level are very much worse off than they were in 2007, the year the JLP took power…enough hopelessness and economic uncertainty exist among our people to scare the JLP government silly as it views its electoral prospects in 2012.
Is the PNP’s Progressive Agenda the answer? It is an exciting document that takes the PNP into almost scripting what I see as the ultimate mission statement. Does the JLP government have any mission statement guiding it or is it still playing “ketchy shubby”?
Advisory: Content in this post has carefully been doctored to produce a particular message not unlike the production of the G2K video featuring the Leader of the Opposition. If you don’t have a sense of humour or are lacking in intelligence you may want to forget that you read it by undergoing appropriate memory erasing procedures or consuming amnesiacs.