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Disrespecting the Canons of Jamaican Governance

It has been my observation that there has been a significant increase in the level of disrespect for each other among the two major political parties in Jamaica - The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Peoples National Party (PNP). This can no longer be adduced to simple political rivalry but outright contempt, particularly among the governing JLP for their opponents the PNP. It is also explained by the deliberate breaking down of the canons of our parliamentary process and the blatant attempts to flout the rules that surrounds the practice of our democracy. The situation has become even more untenable since the 2020 General Elections where the JLP raked in over 49 Seats to the PNP's 14, giving them such an overwhelming majority, so much so that the JLP now believes that it can do and get away with almost anything, and that they do not have to provide any kind of explanation or justification to the Jamaican people. It is a behaviour that has become so common among the island’s political classes that it harkens back to the dark, divisive years of the 1970s, thank God without the then associated violence.

Unprecedent Government Walkout of Parliament Having lived through those very dark political days of the 1970s, I cannot help but wonder how and why we have receded to this point. The disrespect has become so palpable that Jamaicans cannot help but to pay attention. But how did we get here?  How did we get to such a point where the Governing party sees no problem with walking out of the nation’s Parliament in the middle of the presentation by the Leader of the political Opposition, thus bringing the Parliament to a close because of the lack of a quorum? The action translates to a lack of regard for the Jamaican people, even if most fail to see it for what it was. Not only was this action largely unprecedented, but the scant explanations offered are unable to pass the “smell test.” After all, Holness was scheduled to speak the following day, which would have provided him with ample opportunity to address the comments of the Leader of the Opposition. Governmental and Parliamentary-process conflict The claim by Andrew Holness and his minions that Mark Golding’s comments represented an attack on the Prime Minister’s wife as a woman (supposedly during Women's month) were tiring and disingenuous. The comments were directed at Juliet Holness in her capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and those comments were addressing the serious issue of Governance. In the circumstances, the delay in tabling of reports from the auditor general and the issue of the House Speaker and the Prime Minister being a married couple, adequately satisfies the claim that there was a potential conflict of interest. After all, the Speaker of the House in our Westminster style democracy has the responsibility for maintaining the transparency of our Parliamentary process while the Prime Minister's responsibility is the management of the governing affairs of the country. Both roles warrant not only practiced independence but also the appearance of independence. Disappointed Personally, I was disappointed, as I suspect are thousands of other Jamaicans. After all, we all thought that Andrew Holness was better than this demonstrated behaviour. In fact, had I lived in Jamaica in 2016 when he led the JLP to a one-seat victory over the PNP, it is likely that I might have voted for him. After all, at the time, Holness had come to power riding on the crest of a wave of popularity that pitted him as a saviour of the country. He was younger than his contemporaries, and his early vibrancy had resonated well among Jamaicans who had had enough of the PNP. Not only had many of the voters stayed away from the polls in 2016, but even more did so during the Covid-19 elections of 2020. And even then, I may still have believed that the early sprouts of economic activity developed under Holness' watch merited another term to bring that to fruition.

Uncertified Statutory Declarations But then, the matter of his Statutory declarations, which have remained uncertified for the past two years, comes to mind. The fact is that this is a requirement of our politicians, and for the country’s leader to be in this position is untenable. It does not help that there appears to be others in the governing party that are similarly tainted, serving to solidify the argument that the government reeks of corruption. That there is one Minister before the courts and the sidelining of others, there can be no explanation that could be acceptable, and the maintenance of this situation speaks to the level of disrespect that the Prime Minister has for the country and its institutions. Should we wonder then as to his walking out of Parliament in the middle of the Opposition Leader’s speech?

Empty Suit

From where I sit, Holness has now proven himself to be nothing more than an empty suit, incapable of providing positive leadership in a country begging for same. After nearly eight years in office, much has been promised but hardly anything has been delivered. It seems that the prosperity that he promised has only visited the doorsteps of his backers and minions who have crept closer to the trough. Beyond those individuals, Holness’ words mean nothing for the ordinary Jamaican. The public relations gimmickry that constitutes his approach has worn thin, and most Jamaicans are now seeing right through them. This was laid bare by the results of the recently concluded Local Government Elections where the PNP came away with the popular vote and a far better showing in the Parish Councils. The next couple of years in Jamaica’s political life should be interesting…very interesting indeed.

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