Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Ronald Thwaites | No to ‘Set-Han’

Published:Monday | May 27, 2024 | 12:06 AM
Marlene Malahoo Forte, (second left) speaks while (from left) members of the Constitutional Reform Committee, Nadeen Spence, Elaine McCarthy, Rocky Meade, Derrick McKoy, Sujae Boswell, look on at post cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday, M
Marlene Malahoo Forte, (second left) speaks while (from left) members of the Constitutional Reform Committee, Nadeen Spence, Elaine McCarthy, Rocky Meade, Derrick McKoy, Sujae Boswell, look on at post cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday, May 22.

Has it occurred to the Constitutional Reform Committee that what they have achieved “concensus” on is not what most of us are interested in? The Ministry Paper containing their report which was released last week is underwhelming.

People want a new system of government which limits the constitutional dictatorship of a prime minister, conclusively removes repeated threats to civil liberties, shores up the Charter of Rights; modifies the winner-take-all bias of the Westminster model to which we shackled ourselves in 1962 and which, in great part has colted development and human flourishing by its inherent divisiveness.

IT’S A ‘SET-HAN’

The public is likely to reject or at best ignore the ‘set-han’ phasing which their process imposes on our aspirations. We want it to be “deeply entrenched” that some advantage-takers cannot again fatten themselves with 200 per cent pay rises (without any more productivity) while leaving us to scrape survival from PATH, school feeding money or the $15k weekly wage that most of us earn. Yearning

OK, the symbolic adoption of republican status and its trappings will interest some but will ignore the often-jilted yearning which the woman on East Queen St. nurtures for a fundamental law which entrenches fairness, affordable justice, better priorities and accountability for public funds, less partisanship; enjoins more useful work in Gordon House towards inclusion and equal opportunity- and plenty more things.

Now it ought to be sufficient for them to tell us that the process must deal with the embedded symbolic provisions first and the rest will “soon come”. Trouble is we don’t believe them. Trust in the political culture has been so ravaged by its self-cannibalization that we are not at all sure of what the ultimate intentions of the main political actors are beyond this flaccid first phase. Has either party really told us where they stand? Are they even prepared to listen to ordinary citizens? The pattern of ‘consultation’ in the process so far offers no basis for optimism.

HUMILITY

All of this has to be turned around even at this late stage by a comprehensive program of public education where leaders humble themselves before the people and listen and heed rather than prescribe and bemuse with public relations jingles. Before the referendum we want clear commitments as to the topics, positions and timetables being advanced by the political actors in the succeeding phases. That will determine whether and how people vote.

Grievous Bodily Harm

It really doesn’t matter where Daryl got his information about Mark Golding’s passport. Minister Dixon please don’t spoil up yourself so soon by defending him. What the public sees is that a Minister of government would breach a colleague’s (?) privacy for political purposes. If that can happen what assurance can you and I have of the confidentiality of our personal data? Whatever right to privacy existed heretofore, it is now a dead letter in the perception of an already sceptical population- Data Protection law notwithstanding. Vaz ought to be charged with occasioning grievous bodily harm to NIDS.

DIVIDED LOYALTIES

I think it was in 2017 that I proposed to the House of Representatives a motion that reconsideration be given to the section of the constitution dealing with dual citizenship. Of course it was never allowed to be debated. So the controversy, born of abiding psychological and spiritual uncertainty as to what ‘Jamaicaness’ entails, keeps festering like a real sore foot.

Let me predict. For the foreseeable future, more and more loyal Jamaicans are going to inherit or, for eminently practical reasons, attain citizenship in another jurisdiction. It will be to our disadvantage to exclude them, ipso facto, from legislative service. Let us address ways to assess real national commitment rather than apparent divided allegiances.

We must be far more troubled about lawmakers who fail to secure Integrity Commission clearance and who swear to defend the British Raj as the King’s Privy Counsellors than those who inherit foreign citizenship from a parent,

WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?

Who was the Minister in charge of NESOL when the rape of its funds, acknowledged in open court last week, took place ? What ought to be the responsibility of such an officer? And what about the permanent secretary? Aren’t these officials accountable to the public for what goes on under their portfolio? Why the title, the preferments and the illegal blue lights if it’s not you we can hold on to?

PSALM 130 V 3-4

Leroy is an enterprising Jamaican now living in the United States for over twenty years and doing well for himself and his family. He pays taxes regularly but has had to buy his house in somebody else’s name. Don’t ask me how he entered the USA. Many years ago, as a youth in Jamaica, he was involved in a serious crime, was charged, convicted and sentenced. He served his time, rehabilitated himself after years in the criminal factory of our prison system, and later migrated. For a long time, he has been pleading to have his conviction expunged but the vengeful, unforgiving character of our laws has prevented this.

Last week, to his great credit, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck announced the intention to expand the scope of possible expungements. This will be both just and humane. I plead with Cabinet to agree with the widest scope of Chuck’s proposal and given the length of time it takes to get the simplest legislative alteration and the possibility of a change of administration, that Delroy seeks cross-party concensus on the matter so that it will be followed through, despite electoral outcomes.

A PLEA FOR BOYS

Last week too, I attended the opening of the Early Childhood Commission’s annual professional development exercise. The room was filled with happy but grossly underpaid ladies and the entertainment was provided by beautiful, talented little girls. But what about the male teachers needed as role models in this most formative period of personality development? And if little boys are not exposed to the gentle, creative, expressive elements of their culture, how shall they be effectively socialised to be good husbands and baby-fathers? And who will the lovely girls marry to produce the healthy families who, hopefully beneficiaries of a less deformed constitutional structure, alone will make Jamaica great and make His Kingdom come?

Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. He is former member of parliament for Kingston Central and was the minister of education. He is the principal of St Michael’s College at The UWI. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.