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Mark Wignall | Can the JLP rooster handle the front yard?

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2023 | 12:06 AM
A Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member rings a bell at Lodge Hall for the JLP Area Council One Meeting, Central Kingston.
A Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member rings a bell at Lodge Hall for the JLP Area Council One Meeting, Central Kingston.
Passengers from a minibus being searched at a checkpoint at Wiltshire in Greenwood, St James by members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in this May photo.
Passengers from a minibus being searched at a checkpoint at Wiltshire in Greenwood, St James by members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in this May photo.

Today (November 26), the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will be dead sure that all of the shouting and crowing will be a fitting prelude to another official attempt to seal the Opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) place as king of the backyard of our politics.

In mid last year, polls were showing the PNP leading the JLP by five points, and the favourability rating of both leaders statistically tied at a little over 50 per cent. If both the JLP and the PNP were roosters pecking at cut-up dry coconut in the backyard, I cannot see those poll numbers as empowering anyone of them to graduate to the front yard and feast on shelled-out dry corn.

Both the JLP and the PNP still need to spend more time navigating backyard politics. As the party holding governmental power, the JLP, quite obviously, has the tougher job. In a cynical moment one could say that in general, the PNP’s position on any critical policy matter must run counter to any issue that the JLP supports.

Both political parties would dearly love to see Jamaica lift itself out of the damaging quagmire of 1,000 plus killings each year, a terrible spell seemingly cast on us by an avenging angel and dooming us to accept it and say the JLP and the PNP have no solutions.

Both political parties would love to see our GDP per capita, which hovers somewhere around US$5,000, move to US$20,000 per annum. We did not somehow fall into this reverse manna from hell overnight. We are used to this. We have cultivated it. And, sadly, we do not expect better to come because, since Independence, we have conspired with each other, the fates, and abysmal political leadership to keep murders high and our earnings low.

To hear the JLP stalwarts (some of who are my bredrin), tell it today at the National Arena, the JLP roosters will be crowing in the front yard while PNP President Mark Golding will be leading his team of feathered friends to make more time with the little in the backyard. And maybe going to roost early.

General Secretary Horace Chang is not defending the sticking points of small issues. He wants us to think big, to increase our earnings and to feel proud about it.

“And that’s where the prime minister has to direct the country. If we keep defending the minor issues, we’re going to get stuck. We have to get out of the pothole and move forward on the highway. That is what the prime minister is responsible to do,” he says.

That approach is a rocky road, essentially saying, ‘Forget about fixing the broken window. Let’s install the elevators’. I understand him, though. Our name is Jamaica, our global footprint is large and, as proud as we are, our options are limited.


In the late 1990s, a senior policeman tried to put me under pressure into divulging a source on a certain criminal matter. I had written about the matter and the policeman visited me and said that his info squared with what I wrote,

He then stupidly suggested that, if I gave him the name of my source, it would help his case. I could understand that, but there was no way I would be naming my source. He threatened me by saying, “I am the police and I always get the info I need.”

Obviously, I wrote about that. The commissioner called me and apologised. He asked the cop to do the same and he did. For some strange reason, he was transferred to a station somewhere in Hanover.

I say that to highlight that areas once considered quiet and ‘dead’ are now considered hotspots of violent criminality and shooting deaths.

I first visited Montego Bay in 1971 when I was fresh and green at 21 and remarkably stupid for my age. I overnighted at a small, quiet community called Glendevon, now part of the troubled Montego Hills division.

Even in the dying days of the famous Jazz and Blues Festival, many areas in Trelawny were sedate and socially safe. Parts of Falmouth which were hidden behind the main road were ghettoes, but I felt safe enough to wander there, link up with complete strangers (mostly underemployed young men), and lime with them.

Now, many of those areas are bounded by states of emergency (SOEs). The JLP Government is trapped in this. The security arm of the government is caught up in a vice. The criminals have become wise to the SOEs. The people can only feel safe with SOEs. The best and easiest option? Another SOE, although it’s merely a pause and a calm before another storm.


Based on the number of times the cash carrier Beryllium has come under fire while its guards are at ATMs and banking entities, were I a younger person and up for adventure, the Beryllium bosses would have to pay me $200,000 per week. Of course, that demand would only have legs if the majority of the guards joined the pressure team.

Recently, it was reported that an accident took place within a Beryllium team when a shotgun fell and wounded bystanders. Sheer nerves, I believe. How do they operate on the job, at home?

This country has many unresolved issues in dealing with violent criminality and shootings. The things we do to our children on a daily basis ought to leave us feeling inhuman. Not all of our children can live in gated communities. Many of our people, our children, live in areas easily prone to raids while gang members are in a mad rush to kill off each other.

Prime Minister Holness and Security Minister Horace Chang would be well advised not to get too deep on matters involving our children. Too much of the chatter would have to be classified as pure and empty politics, fit only for the inebriated crowd at the Arena.

Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.