Thu | Jun 20, 2024

Mark Wignall | Start the rescue plan now, Mr Holness

Published:Sunday | March 31, 2024 | 12:07 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness delivers his contribution to the 2024/25 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on March 21.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness delivers his contribution to the 2024/25 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on March 21.

To watch the devolution of a party whose effective governance was on full display during the peak of COVID-19 in just about all of 2020 is painful. That was just four years ago. But, let us jump the gun. The political and governance concerns require this.

Let us make reference to the Speaker of the House right now. And make a reasonable deduction. It is fair to say we know why she did not table the auditor general (AuG) reports in Parliament before the local elections. If she had done so the People’s National Party (PNP) would have had a field day with all the findings by the AuG, especially in one of the reports.

Hindsight tells us that in the last month before the February 26 elections a significant percentage of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) 2020 voters had decided to place voting as something of minor relevance to their lives. Knowing that, the campaign bigwigs wanted nothing negative to add to the voter apathy.

Certainly not reports from the AuG stating, “Friends and persons being placed in positions for which they were not qualified”. This has been the face of Jamaican politics from about 1972. To be cynical, the economy was quite buoyant and there were still sufficient funds left over from the 1960s for the political raiders to raid.

Improper disciplinary procedures to “victimise unfavoured persons”. One becomes unfavoured if the person fails the latest party colour test.

Would we not be foolish to declare that the refusal of the Speaker to release those reports were of her own volition? No private committee ensuring that the negatives disappear?

Notwithstanding the granular explanation from Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), the audit outlined that TAJ was seeking a property to relocate its tax office in St Mary, and it is alleged that the member of parliament (MP), through his private company, bought a commercial building within a few metres from the existing tax office, which was subsequently rented to TAJ for approximately J$700,000 per month.

The said sitting MP, through a company in Annotto Bay, has been paid $700,000 per month by TAJ, which has paid over in total $400 million over three years. And the building is still empty. Would I be crying were I that MP? Certainly not.

What I found strange coming from the AuG’s report is this, “...she saw no evidence to substantiate the allegation that the sitting MP interfered with the procurement process.” That is almost as if she is averring that the minister went to bed one Sunday night. When he awoke the Monday morning he found that he was blessed with a favourable and lucrative lease.

RELEASE MRS HOLNESS, PLEASE

I cannot see any favourable outcomes for the JLP government with Mrs Holness, wife of the prime minister, retaining the Speaker chair.

First, she is in trouble in her constituency. For about two years now I have been told by various residents that her representation was subpar. She needs to hit the dirt and learn from the late Shahine Robinson. A part of her winning strategy in North East St Ann was to walk to every gate in the constituency if she wanted to evict the PNP ‘ownership’ Boogeyman. And she repeated it every election season. Someone should bottle the Shahine seasoning and sell it.

Mrs Holness gave away her hand of nervousness when she berated the Clerk of the House when she had no business doing so. All while the third umpire was examining the details to see if her wickets had been breached.

Many were not expecting that the wife of the PM in her official capacity as Speaker of the House would so openly beat up on a female civil servant simply because the lady was seen as the weakest link.

THE WORLD HATES HAITI

My late father visited Haiti in the early 1960s. Stuck in my mind is a story he told me which brought home most forcefully the state of Haitian poverty. A woman was close to the slummy side of a waterfront. She was defecating in the water while pigs were making it hard for her to do so.

When Aristide visited and vacationed briefly in Jamaica at the gracious invitation of then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, polls showed that Jamaicans were not in favour of the visit. So well told was the decades-long narrative that somehow, the safest bet to make of the Haitian people was that they were cursed and deserving of their wretched state.

I have spoken to Jamaicans living in various parts of the Tri State areas of New York and the bit and pieces I get from them tells me that many do not fancy the Haitians. There is just a strong pre-judgement of them.

The global religious community has as its core piety and benevolence. And yet, knowing the 122 year-gunboat diplomacy of their political partners in wrongdoing, there has never been a strident acceptance that global powers like France and the US need to yield to the power of conscience. A meaningless word in diplomatic circles.

France and the US need not yield to anyone because they have battleships, aircraft carriers and huge bombs. Haitians only have pleas and starvation and crime and thuggery.

Just before he arrived in Jamaica in 2004, it was a man of colour that the Americans used to convince Aristide to leave his country and the region. General Colin Powell.

I cannot say that the Haiti hate still exists among our Jamaican brothers and sisters. But, the fact is, a mountain of love can do little for Haiti. Those who will least help Haiti are those who did the most to create the great slum that it is in 2024.

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