Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Mark Wignall | The JLP and its foolish fiddling

Published:Sunday | February 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM

It doesn’t take a professor’s scrutiny of history to recognise the role of beautiful women and their placement in strategic affairs in stoking wars between countries or in bringing ruin to powerful civilizations.

Which, of course, does not mean that all women who have been blessed with good looks and who have occupied key positions at various times have all been devils.

Before a face was given to the outgoing HRD manager at Petrojam, all the nation knew was that there were questions over whether she was academically or professionally qualified for her high-paying post at the state-owned oil company.

Once her face was shown, there were many among the cynics who scratched their chin, came to an early conclusion, and said to themselves in the most eloquent term available to them, ‘Hmm’.

It seems quite obvious to me that Yolande Ramharrack was both a mix of beauty and brains even if, according to her falling short on the job-qualification-roster, she was not exactly a female version of Albert Einstein.

When one adds to the equation the very real fact of Jamaican women making inroads into middle and top management like no other set of women worldwide, one part of us wants to say, ‘Good for you, lady’.

But when the atrocious bumbling of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is placed alongside the shifting accounts of Ramharrack’s tenure, performance, payout, and power, as outlined in Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), it seems obvious to me that the lady did not solely knock on the gate at Petrojam seeking a job, and when no one answered, she bulldozed her way through and gave herself the well-paying job she enjoyed, brief though it was.

Nothing has so far been established, or even imputed, that her entrance on to the payroll of Petrojam at a rate of pay higher than a government minister was generated by a red-carpet passage into the grounds of Petrojam.

That said, just about everyone in Jamaica knows that securing certain jobs on the government’s payroll requires one to know someone who knows someone who wields awesome power in politics and government. And that is even if one has two PhDs and is on the verge of converting water into gasolene.

It must never be seen as a black mark against Ms. Ramharrack if she knew someone powerful and parlayed that contact to secure the job she had. I congratulate her for that if that was how it played out.

What irks me, though, is the bits and pieces of the story and the JLP making it appear that the People’s National Party (PNP) members on the PAC had to be quite aggressive dental professionals, excavating the area around a molar to extract that troublesome and painful tooth.

Why did the prime minister allow himself to come off looking uncomfortable as he doled out the story in increasing chapters of intrigue and embarrassment?


At that troubling time in mid-2010 when every political watcher in Jamaica saw Prime Minister Bruce Golding sending his well-loved JLP down a chute of no political return, the word on the street was ‘him know something’ and ‘dem know something’.

In 2019, with the fallout from Petrojam and the now-popular name Ramharrack, the responses on the street are a bit different, and, to add complexity to it, they are a bit the same.

In 2010, most people were saying that the JLP government had been lying in bed for too long with the criminal and brutal don of Tivoli Gardens to just willingly give him up to the demands of the United States authorities.

At this time, the thing that hurts people the most is that this JLP administration promised them a cleaning of the corrupt system, and the people believed it, but it is pretty much the same as before.

People at street level are not that taken up with the lady’s earnings as much as they are saying that she must have been well connected inside. And, close to the very top. I am certain polls will pick this up.

A few of us are still in the mode to remember the prime minister’s promise of openness and accountability and the fight against corruption. I have begun to ask myself if the PM believes he was given a 10-year contract when he won the February 2016 election.

Does Prime Minister Andrew Holness sincerely believe that the perceived leadership failures of Opposition leader Dr Peter Phillips will carry the JLP through a raft of scandals like that of Petrojam and that the people will make a decision to see a leadership failure as worse than the embarrassing and horrible Petrojam debacle?

It is my understanding that the recent polls being published by the Jamaica Observer do not include any question on party strengths. I made attempts to use my contacts with people who work with The Observer, and they were so tight-lipped that I felt that they utterly disliked me. “Nothing like that Mark,” said Editor Vernon Davidson to me last Thursday. “But certain things we have to keep to ourselves.”


As Bruce Golding was chugging his way in 2010 through the Manatt matter at the time when the Americans had told us that they wanted the JLP-connected Dudus on multiple criminal matters, one person who was close to him said to me at the time, “All he had to do was make a quick decision, but he has to go back into his mind too many times.”

And that tendency of Bruce Golding, a very bright individual and Jamaica’s PM at the time, to go back into his mind too many times, made the JLP the first one-term government from 2007 to 2011.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has finally found the perfect person to hand off the full attachments of the energy ministry to: the quiet and very efficient Fayval Williams.

My question is this: is the PM handing over to the lady a new responsibility, or is he trying to wash his hands of daring to believe that he could have taken on an energy ministry that had Petrojam under its umbrella?

What will the JLP do if in another two months, another scandal erupts out of the same scandal-plagued entity? Will they say it was the new minister’s fault?

If there is a great shame that this nation must wake up to and accept, it has to be more than the possibility that many other government entities are operating in the same basic way as Petrojam. The budget may not be as large, and the people may not be as photogenic, but it is highly likely that the general behaviour and the lack of controls are pretty much the same.

And what does this tell us about our country? It tells us that curry goat fests are not only kept behind zinc fences and at beaches on weekends or in urban inner city settings when the music and the pretty girls show up.

Many people in Jamaica made an investment of faith in Andrew Holness in early 2016. There was the investment, and it was couched in faith because they had only made a glimpse of him once. That last time in 2011 when he told the truth about bitter medicine, lost an election, and remade himself.

Those very same people are now staring at the prime minister and are saying to him, what is it that you brought to the table that is better than and different than those who were there before you and those who we rejected and gave you power?

They are asking the prime minister to single out himself and show where he is the change agent. If he is not, then they want to say to him, we have seen the actions already, PM. We are waiting.

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to and