Wed | Jun 26, 2019

Mark Wignall | Oh no, not you Ruel

Published:Sunday | March 24, 2019 | 12:16 AM
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Prime Minister Andrew Holness has his hands full, and, coming out of the Petrojam scandal and national fiasco, the late-night punch that Education Minister Ruel Reid has currently hurled his way was purely not needed.

I thought Ruel Reid was Christian.

In my stupid imaginings, I was made to believe that since Mr Reid was the principal of one of Jamaica’s most known elite high schools and he knew that at the time of his birth, his black skin could not get him into Jamaica College (JC), that school that he led much later would have obviously led him to be a man that had his historical perspectives in an understandable narrative.

I suspect I may have read Mr Reid wrongly. And let me state here that although the allegations against the disgraced minister do not lead us to believe that Reid was overcharged on decency and plainly doing the ‘right thing’, what has, so far, been alleged do not make him look in any way good.

The average Jamaican – meaning the man or woman that you would see at the corner of a shop in a cramped inner-city pocket or the other Jamaican that you would sit with, eat expensive steak and drink French wine with – understands the socio economic landscape.

And that is, Jamaica is a supremely corrupt country.

At one level, I am encouraged that PM Holness is not iffing and butting but, guess what, it happened.

The question is, where do we go from here, considering that Jamaica has now found itself in a place where its socioeconomic future looks much better than it seems, like 15 years ago, when we were constantly sinking into an economic quagmire.

The mushroom cloud that erupted over Petrojam after that scandal was revealed, in part, was thought to be the worst that many had seen.

In truth, this country is firmly in the corner of those who would like to divest themselves of the rules and cut corners.

In plain language, that is not the way to run a country and grow it out of its social and economic problems.

PM Holness, new iteration is needed now.

RADICAL CHANGE IS A MUST

There is one major standout difference in how the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) administrations deal with scandals when they hold power.

As an example, Ronnie Thwaites was forced to divest himself, not of his sacred raiments as a confirmed Catholic Deacon before the 2002 election, which the PNP won, but as a political representative.

Ronnie Thwaites was always a special man in Jamaica. First, he is white skinned. Second thing is, he is a member of the most powerful church in Jamaica, second only to the Seventh-Day Adventists. And third, but by no means last, Thwaites is a politician and, Lord knows, an attorney-at-law.

Having worked his way into the psyche of many Jamaicans during his run as a talk show host, there would be few who would want to believe that Thwaites was anything but angelic.

After I wrote a column in 2002, which had arrows pointed his way, he resigned and even his prime minister, P.J. Patterson, is on record as wishing him well and giving him time to solve his personal financial problems.

But, guess what? That same man returned to be one of Jamaica’s education ministers under the PNP government.

PM Holness, radical change is a must.

The big problem bugging the prime minister at this time is that he is constantly finding that he is ideologically left of the Opposition PNP and he is not so sure how to navigate the conservative JLP through these times.

Having gone through the storm winds of Petrojam, he must now stand firm in the tornado winds of the Ruel Reid scandal.

The radical change that Holness must make now is to go back to the days when his mentor, Eddie Seaga, when he was PM in the 1980s, trusted not a single one of his ministers. Or, to put it more finely, he trusted all of them but knew that among them, corruption would always rear its ugly head.

The big problem with that is that it forced Seaga to be a statist in his run from October 1980 to February 1989. Seaga knew that if his nose and his ears and his imagination were not in every ministry, dem woulda nyam dung di shop.

And, sensible Jamaicans would understand that it is not political. It is just purely Jamaican, where corruption is a part of the paintwork of the canvas that best describes us.

GO TO THE STREETS FOR CORRUPTION

Unlike the PNP, which tends to sweep its corruption under the carpet, Holness has been upfront and unafraid of exposing the corruption in his own tribe. But, at this time, one is not so sure how the exposure of corruption may impact Holness, his government and, the by-election in East Portland on April 4, which both parties need to win. Urgently.

Rural voters have long processed national matters different from how urban and suburban households look at them. But that was the situation 20 years ago. At this time, every one has a cell phone and the poorest of Jamaicans, in urban, inner-city settings and in rural hillside community and small towns, many of them have a smart phone in their possession.

The question is therefore this: Do we as a people across gully bank, high rise, gated, and rural process info similarly?

If that is happening, this country and many others across the globe, will be having an upsetting experience. That of painful similarity in how we process information.

Prime Minister Holness needs to step up. Again. He will have no rest. He is going to find that he is the one called to give his present political life in the cause of all that he would like to see attained for this country in the near future.

The politics of normal must be put to rest right now, PM Holness.

POLICEMAN ZULU, END YOUR CORRUPTION NOW

He is by no means named Zulu but I am certain that all of those taxi drivers whose cars have been seized, stalled, taken in and the drivers harassed, know the game.

The policeman has 10 route taxis on the road and on a daily basis he has two modes. The first is to ensure that he rewards the regular traffic cops for allowing his ‘mad drivers’ free rein on the route to Half-Way-Tree. The second is to collect from other drivers if they want to buy into his mad driving mode.

What that means is, if they pay him $300 per day per car, he can guarantee them that their cars will be free to break every road traffic rule and get away with the dangerous acts with absolute surety that they will get away with breaking the law on a daily basis.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) knows of it and nothing is done about it. Senior policemen know of it and nothing is done about it. But, there is a reason for that. The policeman who owns the route taxis is also a man who can guarantee that if a criminal robs your place or his cronies commit murder, his violence is superior to yours. And, many love him.

And, therefore, if he is loved, can he ever be corrupt?

Last week, a policeman stopped me. He said I had broken a stop sign. Indeed, I really did.

In an area at the top of Elizabeth Avenue where, from the end of a cul-de-sac, hardly any traffic emanates there. As he went through my papers, I told him how I loved what he was doing and asked him how would he prefer I represent him, as I would write glowing things about him in The Gleaner.

He looked around and handed my papers back to me, as I told him to enjoy his day.

Was I corrupt?

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