Fri | Oct 22, 2021

Ronald Thwaites | Teefing pickney food

Published:Monday | September 27, 2021 | 12:06 AM
Nutrition Products Limited is embroiled in allegations of financial and procurement impropriety.
Nutrition Products Limited is embroiled in allegations of financial and procurement impropriety.

That is the essence of what has been happening at Nutrition Products Company (NPL), the government agency which is tasked to produce some of the food items which at least a half of our schoolchildren desperately need, if their lives are not to be...

That is the essence of what has been happening at Nutrition Products Company (NPL), the government agency which is tasked to produce some of the food items which at least a half of our schoolchildren desperately need, if their lives are not to be further stunted.

Just read the auditor general’s report published last week. Whatever the money allocated year after year, the party satraps and their concubines control the jobs and contracts and nyam off the resources designed to feed hungry pickney.

This is criminal, alms-house corruption of the lowest sort. And it has been presided over by a board of directors which includes sitting members of parliament, councillors and other green faithfuls, appointed by a minister who, despite doing no work at his substantive job for years, is still receiving pay from the tax contributions of the same bruk-pocket parents whose children are deprived of the nutrition they need to learn.

The public has become accustomed to instances of outright corruption or state malfeasance surfacing every month or so, but this one is especially bad. It is a particular act of cruelty to box food out of children’s mouths.

And if you are a board member drawing substantial fees, you can’t claim you never knew what was going on. Truth is, you are a knowing or unknowing conspirator in the rape.

This when sugar is being sold by the teaspoonful for five dollars; when a flock of decorative peacocks are stolen for their meat while the farmer down my road was relieved of every bunch of plantains on his small holding, most likely by outta-school youths scavenging for food.

DESPAIRED OF POLITICAL PROCESS

Do we have to guess why Don Anderson finds that increasing numbers of the electorate have despaired of the political process? At what point does a government lose legitimacy, no matter how many seats they occupy in Parliament? For a frightening number of Jamaicans, that’s how they see the state apparatus now – little usefulness, and therefore, coercion is the only remaining claim to legitimacy.

The plunder of state resources at NPL and elsewhere goes on while EPOC (where have they been?) declares that recovery is going well, seemingly satisfied that their narrow remit is all that matters.

Then divestment of NPL is proposed as a salvation (likely to the same plunderers). Implicitly, the nobility and capacity of statecraft is discredited. No one notices. Few care. And the price of the nutrition and milk to the children will surely increase.

Inadequate school canteens will be passed off as an alternative, and the brilliant idea of J.C. Hutchinson to use surplus agricultural produce for school feeding will be abandoned for good. The food importers will be happy, though.

Catch the rake. Billions of tax dollars, beyond expectation, are being sucked out of poor people’s pockets; public spending is restrained, and uncollected garbage soon rival COVID-19 as a public health crisis.

Scamming and laundering abound, productivity is stagnant, but the macroeconomic figures add up nicely and the mawga scab of investors at the apex of the economy are raking it in like never before.

High-rise raise up where great house used to be. Ghetto replace slave barracks.

A so it set! This system of political economy can’t deliver fairness and opportunity for the majority of Jamaicans. Simple.

A cautionary word to all of us leaders and influence peddlers:

“Listen you leaders of the House of Jacob (read Parliament). You princes of the House of Israel (read Cabinet, et al). Surely you are ought to know what is right ... . Do not love what is evil, skinning people alive, pulling the flesh off their bones ... chopping them like meat for the stew. Then you call upon the Lord but he will not answer you ... because of the crimes committed.” (Micah 3:1-4)

REOPENING SCHOOLS

This is to encourage the heads of all the churches and trusts who own and sponsor schools in Jamaica, along with their respective boards, to act in unison to reopen, without delay, all their institutions for students and teachers who are vaccinated or who, by virtue of their young age are least susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

They should do so with the guidance of the Ministry of Health and Wellness (as several of the private schools have already done) and utilise the guidelines which epidemiologists like Professor Figueroa can prescribe for safe resumption of face-to- face interaction.

It is appropriate that the church schools take this responsible initiative, which has now become a moral imperative. To put it very mildly, the continuance of on-line schooling is not working. The statistic indicating stagnant broadband coverage is just one element of proof. The spiritual, social and educational deficits must not be ignored by people of conscience.

We are going to have to live with COVID-19 for a long time. There may have to be occasions of stop and start. Staggered attendance, careful adherence to protocols, massive expansion of school social workers, breakfast and lunch provision, and dedicated transportation are surmountable challenges which all speak to the cura personalis, the care of the person, which is the essence of religious-inspired education.

Church school boards will not be law-breakers, but they have much more legal autonomy, moral obligation and political clout than has been apparent. It is time that the spirit of fear, waiting for someone else to make the first move, be replaced with prudent courage.

“They will be gripped with fear when there is no need to fear.” (Psalm 14:5)

Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.