Fri | Dec 8, 2023

Mark Wignall | Holding back the tyrants

Published:Sunday | September 17, 2023 | 12:12 AM
A JDF soldier walks by the burnt remains of a house in Walkers Avenue, Gregory Park. A number of houses were set on fire allegedly by gang members.
A JDF soldier walks by the burnt remains of a house in Walkers Avenue, Gregory Park. A number of houses were set on fire allegedly by gang members.

Sociologists and medical specialists who are experts in studying the human condition are quite familiar with the sentiment as best expressed in the old 1969 film, The Desperate Mission.

“Freedom is a powerful wine. It makes new tyrants out of old slaves.” Many decades before 1962, the newly freed slave was just as likely to torch the barracks and sleep in the canepiece as he was to see the barracks as the first waystation to embarking on and savouring his new freedoms.

In his inaugural address to the nation after his general election nail-biting win in 2007, Bruce Golding saw Jamaica as a place “... where everyone might not be rich but no one has to be poor.” The major parts of any political party’s manifesto are tied up in those simple words.

Of all of the important items of human development seen as crucial in 1962, it seems to me that we never quite launched the book about managing our freedoms. Or, various leaders had tried, and it was easier to simply admit that we were generationally belligerent and close to ungovernable while embarking on the same old, worn, tired fixes.

How, for example, could we fix Chen Chen? While Chen Chen (Bashington Douglas) was a wanted man and living on the edge in a small hut on a grassy rise in a quiet, deep rural Clarendon community, I met with him and listened to his array of woes, on him as a child and by him as an adult.

From when he was about eight years of age, each year violence was his usual visitation. House torched, father, grandfather shot dead, community torched. His gun became a friend. Politicians knew that there could not be any development of the human until radical change swept through dense, inner-city areas where people like Chen Chen had their hatching but no nurturing or grooming.

And that was a bigger part of the problem. For many years in the 1970s and as the years raced towards the 2000s, many politicians found that it was easier to do business with the leader of the criminal network in the power centre of the political community than launch dozens of ‘people development projects’ mired in red tape and corruption.

In doing that, the hope was that the gun-toting youngsters would feed off some of the government contracts while some politicians and rogue policemen would allow these dons to widen their wings in drug running and take the pressure off the politician. In time, some politicians even developed a desire to eat. Off lottery scamming and, for the low-level politician, extortion.

The ideal is to lessen the tyrant population and increase the population of those bright enough to savour their freedoms and become our new leaders.


Sources close to the Gregory Park community are speaking of matters of much concern from the troubled area.

“There is concern because of the voices and the fury being expressed in certain quarters. Some are saying that after the funeral of the fire victims there will be revenge.

“Mr Wignall,” she said, “there is only a mobile police unit passing through the community now and then. Sir, that is not enough. A permanent presence like a ZOSO or a substation located in the community is needed.”

Those who can move are quietly moving out. Their lives are about to face another round of disruption. Others can’t pass some areas, causing all forms of anguish. The so-called back to normal is a formula for more hurt.


A week after the ruling JLP had awarded itself massive increases in pay for just about all politicians, the lady told me she had had it with the JLP. “Mark, dem can count me out.”

Last Thursday, it seemed she had adjusted her viewpoint. Not exactly 180 degrees but getting there. ‘Is wha wrong wid di PNP. Dem lick dem head? Dem will neva win any election wid dem fool-fool antics. Pure eediat ting a gwaan.’

The Opposition PNP had seemingly wandered on to the cricket field, and while it was waving to a friend, it accidentally caught a ball and instantly, its electoral chances changed. I submitted column on Thursday early evening and I have not seen any recent poll numbers to guide me to a new understanding of the PNP’s electoral fortunes.

Not so long ago, the man who is general secretary of the PNP made wild and highly irresponsible accusations at Nationwide. While no connection was drawn, what we do know is that a lone gunman shot up Nationwide car in carpark. Luckily, no one was harmed but, I can vouch for the trauma felt. I just know.

Perception is a bummer. If large numbers of people conclude that the words spoken by the gen sec were highly irresponsible and then they hear the sound of gunshots, the response of the potential voters could begin to take a southwards spiral. The PNP has been around long enough to know that.

When one adds to the list the PNP president making a fool of himself in a skit supposed to show new tyrant and old slave or, something, something … designed to capture in the minds of the public, the PNP’s misreading of its need to try too hard to get a new laugh?


“Mark, when I sold my house in Meadowbrook I lodged US$80,000 in SSL. I have never heard back a word from the company. I am 81 years old and I would like to know if I will ever see any of my money again.”

The feeling is that well-known names like Mr Usain Bolt are deserving of recovering their funds or securing justiciable rights in the courts. The other man’s life now hovers around US$80,000 that is his, but now he has no idea if he will be able to even dream about it.

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