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'Prince Anju' in the land of Anancy

Lloyd B
Smith

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

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At present, Andrew Holness is perhaps Jamaica's most astute and clever politician. Having started out as a neophyte who was initially rejected by the electorate (“Call it Anju, call it!”), he reportedly went back to the drawing board and learnt the ropes of how to survive victoriously on the hustings. It is rumoured that, as part of his preparation for being in the winners' circle and first past the post, he studied the strategies and tactics that the People's National Party (PNP) has used to win elections, fine-tuning them to the last detail.

Not surprisingly, Jamaica's most successful and masterful politician, P J Patterson, had earlier reportedly warned the PNP not to take Holness lightly. From all indications, many Comrades took his warning lightly and are today paying the price for underestimating his political cunning.

Having staved off the challenge of Audley Shaw for leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), “Prince Anju” had to solidify his hold on the party as he well knew that within the ranks of Alexander Bustamante's party there were those, especially in the high echelons of the business community, who saw him as a “hurry come up”. In other words, he was from the other side of the railroad track, not having attended one of the prestigious, traditional high schools and hailing from a working class family background.

His latest sleight of hand by parachuting Rhodes scholar Dr Nigel Clarke into Derrick Smith's stronghold JLP seat of St Andrew North Western, despite the outgoing, dyed-in-the wool senior Labourite's protestations, is yet another strategic move on his part to solidify his loyalty base. And already speculations abound that Clarke is being groomed to be the next minister of finance — he cannot be placed in that position as a senator — as it is alleged that he has much respect in the international financial marketplace inclusive of the International Monetary Fund.

In the meantime, the expectation that Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid will head to the Dayton Campbell-held seat in St Ann when the time is right is yet another indication that Andrew Holness is a man bent on a mission of making the JLP his personal fiefdom sufficiently populated with loyalists so that he does not have to waste much time and energy warding off the long knives that have remained sharpened and held in toe to thrust into his back should he fail to deliver victory after victory at the polls.

From all indications, a general election is more than likely to be held as early as next year if not before. My reasoning is that should the economy continue to have lukewarm growth and the crime monster is not sufficiently tamed, despite the zones of special operations and the state of public emergency, then Prime Minister Andrew Holness may well have to seek a new mandate from the people. A longer stay at the wicket may also necessitate a few more by-elections that could prove very costly in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, the JLP leader's vacillation with respect to shuffling his Cabinet would suggest that there is some discontent and apprehension in the “green camp” because, apart from holding on to the best pension offers, some of the old guard may not relish the thought of going to the back bench or being placed in a ministry that is similar to being shunted to Never-never land.

Holness's previous promise of giving his ministers job descriptions clearly did not happen because “man a man”. After all, a job description would have performance criteria that may include consequences. In any event, what is good for the goose must be good for the gander, so the prime minister would also be required to declare his job description and ask not only his inner circle but the nation at large to evaluate his performance.

Which brings me to the prime minister's latest blunder with regard to the appointment of an acting chief justice. Being an accomplished actor myself, I can well understand that the eminent jurist may be required not only to please his audience, but every play has a director and a producer who expect maximum “returns” on their “investment”. Surely Holness should convince himself, sooner than later, that such 'theatrics', do not befit the true letter of the Jamaican Constitution so he should act post haste to fully ensconce Justice Bryan Sykes in his hallowed seat. Perhaps he should consult with his former mentor and the man who helped to engineer his ascendancy in the JLP, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, on this matter; because in his National Democratic Movement heyday the erudite Golding espoused separation of powers, which insists that the judiciary and executive should be a case of east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet.

Jamaica's political culture is steeped in Anancyism with many politicians embracing the principles and practices of that legendary master trickster. If we chronicle Holness's “eucalyptus oil saga”, pre-signed resignation letters regarding appointment to the Senate, promising the electorate that if the JLP were elected then citizens could go to bed with their doors and windows open at nights, the highly touted “5 in 4”, and I could go on, it is becoming increasingly clear that Prince Anju may have been bitten by that crafty spider and, in this case, he may not necessarily end up being the invincible Spiderman!

Prince Anju currently enjoys much goodwill among the Jamaican people. He is young, feisty at times, millennial and astute, but he could squander all of that positive vibe by continuing to appear to be the latest convert to Anancyism. So far, the Opposition People's National Party has been too soft on Prince Anju, allowing him to run roughshod over them in many instances. Perhaps it is time that “Peter the Pragmatic” come forward and put a dent or two in his armour so as to ensure that our parliamentary democracy does not become moribund or, even worse, descend into a petty dictatorship.

Lloyd B Smith is a veteran newspaper editor and publisher who has resided in Montego Bay for most of his life, where he is popularly known as “The Governor”. Send comments to the Observer or lbsmith4@gmail.com.

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