A year of milestones and scandals


Thursday, December 27, 2018

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So 2018 is drawing to a close. The many significant milestones in world and local history were drowned out by two horrendously significant events, one being the states of emergency declared in St James and in Spanish Town, St Catherine. The other the Petrojam affair — the latest in a series of scandals over the last two years.

The milestones this year included 180 years since the full emancipation from slavery at the end of the apprenticeship period, 100 years since the end of the First World War, and 80 years since the existence of both the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and the People's National Party. The year 2018 also marked 75 years since the existence of the Jamaica Labour Party.

The University of the West Indies and Empire Windrush, which both commemorated 70 years this year, were total opposites in terms of a method of achieving employment. Jamaicans and other Caribbean people were at long last able to advance in employment opportunities by gaining a university education.

At the same time, hundreds of Jamaicans and other Caribbean people left Jamaica for employment opportunities, primarily because they were poor, oppressed, uneducated, and even totally illiterate in some cases. The migration of hundreds of Jamaicans from our shores between 1948 and 1961 is a contributing factor to our family problems that remain with us until this day.

Unfortunately, the verandah critics who state that it is time that we snap out of it, because 57 years have passed since 'Windrush', came to an end in 1961 do not usually volunteer their services to do something about it so the problem gets worse.

Another year is ending, but who has acted to implement my decades-old proposal that December 26 be kept as a public holiday, but its name changed from Boxing Day to Family Day? In my opinion, nothing has been done because the proposal is not politically 'vote-catching' to either of our two major political parties. Still, encouraging family life is the real key to the social transformation that Jamaica needs if we are to knock the habit of criminality and violence that has been fed by piracy, slavery, the rural urban drift and migration while leaving children behind to suffer.

I wrote last week that a significant difference between the national state of emergency between 1976 and 1977 and the scandalous ones in 2018 is that, despite the cries of injustice in the calling of a general election during the state of emergency, there were no serious complaints about the conditions at Up Park Camp.

One Jamaica Observer online reader correctly stated that there was no public defender then to investigate such conditions. But were complaints about conditions at Up Park Camp highlighted by Pearnel Charles in his book Detained? What about complaints by the other detainees? Were any complaints about the conditions at Up Park Camp mentioned in the commission of enquiry into the 1976-77 State of Public Emergency?

This closing year has been a year of scandals all over the world. There were the sex scandals in the Roman Catholic church. The Roman Catholic church has started to 'clean its own house' and to show that, despite the sins of the 'higher clergy', “the gates of hell shall never prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-19). In his Christmas message to the Roman curia, Pope Francis stated, “Some have not concealed their glee that the church has been hard hit.”

Hopefully in the new year other churches will follow suit and clean their houses also and not wait until the media turn the searchlight on them. I have always argued that the biggest cover for homosexuality and paedophilia is marriage, not celibacy. If the Roman Catholic Church succeeds in thoroughly cleaning its own house, a very hungry international media, in search of scandalous news, will turn on other churches.

In the meantime, other afflictions in the world go unnoticed but have been highlighted by Pope Francis in his Christmas message to the Roman curia when he said, “All those immigrants, forced to leave their own homelands and to risk their lives, lose their lives, or survive only to find doors barred…”

Pope Francis continues: “All that fear and prejudice! All those people, and especially those children who die each day for lack of water, food and medicine! All that poverty and destitution! All that violence directed against the vulnerable and against women! All those theatres of war both declared and undeclared.”

Politically, there have been scandals involving United States President Donald Trump as well as our own Government here in Jamaica. The scandals in the USA that have continued from last year became too much and too large to treat with here. Suffice it to say, most of the scandals surround Trump, who is now set to face all sorts of investigations come January when the newly elected US Congress is sworn in.

The scandals of corruption in Jamaica over the last two years involving the elected Government of the day are without parallel in terms of quantity. Which other two-year period since December 1944 at the start of universal adult suffrage has seen so many scandals of corruption?

The bushing scandal of 2016, the phone bill scandal of 2017, the Mombasa grass scandal of 2017, and the biggest of all the Petrojam scandal have been exposed by the media. Is it that all governments fear that the trend now is for one-term governments so they think it best to grab the booty from early, despite the confidence they exude that they will achieve a second-term victory?

There is one new year resolution that I hope that some of our readers online will make. Please delete abuse from your disagreements and please refrain from creating false premise to criticise what was neither written nor implied.

I wish my readers a Happy New Year!

Michael Burke is a research consultant, historian and current affairs analyst. Send comments to the Observer or

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