Evil, petty politics and Houdini solutions

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, September 02, 2018

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The grains of corn in a bottle get viewed with disdain by the hen. — A Yoruba prover b.


Political tone deafness is rampant in the People's National Party (PNP). Dr Peter Phillips, leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and president of the PNP after more than a year in those positions, continues to commit faux pas which solidify optics of a man who is uncaring, arrogant and very scarily power hunger.


Evil, and the unenlightened

The brutal rape and murder of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis, otherwise called 'Princess', in Arnett Gardens last week reminded those who might have forgot that there are stone cold killers among us. They have ice-water running through their veins.

The outrage of the society was justified. More than outrage for nine days is needed, however. I have said several times in this space and elsewhere that unenlightened self-interest is one of our biggest problems in this country. There are far too many folks who are yet to understand that looking out for thy neighbour's interest is similar to protecting yours. What kind of person hears terrifying cries for rape, but the screams do not trigger the sinews of self-preservation? What kind of person smells the pungent scent, confessedly of burning flesh, but is so tightly locked in the vice-grip of fear that they make no alarm?

Let us not fool ourselves, they live not only in Arnett Gardens, they are all over Jamaica. Mr Lionel Francis, the grief-stricken father of the murdered Yetanya Francis, made a revealing comment in an interview on Nationwide News Network last Monday. When asked why people who might have heard the screams of his daughter did nothing, Francis replied, “We live in a system where everything is hush hush.”

Francis went on to explain that by “system” he meant the realities of living in a garrison community [political enclave]. This system of which Francis speaks hangs over us like dense fog. The residents of St Andrew Southern, and several other communities like it, have been under a state of judgement organised and controlled by criminals for several decades. These criminals maintain control via chronic and slave-like dependencies. Many of the residents in these constituencies are effectively economic and political hostages. That is the “system”. Some may say we are far removed, from the “system,” — no, you are not!

This confession by Latoya Riley, mother of Yetanya Francis, illustrates the danger of unenlightened thinking: “Me never know this would come at my foot. I see them things here on Facebook and news. I never know this would come at my foot.” — Gleaner, August 25, 2018. If we do not help to destroy the system, it will only be a matter of time before it reaches all our doorsteps. To do nothing is not an option.


Recall German theologian, Martin Niemöller's seminal poem:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Jew.


Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Communist.


Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a trade unionist.


Then they came for me

and there was no one left

to speak out for me.


Those who give refuge to criminals need to know that criminals have no friends, just associations of convenience.


Petty, Peter; Petty, PNP

Yetanya Francis, from all accounts, was an academically promising student. Against the background of the tragic circumstances in which she was robbed of her life, Dr Phillips evidently thought it appropriate to indulge in what I believe was political ambulance chasing. There is a type of political hearse-chasing trait that seems to be rapidly engulfing 89 Old Hope Road.

Recall this excerpt from a statement by Fitz Jackson, the PNP's spokesman on national security? “We continue to state that ZOSO (zone of special operations) and SOE (state of emergency) are temporary measures and cannot contain the widespread problem that this nation is facing; yet this Government continues with its public relations gimmicks, pretending that they are taking action while more communities are becoming killing fields.” — Jamaica Observer, April 23, 2018.

An editorial in this newspaper on April, 24 2018, headlined 'Don't sound so gleeful over crime, Mr Fitz Jackson', was spot on in its critique, among other things, of the PNP's apparent gloating at blood and destruction. Maybe Mr Jackson, Dr Phillips and the rest of the PNP do not know that just over 200 fewer Jamaicans have been murdered since the implementation of the ZOSOs and SOEs.

But back to Phillips' most recent tactless political remark. Right-thinking folks were doubtless expecting to hear Dr Phillips say something akin to: tell the police what you know, call crime stop. If you don't trust the police tell me, here is my number, here is the number of your MP, talk to a pastor or someone you personally trust, but for God sake say what you know, do not allow those who did this terrible act to roam freely among law-abiding citizens another 24 hours.

Dr Phillips, instead, used the opportunity to play petty politics and thicken the smog of political desperation which hangs over his and the PNP's head like the Sword of Damocles. “Opposition leader blames ZOSO Operations for teen's murder” — Nationwide News Network, August 27, 2018, shocked many in further outrage. The Nationwide story said, among other things: “The leader of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips, is again criticising the Government's decision to dedicate resources to special security measures around the country, in light of Yetanya's gruesome murder. Dr Phillips toured the community over the weekend and chided the Government for a lack of police resources to secure the area.”

Many months ago, I pointed out that the PNP's communication political strategy is “Say something, anything about everything.” I have been proved right.

How could he? Many asked? I believe he did, because such thoughts are deeply buried in his political nature and are in sync with Chairman Emeritus Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill's dictum: “We believe that it is best for the People's National Party to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.”

“Anything” excludes nothing. Recall this statement by Dr Phillips? “Make sure, Comrades, that the People's National Party is ready to become the Government of Jamaica. Remember is only one [seat] separate us in Parliament and we don't know is which one, whether is one weh a go prison, or is a sick one, or a crazy one, but is one, and any number can play, so get yuhself ready.” Peter Phillips was addressing the constituency conference of St Ann North Western on August 16, 2017. The resemblance between Phillips' utterance in St Ann and Pickersgill's dictum is easy to see. The PNP continues to employ hand-grenade politics, a relic of the 70s. As I have pointed out in previous articles there is a new type of political maturity rippling through a critical mass which has totally escaped 89 Old Hope Road.


Houdini Solutions?

Dr Phillips and the PNP would want us to believe that after they formed Government in 22 of the last 28 years, now in Opposition they have suddenly discovered a magic bullet to solve crime, in particular murders, and simultaneously solve all of Jamaica's problems. This is especially ironic since Dr Phillips was the de facto prime minister between January 5, 2011 and Febraury 25, 2016. Phillips almost choked the economy to death with $58 billion in new taxes.

Recall also that in November 2001, Phillips was appointed minister of national security. He was an abysmal failure: “In 2002, the murder rate moved to 40 per 100,000 and by 2005 it had risen to 64 per 100,000 population, placing Jamaica among nations with the highest murder rates in the world.” [Jamaica Constabulary Force: Police Crime Statistics]. On Phillips' watch murders peaked at 1,674 in 2005. [JCF statistics]


Blame everyone, everything else

The PNP continues to blame media and almost everyone and everything for the fact that Dr Phillips is not gaining noticeable political traction especially among the young. The most recent Don Anderson Polls indicated that. Even some who are very friendly to the PNP are now seeing that the party is deep in political quicksand.

This post on social media on August 27, 2018, by lawyer and public commentator Clyde Williams supports the point: “The Jamaican public has not benefited from a presentation of one piece of well articulated policy option/alternative from the Opp in the two&half years they on those benches. And they expect independent & swing voters to take them serious. Even PNP sympathisers are fed up!” Derrick Kellier, former agriculture minister, summed up the rickety state of his party, inter alia: “We are in a state of flux, we are all about power, personal power, and personal aggrandisement and one-upmanship, that is what we are about.” — Jamaica Observer, May 30, 2016.


Petty Politics Personified

Just when some thought the concentrated political pettiness of the PNP could not get any worse, Fitz Jackson destroyed their shaky hopes last week. His public statements calling for the Government to withdraw neon-yellow painted bikes made him a laughing stock. Jackson says the bikes are in fact green. According to Mr Jackson: “The Opposition objects strongly to the introduction of these green bikes in the fight against crime and warns that their presence would immediately compromise the neutrality and impartiality of the force.

“We are calling for the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and civil society to lend their voices on the issue to ensure that the JCF's appearance as a neutral and impartial organisation is not compromised in any way in our crime-fighting efforts,” Jackson said.” — Jamaica Observer, August 28, 2018. The PNP's political communication strategy [“say something, anything, about everything”], is plastered all over Jackson petty missive.

The PNP seem not to understand that rank political pettiness will not assist them in their hankering for Jamaica House. Their obsession with their political ego is an albatross. Jackson was not even apologetic when this information came to public light: “However, the claim was rubbished by senior cops who said the colour of the bikes will make them easily seen on the streets.

According to the police officers, the colour of the new motorcycles “is in keeping with international standards”, and they pointed to the fleet in Colombia, as well as some of those in the United Kingdom and United States, as examples.

“They also said that the policemen and women who will be operating the motorcycles will be wearing similar colour helmets as well, which would further enhance their visibility.” — Jamaica Observer, August 28, 2018.

He hunkered down and insisted he was right. What a guy?


Honouring Garvey

Most, if not all, Jamaicans would have been delighted at news that the Government has secured the former home of our first National Hero Marcus Garvey for development. This was long overdue.

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.” — Marcus Garvey


— Garfield Higgins is an educator, journalist, and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or

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