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PNP wants us to believe it is a party of moral rectitude...LOL!

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, December 02, 2018

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Hair will grow on the neck of a child who doesn't listen. — Bemba proverb, Zambia

The People's National Party (PNP) has yet to apologise for the sordid 1976 State of Emergency which lasted from June 1976 to June 1977 and the dreaded Green Bay Massacre in 1978. These are just two of the many atrocities that have happened on the PNP's watch. In the absence of necessary atonement, the PNP is today attempting to don the cloak of a moral superstar. This is additional confirmation that 89 Old Hope Road is still in need of political group therapy.

Trampling upon human rights

Recall that former Prime Minister Michael Manley told Parliament in 1976 that “new and unique types of violence” [Hansard] had been imported into Jamaica and, therefore, the need for a state of emergency. This was declared on June 19, 1976. Scores of Jamaicans, many of the them Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters, were locked up, beaten and imprisoned. Some were killed. Dozens were forced to flee their homeland in order to save life and limb.

Recall that a commission of enquiry headed by the then chief justice, Kenneth Smith, was set up to look into the 1976 State of Emergency. The findings of the Smith Commission revealed that the state of emergency's calling was predicated upon the facilitation of political opportunism and not bona fide concerns about national security. The Smith Commission also uncovered that the heads of both intelligence agencies of government — the Special Branch of the police force and the Military Intelligence Unit (MIU) of the Jamaica Defence Force — never advised Manley of any potential threat to national security during Carifesta and, indeed, Deputy Commissioner Curtis Griffiths, head of the Special Branch, testified to the commission that he knew nothing about the intention to declare a state of emergency; he read of it in the press, although he was the chief intelligence officer of government. Captain Carl Marsh, in charge of the MIU, also gave eye-opening testimony. He advised that there was no need for a state of emergency. The records are available at the Institute of Jamaica and The University of the West Indies, Mona archives.

Manley and the PNP knew by 1975 that they were headed for a massive electoral defeat. In previous articles I presented incontrovertible evidence of the economic and social turmoil that Manley wrought upon Jamaica. With an approaching election, Manley and the PNP manufactured a grand scheme to suppress dissent and silence many of the dissenters. The “rough beast” [taken from, The Second Coming by W B Yeats] was the 1976 State of Emergency. In the weeks and days preceding the December 15, 1976 General Election several key Jamaica Labour Party people, including Olivia “Babsy” Grange and Pearnel Charles were detained. Charles was jailed for almost a year.

The putrid entrails of the 1976 State of Emergency were devoured in the Green Bay Massacre. Recall members of the Jamaica Defence Force's MIU went into Southside, which was an area of Kingston Central — then the constituency of Michael Manley. Southside was, however, an enclave of the JLP. The army personnel spent upwards of two months gaining the confidence of young, unemployed men. The dispossessed men were promised jobs at $300 per week. This was an awful lot of money for a poor 'yute' to earn per week in 1978. Army personnel lured some of those whose confidence they had won into ambulances and took them out to the army shooting range at Green Bay in St Catherine, where a platoon of soldiers waited. Five of our citizens were slaughtered after bullets from a general-purpose machine gun rained bullets on them. Two escaped. According to the army, they came upon the men offloading a shipment of guns at around midday.

The Green Bay Massacre was one of the darkest days as regard the abuse of human rights in this country. Some political historians would want us to believe that Manley and the PNP should be exempt from ultimate responsibility for Green Bay. Not so! Green Bay was the germination of rotten seeds planted long before January 5, 1978. Recall a Gleaner article of June 13, 2010 said, among other things: “Likewise... the infamous Garrison gang, a group of PNP toughs, carried out acts of intimidation and perpetrated violence and mayhem on behalf of constituency representative, Michael Manley. This group... was apparently so effective in expelling JLP threats in Central Kingston in 1967 and 1972 that Manley... at a public rally late in 1974 commended the enforcers by their popular names: “I thank the Central Kingston Executive. I thank my pasieros of the Garrison — Skully, Val, Boots, Vinnie, Burry, Bernard, Spar, as a glory.” [Gray pages 150-151]. ( The Gleaner, June 13, 2010)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, after just over two and half years in office, has apologised for the hurt caused by the 1963 Coral Gardens massacre and the Tivoli Gardens joint security forces operation in May 2010. It was simply the right thing to do.

The PNP, on the other hand, was in power for 22 of the last 28 years. They never saw it fit to apologise for the numerous wicked acts which happened on their watch that have caused serious, lasting, emotional, and financial injury to large numbers of Jamaicans?

But today the PNP wants us to believe that it is a party of moral rectitude, champions of human rights and protectors of the poor, dispossessed and downtrodden.

Dr Peter Phillips and the PNP should know that the substance of a moral superstar is made of “sterner stuff” [taken from Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2].

The recent report of the Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry should be treated with great seriousness; where they are abuses of human rights these need to be remedied and fast. It is the right thing to do.

Of note, even before investigations are complete, speaking at a meeting with justices of the peace in Montego Bay on Wednesday, November 28, 2018, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said that the situation that obtains across most lock-ups and detention centres is unfortunate.

“When I came as minister of justice and I saw, and still see some of the holding areas where persons who are charged are kept, I'm ashamed,” he stated.

Chuck pointed out: “In the meantime, we have to apologise to some of these persons who have been detained in unfortunate conditions,” he said.

Attacking civil servants

All right-thinking Jamaicans should be appalled at the continued unwarranted attacks upon our civil servants by Dr Peter Phillips and the PNP.

Last week Phillips unpacked his broad brush from his political tool kit and aimed it widely: “He said it is clear that the Ministry of Education does not know what it is doing, and this shows up very clearly in relation to the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) introduced by the ministry to replace GSAT [Grade Six Achievement Tests].” ( Jamaica Observer, November 27, 2018) Were the PNP to win another general election it is that they would refuse to work with the existing cadre of civil servants?

This is not the first time Dr Phillips has delved into this ambulance-chasing type of politics.

Recall in May of 2016, when then Opposition spokesman on finance, Dr Peter Phillips, went on a rampage with a false narrative about 'sham budget'. Recall this crimson headline: 'Sham budget — Phillips rips Government on revenue measure, claims another tax package to come'. ( The Gleaner, May 18, 2016)

The story said, among other things: “Dr Peter Phillips, Opposition spokesman on finance, yesterday declared the budget presented less than a week ago by Finance Minister Audley Shaw a 'sham' and warned Jamaicans to brace for a new round of taxes in the current fiscal year.

“ 'It is clear from the unreliable budget numbers that the Government will impose additional taxes on the people of Jamaica later in this financial year,' Phillips said as he took note of the $13.8-billion tax package proposed to make up for $12.5 billion in income tax relief announced for PAYE workers earning up to $1 million.

“Making his contribution to the 2016-2017 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, Phillips contended that both the recurrent and revenue sides of the budget were unreal.”

Dr Phillips's statements were shocking, to say the least, especially since the budget, which Shaw delivered — except for the implantation of the $1.5-million income tax benefit — was a transitional one.

In another story carried by the Old Lady of North Street, on May 17, 2016 Dr Phillips went even further in an apparent fit of desperation to score political points. The story said, inter alia:

“Opposition spokesman on finance, Dr Peter Phillips, has labelled the Government's budget as a sham, saying it is not credible or sustainable.

“ 'On both the recurrent side and on the revenue side this budget is a sham,' Phillips said in Parliament on Tuesday as he made his contribution to the budget debate.

“ 'It is unreliable. The numbers don't add up.'

“The Opposition spokesman questioned whether the budget was actually compiled by competent government officials in the Finance Ministry or by political forces.” ( The Gleaner, May 17, 2016)

Phillips's unjustified attack on the integrity of high-level civil servants is unprecedented. His insinuations that the budget was politically contrived was also very ironic, since its preparation began under his supervision before the people of Jamaica rejected his party at the polls on February 25, 2016.

The political desperation being demonstrated by Dr Phillips is rivalled perhaps only by Michael Manley's willingness to use 'anything that could lead or cause the PNP to keep State power' [Pickersgill's dictum] in the 1970s.

Phillips is supposed to be involved in a dress rehearsal for the office of prime minister. We must pay keen attention to his actions and utterances. It was Phillips that said “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.” Phillips said this while addressing the constituency conference of St Ann North Western on Sunday, August 13, 2017. American poet and civil rights leader, the late Dr Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I agree.

Interestingly, whether by processes of political osmosis or diffusion, other high-ranking members of the PNP are also attacking our civil servants. They are following their leader, I suspect.

Recall on June 7, 2018, Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) raised questions in relation to individuals affiliated to the JLP being employed in key areas in the tourism ministry. An Nationwide News Network ( NNN) report said, among other things: “The questions were raised by PAAC chairman and Opposition spokesman on tourism, Dr Wykeham McNeill. It provoked heated exchanges between Government and Opposition members of the committee.

“The PAAC was already on edge after Government members repeatedly questioned the chairman's intended agenda and line of questioning regarding roadworks carried out under the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).

“However, it deteriorated into a shouting match when Dr McNeill pivoted to a question regarding the employment of several publicly known JLP supporters.

“The PAAC chairman questioned if the permanent secretary, Jennifer Griffith, had changed the ministry's employment policy.”

I believe this is another egregious attack on our civil service: “East Rural St Andrew MP (Member or Parliament Juliet Holness demanded the chairman apologise to Permanent Secretary Griffith.” ( NNN, June 7, 2018)

McNeill did not. The Jamaica Civil Service Association has remained as quiet as the proverbial church mouse in the midst of all these attacks on its members. I wonder why? Rural folks like to say, “Tek sleep and mark death.”

Crime going down

Member of Parliament for Manchester Central and former National Security Minister Peter Bunting can continue to 'swell up like bullfrog' all he wants, as rural folks like to say; he cannot change the fact that crime is heading in the right direction, that is down.

The latest figures from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are that murders are down by 21.6 per cent. Violent crime is down by 19 per cent. There are 321 fewer murders in this year compared to 2017. St James, where there has been a limited state of emergency since January, has seen a 69 per cent reduction in murders, and 203 fewer people murdered in the parish this year. Facts matter!

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

Give light and people will find the way. — Ella Baker

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

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