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Read, read, read, because the facts are the facts

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. — Tanzanian proverb

“He said that he had spent time reading Higgins' columns; “and I have always found that these articles are condemnatory of the Opposition”. (Sunday Observer, June 3, 2018) I wrote two articles some weeks ago that were critical and factual of the near 11 years in office of K D Knight, former minister of national security. I wonder if they are among those things which, as some rural folks would put it, seem to have become “stuck in Senator Knight's craw”?

Senator Knight did not state exactly how much time he devotes to reading my columns, but I suspect it is quite a bit based on his own admissions in the Senate last week. So why has the goodly senator apparently not read where I have complimented his party, the present Opposition People's National Party (PNP)?

For example: “Dr Phillips was transport and works minister from 1998 to October 2001. To his eternal credit, he ushered in a decent transportation system in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR) in 1998. The groundwork for what is today the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) Limited was started in 1995 when the then Government decided that the time had come to restructure the public transport sector and invest in infrastructure to bring order to public transportation in the KMTR. Before the advent of the JUTC, what existed in the KMTR for public transportation was a disaster.” ( Sunday Observer, April 8, 2018)

Incidentally, I said this in one of the two articles in which I provided factual information to show that Knight's time at bat as minister of national security was woeful at best. For example a Miami Herald article of October 31, 2001, titled 'Jamaica struggling to cut its alarming murder rate — New head of national security faces a raging crime wave', noted among other things: “Knight said he regretted that the country's crime rate had not declined during his tenure.”

Of former Prime Minister P J Patterson I wrote: “He brought back decency to public transportation in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, pioneered many pieces of utilitarian legislation, and implemented the Highway 2000 project. His almost sedate style of leadership did help to take a lot of heat and venom out of local politics.” ( Sunday Observer, October 17, 2015).

Senator Knight probably took a Sunday off from reading my articles when this was published.

Norman Manley is one of my favourite political leaders. In open admiration, I have quoted from Manley's work on several occasions. I have also openly praised Manley for his attempts at Federation: “Both Manley and Bustamante assisted in giving Jamaicans a sense that 'we' — meaning individually as Jamaicans or as a cohesive unit called Federation — can paddle our boat.” ( Sunday Observer, October 17, 2015)

Maybe this article was not among those that Knight spent time reading. In the same article I wrote in relation to Michael Manley: “Thousands of Jamaicans who were literally phantom citizens were able to emerge from “the darkness into the light” [JAMAL]. The National Housing Trust, now being destroyed by the present Administration, [this in relation to the Outameni scandal], was in my view Manley's finest creation.”

I gave credit to former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller for her 'mother-in-chief' touch and her Government's role in the continuation of economic reforms started by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding: “To be accurate, the most recent rebuilding of the Jamaican economy started under the Bruce Golding Administration with Audley Shaw as minister of finance. It continued under Portia Simpson Miller, with Dr Peter Phillips as finance minister, and has continued with this Andrew Holness-led Administration with Audley Shaw as finance minister. The reality is there is enough credit to go around, no need to hog it.” ( Sunday Observer, March 18, 2018)

Alas, maybe this was not one of the articles, Knight spent time reading.

I have also given credit to other persons in the PNP for their contribution to Jamaica. What was Senator Knight doing when all those articles were published? I believe Senator Knight's tirade in the Senate last week, among other things, was an attack on freedom of the expression: “Knight, in follow-up questions to a list of advisors/consultants produced by (Senator) Reid, in response to questions which had been tabled previously about the current number and salary levels of those employees by Opposition member Lambert Brown, had singled out Sunday Observer columnist Garfield Higgins for what he claimed was 'overt political activity' in the media.” ( Sunday Observer, June 3, 2018) Did Senator Knight express similar concerns in our Senate about Franklin Johnston, who was a consultant at the Ministry of Education during the previous Administration? Johnson wrote articles which, I believe, were condemnatory of the then Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Opposition. Why is Knight also silent on the numerous articles written by Richard Blackford, Dr Canute Thompson, Michael Burke, Christopher Burns, Paul Buchanan, and others which many believe are condemnatory of Andrew Holness and the JLP Administration? Are any of them paid by taxpayers? Should their writings be classified as covert political activities? Are their views palatable to Knight? Was Knight's outburst in the Senate a signal that there is an official return by the PNP to an old and failed strategy of the 70s? Some in the PNP are busy trying to create a narrative that my columns have turned critical of the PNP post-February 25, 2016. My first article was published in this newspaper on Sunday, March 16, 2014. You can read them online. You decide!

Facts are facts!

Press freedom must be protected at all costs. Recall: “The brutal attack that took place during the state of emergency when the JLP's candidate for South West St Andrew, Pearnel Charles, had been thrown in detention camp; and Joseph McPherson, editor of The Voice, was entered as a last-minute opponent of Portia Simpson. Shortly after the nomination, McPherson and his paper were made the subject of several attacks, and once he had to be rescued by a helicopter. The Maxfield Avenue office was put under siege, invaded, and a number of employees tortured and otherwise brutalised.” ( The Gleaner, November 5, 2006). These attacks culminated in the torching of the building that housed The Voice.

Recall also the murder of Earl Woodburn, an employee of The Voice, who “...had been abducted at Pretoria Road and then his savagely mutilated body was found on St Joseph Road, then a serious garrison area of the People's National Party”. ( The Gleaner, November 5, 2006).

Recall also “the time that Prime Minister Michael Manley adjourned a Cabinet meeting and, along with Tony Spaulding, P J Patterson, and others, led a mob on The Gleaner's offices because they did not like what the paper was publishing. The theme of that threat was, 'Next Time, Next Time!' This was interpreted to mean that if they ever thought it necessary to revisit The Gleaner it might be more than shouted words. The same prime minister publicly referred to the newspaper as the 'Call Girl of North Street', and he described the editors, writers and publishers as 'pimps of imperialism' ”. ( The Gleaner, November 5, 2006).

We must never forget the PNP's media economic starvation strategy: “The Administration of the 70s went further. They withheld government advertising from The Gleaner and diverted business to the Daily News. In addition, government ministries and departments were instructed not to buy Gleaner publications. So tight was the squeeze that, in July 1978, The Gleaner had to seek financial support by offering to the public $4 million of debenture to help deal with its obligations.” ( The Gleaner, November 5, 2006)

We must not forget the sordid attack on John Hearne which was revealed in a Gleaner news item titled 'Columnist John Hearne beaten at PNP Parley'. It is symptomatic of how press freedom was placed under “heavy manners” by the Michael Manley regime of the 70s. The story said, among other things: “Columnist John Hearne was attacked and beaten at the PNP conference yesterday by a group of people who accused him of writing 'dirty articles in The Gleaner'. He was saved from serious injury by the police, who were afterwards assisted by some PNP youth leaders. The police were forced to fire shots in the air to drive off attackers, Hearne told The Gleaner. The police confirmed Hearne's report. Hearne told The Gleaner that he went to the National Arena about 2:30 pm and on his way into the conference had brief exchanges with a number of people. Some people said they disagreed with what he wrote, but the exchanges were polite and he took his seat near the platform and began listening to the speech of party (leader) Michael Manley.

“Whispers

During this time Hearne spoke in whispers to a couple of party executive members. After listening for about 40 minutes, however, he realised he was not hearing clearly what Manley was saying and decided to go to the front of the arena, where Manley's voice over the loudspeaker was very clear. On his way out, Hearne met upon a big chap who was unknown to him. The man asked him his name and wanted to know if he had written an article in yesterday's Sunday Gleaner after Hearne identified himself. On being told Hearne had written the article, the man said, 'Yuh better get outa here. We don't want people like you here.' By the time the columnist had reached the southern area, the big chap called out to other people and a group of about 25 suddenly pounced on Hearne, thumping and kicking him. The crowd quickly grew to about 100 and, as he tried to walk away, about five uniformed policemen, five plain-clothes ones, and some PNP youth leaders, tried to keep away the attackers.

“Bottles, stones

Hearne has been the subject of much criticism and verbal attacks by sections of the society describing themselves as 'progressives' in recent weeks.

Placard-bearing demonstrators from the Workers Liberation League and supporters of D K Duncan, in demonstrations last month, criticised Hearne for writing articles critical of the PNP Government, and graffiti appeared all over the Corporate Area describing him as a 'British CIA Agent'; one placard declared, 'Hearne must burn'.” ( The Daily Gleaner, September 12, 1977).

Hearne's 'great sin' was that he went to Trench Town and other places in Kingston and saw how the PNP was systematically displacing people to achieve political advantage — a strategy PNP thugs termed “scatta dem” (political cleansing). He wrote about it in The Gleaner. Thereafter, he became persona non grata and a marked man by Michael Manley's party supporters.

JLP not blameless

The banning of Guyanese scholar Walter Rodney from re-entering Jamaica, because of his political views in the 60s, was wrong. Also wrong was a march on this newspaper some years ago by JLP supporters because they did not like cartoons of Clovis and articles by veteran journalist Mark Wignall that were critical of Edward Seaga and the JLP.

We cannot risk a return to the dark days of press repression that characterised our politics in the 70s. Our ranking on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index must be nourished and cherished: “France-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has ranked Jamaica sixth on its 2018 World Press Freedom Index, a move two places up from the country's 2017 ranking. ( Jamaica Observer, April 25, 2018)

Several weeks ago I wrote, among other things: “Fake news, misguided bluster, empty chat, political deflection, 'bad mind', threats of street demonstrations and attempts at filibuster are the principal political tools of the PNP.” The PNP continues to prove that I am right.

NSWMA achieves a first

For the first time in the history of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) audited financial reports are up to date. The NSWMA board headed by financial analyst Dennis Chung, Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie, and the staff deserve credit for this major achievement.

If they have not already, I suspect the PNP will soon begin to say the credit is theirs.

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

If virtue and knowledge are diffus'd among the people, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great security. — Samuel Adams

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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