Monday, November 22, 2010

Jostling for power in the JLP

GOLDING... 2010 is his annus horribilis

Observer column | Jean Lowrie-Chin |Monday, November 22, 2010

Suddenly there is a chorus of "me first" in the Jamaica Labour Party. It seems that Christopher Tufton's triumph over Horace Chang for the JLP Area Four leadership has whetted the appetite of his Labourite colleagues. Deputy General Secretary Dr Aundre Franklin had been muscling up for the general secretary post when Daryl Vaz let him know that it would be no cakewalk. Mercifully, Karl Samuda has finally decided to withdraw from the race and so this will be a fight between the young bucks.

Then, out of the blue, veteran Mike Henry announced that he would be challenging fellow veteran Dr Kenneth Baugh for the chairmanship of the party. Karl Samuda has disclosed that he is backing Baugh. For this masterful campaigner to declare his support of two contenders in two different contests is significant. We should not forget that he was firmly behind the wheel for the 2007 JLP campaign and was able to take Bruce Golding past the popular Portia Simpson Miller, who had enjoyed a 20-25 per cent lead over her opponent just over a year before.

In a forum held at UWI's Mona School of Business a few months after the '07 elections, Karl Samuda told us of their unremitting efforts: "We drank gallons of coffee. We were a think tank that never slept." He said he had learnt an important lesson from the way the PNP had used their "cock mout' kill cock" campaign against him, after he had left them to return to the JLP. The savvy campaigner "started to use the voice of the individual to attack the individual".

Mr Samuda said they turned the spotlight on a negative incident featuring Mrs Simpson Miller. The "don't draw mi tongue" ad juxtaposing the then PM and Audley Shaw in what seemed like a heated argument featured clever editing and some digital manipulation at the end of the commercial. Sounds like whoever has Mr Samuda in his corner has a savvy strategist who has been able to win seats wearing either party hat.

If these internal party elections are allowed to proceed free from fear, we should have exciting matches to watch. However, fear has reared its ugly head in two sordid reports, from the west and from the east. One is an allegation that former Montego Bay Mayor Noel Donaldson has been threatened for his backing of Chris Tufton over the incumbent Horace Chang. Then there are the disturbing accusations of St Thomas businessman Ian Johnson against Member of Parliament and Mining and Energy Minister James Robertson.

We heard Johnson on the Newstalk programme Jamaica Speaks describing the trauma of seeing his mother in the morgue at the Princess Margaret Hospital with three bullet wounds. However, we have no idea who was responsible for her tragic demise, so we have to wait for a proper investigation before anyone can point fingers. To be falsely accused of a heinous crime must be one of the most devastating things to happen to a human being.

With these allegations of Labourite against Labourite, the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips issue, and this sudden jostling for power in the party, one wonders if there is some expectation that the leadership post may be vacated and if these contenders are lining up to be heir to the throne. To quote from Miss Lou's poem Back to Africa: "Wat a debil of a bump an' bore, rig-jig and palam pam!" This has been a hectic year and I would say to the hypertensive: make sure you fill your prescription because more excitement is definitely in store for us.

Olint head David Smith is now in the US, and the pundits are predicting that some of his evidence may very well "join the dots" in this ever growing mystery of who is in whose pocket.

There are calls for the prime minister to comment on the accusations against Mr Robertson. Perhaps Mr Golding is becoming a very silent philosopher after previous statements and apologies. He may be quietly hoping that this is a painful prelude to the "exorcism" of disgraceful political behaviour rightly demanded in an editorial in last week's Observer. Can he get away with saying nothing? Will he store up everything for his exit or for announcing a renewed JLP? This is being written two days before his address to the JLP conference - this morning we should know the direction he is taking.

Whatever may have transpired yesterday, every Jamaican should understand that we can have a hand in healing our country of this disease that has crippled our poor and dispossessed. Why is our music so violent and vulgar? Because it reflects the deprivation of our Jamaican brothers and sisters, trapped on the gully sides and in the ghettos by vote-seeking politicians. Because it expresses the depravity of those who are torn between becoming victim or aggressor.

Every time we shake our heads at the disturbing lyrics of the dancehall, we should know that they come out of this terrible environment. Every time we worry about our own personal safety, we should ask ourselves what we have done towards condemning the horrible politics in our country that has spawned so many menacing thugs.

We need to partner with our democratically elected political representatives - offer our support for impartial and honest constituency development and refuse to associate with any form of corruption. This is a very small country and politicians should stop being coy about what we know that they know.

Pollster Don Anderson announced on CVM-TV last week that Opposition Leader Simpson Miller is now 10 per cent ahead of PM Golding in the popularity ratings.

All in all, this has been Bruce Golding's annus horribilis, a year he could not have imagined on that mellow day of his inauguration as when he stated his resolve "that matter how shabbily he may be dressed ... will be protected and his dignity respected." Realising that this would be a huge challenge, he then added, "The task before me is enormous. But the Lord is the strength of my life. Of nothing shall I be afraid." For Jamaica's sake, we hope so.

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