At Blakka Ellis's one-man show "Un", Winston "Bello" Bell joined him onstage to sing a ballad to the tune of Mona Lisa. Lovingly staring in his passport, Bello sang, "Mona visa, mi owna visa!"
But that excitement over a US visa is not for certain circles. A visa is a given for the more privileged, and so there is a feeling of shock when it is withdrawn from someone like former Minister of Mining and Energy James Robertson. We understand that he has engaged lawyers to appeal to the State Department regarding this occurrence, and he has denied any allegation of wrongdoing.
No one should rush to judgement, but it is an opportune time to ask if succeeding governments have done enough to mentor their young leaders. We know that in corporate Jamaica, leadership is not taken lightly: there are psychology tests, extensive training and systems of accountability. We are not sure how leaders are selected and groomed in the respective political parties. Since so much is expected of our young prospects, it is incumbent on the older, wiser heads to use their legacy not for vanity, but to inform and guide their successors.
Contractor General Greg Christie was the guest speaker last week at the AGM of the Police Federation. Of course, the media soundbites carried only parts of the speech where the CG was urging the Force to clean up its act. In fact, Mr Christie started out by applauding the Federation on their discernment, as stated in their brochure of "the need to balance the welfare of its members with the proper development of the Force".
The publication continues, "To achieve these objectives the Federation is also focusing its attention on matters such as discipline, motivation, morale and service delivery with the aim of achieving greater protection of the society."
"The foregoing statement of intent and belief clearly discloses the mindset, the vision and the culture of the Central Executive and membership of the Police Federation," said Greg Christie. "It is one in respect of which you should be commended, for above all, it recognises that change in anything is possible and that success in any meaningful change effort must start from within."
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington has led this change. An interview with Jamaica Speaks co-hosts Prof Trevor Munroe and Donna Scott-Mottley revealed a true professional, focused on his mandate, and unflinching in discussing even the thorniest of issues.
Considering that over 60 police officers have been charged with corruption over the past year, we should ask ourselves what other public organisations have been investigating and punishing their own, as doggedly as the police force. While the Force has been insisting on a code of conduct to keep their officers on the straight and narrow, I doubt if our political representatives are fully aware of the Declaration on Political Conduct, which was signed in September 2005 by then Prime Minister PJ Patterson and then Opposition Leader Bruce Golding during a weekly sitting of the House of Representatives. This Declaration was lobbied for by the PSOJ, whose members had locked their businesses and met in Emancipation Park earlier that year, calling for a halt to the country's spiralling crime rate.
A JIS report quoted Mr Patterson as having said at the signing, "We must, in the process of plural democracy, build a culture of greater political tolerance at every level... (there were) deliberate steps to publicly dissociate political leaders from criminal elements and criminal activity."
The Declaration called on our leaders to "eschew the practice of political tribalism rooted in coercion, intimidation and violence of any kind, and commit to removing and resisting the development of any structures, behavioural, cultural, social or organisational, which reinforce political tribalism".
Mr Golding had commented at the signing: "It is not enough for us to demonstrate that we are the exception; it is not enough for us to differentiate ourselves individually; it is rather incumbent on us to define the rules and enforce the rule so that there can be few if any exceptions, and that where exceptions arise, they can be effectively dealt with."
An experienced observer said before last year's Tivoli operation, that there are indeed "innocents" in political parties and mentioned by name Dr Ken Baugh and Burchell Whiteman. "They are kept in the dark when it comes to certain dealings," I was told. "I am not sure when this will stop – power too sweet."
But we hold on to hope. In his budget presentation earlier this month, PM Golding announced that the government was taking the declaration further. "The next step is to provide for the imposition of criminal sanctions for certain breaches that involve conduct intended to undermine or corrupt the process and for the denial of contracts to persons deemed not to be fit and proper," he told the House.
We should know that while the Electoral Commission, Contractor General, Public Defender, Political Ombudsman and the Local Government Authorities exist in law, they are still not specifically recognised or protected in the Constitution. The PM assured that a Bill has been drafted to address this and will shortly be tabled in Parliament.
May our lawmakers not stand in the way of these long-awaited amendments. May they balance their taste for the sweetness of power with the oath they took when they assumed their hallowed positions in Gordon House.
About two years ago, a group of us had dinner at the Rockhouse in Negril's West End. The meal was so good that we asked to meet the chef, who turned out to be a humble gentleman called Kevin Broderick from St Mary. He said it was his late grandmother who first taught him how to cook. Last Thursday at the Observer Food Awards, Chef Broderick was announced the Chef of the Year from a field of five outstanding chefs, some of international repute. When we sought him out to congratulate him, his eyes misted over as he said, "Well my grandmother is gone now, but I think she would be proud of me." Indeed, she would be.
Congrats to all winners, especially Island Grill, Mother's and Jamaica Broilers, recipients respectively of the People's Choice, Chairman's Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
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