The Recipe for Success
 Published: Sunday | March 12, 2006

Recovered gun.JPG
A Smith and Wesson revolver which was recovered by the St. Andrew South police. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

JAMAICA NOW stands on the brink of a third political revolution. If Busta led the 'mental' revolution and Joshua the 'socialist' revolution, Sister P now heads the 'woman' revolution. Since Jamaican women are usually smarter, harder working, and more disciplined than Jamaican men, this is potentially a very good thing. But only if Portia uses her immense political capital wisely.

Interestingly, Bustamante was born February 24, Manley was elected February 29, and Ms. Simpson Miller triumphed on February 25. And it's 34 years between 1938 and 1972, and 1972 and 2006. But while Manley was a gold-spoon child of privilege, both Sir Alex and Ms. Simpson Miller were late blooming graduates of 'the school of hard knocks'. Michael was 48 when he became Prime Minister, while Busta was 60 when elected Chief Minister, the same age as Portia now.

One great difference between Simpson Miller and Bustamante and Manley, and indeed every previous national leader, is her public devoutness. It remains to be seen what effect her willingness to speak openly of God will have on Jamaican politics.

Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. So Mrs. Simpson Miller and her advisers should carefully study the lessons of Bustamante and Manley. For the difference between long-term institutional changes and populist quick fixes is summed up by the old adage ­ "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life".

Mrs. Simpson Miller's honeymoon will probably be short. While everyone wants change, not even her staunch supporters can say exactly what they want her to do. Generalised expectations are notoriously difficult to satisfy and can lead to rapid disenchantment.


The 1972 parallel is also in the back of many people's minds. The first hint of populism could well lead to the kind of capital flight that helped destroy the 1970s Jamaican economy. And while a few people hark back nostalgically to the idealism of Joshua's rule, many more remember the shortages and general difficulty of daily life. At any rate, second loves are never quite as strong. As Disraeli remarked "The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end."

Everyone expects Prime Minister Portia to focus strongly on family matters. A merciless crackdown by the police and courts on statutory rape and deadbeat fathers is certainly in order. As is a law making it mandatory for every child's birth certificate to have a registered father, with compulsory state paid DNA testing if the father named by the mother refuses to accept paternity.

The two cabinet posts the public pays attention to are finance and security. Most people expect Omar Davis to remain as Finance Minister. He has many critics, but no one seems able to come up with a better alternative. And his continuation would signal to the business and international community that the 'populism' smears of Mrs. Simpson Miller's opponents were just propaganda.


It would probably also be best if Peter Phillips stayed on as Security Minister, since Kingfish seems to be biting and crime is trending down ­ knock wood. But if political realities mean Dr. Phillips goes, how about an out of the box replacement? Maybe an academic who has studied the problem in detail, like Bernard Headley or Anthony Harriot? Or perhaps a professional soldier like Hardley Lewin or Peter Brady? Or how about a policeman who has been in the trenches and has the technical knowledge, such as Commissioner Lucius Thomas, or Organised Crime Division head Devon Watkiss, or Kingfish boss Glenmore Hinds?

A 'none of the usual suspects' pick would convince the populace that Mrs. Simpson Miller's is really not the 'same old same old'. Plus, it might solve a conundrum. After seeing the Security Ministry derail the once 'heir apparent' Peter Phillips, it's a brave career politician who wants that burden now. A Senator Security Minister might do the trick.

Mrs. Simpson Miller would be all but unbeatable at the polls were her government to reduce crime significantly. And the most likely way to achieve this would be to put the best qualified person in charge ­ regardless of his background ­ and give him a completely free hand. A multi-source problem like crime certainly requires a multi-pronged approach. But passing the right laws and getting the right equipment must be a non-negotiable in any crime-fighting plan. God knows why a country with the highest murder rate in the world still does not even have appropriate DNA testing laws and DNA testing equipment.

But Portia Simpson Miller alone cannot lead Jamaica into a new era. After all, Bustamante could not have created a peaceful democratic Jamaica without Norman Manley's help. Neither was anyone's lapdog and they competed vigorously as they swapped roles of national leader and opposition leader. But whatever their differences, both recognised that crossing certain boundaries leads to chaos. The same could not be said for Michael Manley and Edward Seaga.


Both 'Team Jamaica' Portia Simpson Miller and 'New And Different' Bruce Golding have talked a lot about putting country before party. Well, they now have a chance to put their money were their mouths are by joining hands to rid Jamaica of the political tribalism they have condemned so strongly.

People still talk excitedly of Portia Simpson Miller crossing party lines on the fireman pay issue. And some well-informed persons insist that if she had been given the chance she would have named Edward Seaga the next Governor-General. All of which gives genuine hope that she will make a genuine effort to end the political antagonism haunting the country. To many, her yellow shirted supporters at the PNP election almost seemed to belong to a new party.

Indeed, the welcome respite from green and orange was reminiscent of Bruce Golding's 'no more tribalism' message when the National Democratic Movement was launched. We haven't heard much of this since he became Opposition Leader. Some say this proves he really was only a political opportunist all along. Others hope he still believes it and that only housekeeping details made him put 'no more old time politics' on the back burner. But now is the time for Bruce to show what he is truly made of.


A few years back Mr. Golding boldly challenged the then Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to "Let us walk hand in hand together through the garrisons to show people that their leaders really do not believe in political tribes." His offer was spurned then. But given Mrs. Simpson Miller's concilia-tory approach, surely she would not reject such an invitation?

A cynical friend with first-hand knowledge of the political process laughs at my naivety. "Man, you guys suck up the cool aid quick. You expect the guy who built the Spanish Town garrison to became a 'peacemaker'! And a lady who has the tightest sardine can constituency outside Tivoli to become 'Mother of all Jamaica'! You think they used to call Golding 'the warlord' because him nice and sweet? And you think 'Mama P' used to poll 110 per cent of registered voters because she is all sugar and spice?


"I've seen them up close in action and I tell you Pollyannas that all politicians care bout is winning power. Every single last jack man and woman of them! If they don't think something is going to get them closer to that, they not going to do it! And even if by some miracle Bruce and Portia wanted to, their colleagues would never agree. Wake up and smell the high grade man and stop dreaming!"

Sadly, though my heart wants to believe that Portia and Bruce really mean what they say, my head mostly agrees with him. Life, alas, teaches the truth of Ambrose Bierce's bitter definition of a pessimist as "someone who insists on calling a spade a spade." But though 'man never is, but always to be blest', hope springs eternal within the human breast.

But, wouldn't it be wonderful to see the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader hand in hand leading a march through the inner cities and signaling to the nation through actions and not words that a new day has dawned?

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