Audley and Omar: Good Sense Prevails, but ...

Jamaica has its problems, but for the most part our political system works pretty well. The Budget Debate so far has been a case in point. Finance Minister Audley Shaw's almost-excellent presentation was countered by Opposition spokesman Dr Omar Davies almost-excellent critique.

What the People Want, They Get

GOVERNMENT OF the people, by the people, for the people is as good a working definition of democracy as any. And for all the obvious imperfections of our governmental system, the political bottom line in this country is that what the Jamaican people want, the Jamaican people get.

People-empowered Crime Fighting

For all the sound and fury pontification of the hanging debate, international trends make it extremely unlikely that Jamaica will ever again execute murderers. Yet we keep ignoring common-sense ways to make our country a safer place by empowering the people to fight crime.

Take the 'white plate taxi' problem. Almost daily we hear reports about young women being abducted and robbed, and sometimes tragically raped and murdered, by unlicensed taxi men. Why do they take these illegal taxis despite all the warnings? Because there are not enough official red plate cabs around, and the choice is often between taking a chance with a white plate taxi, or remaining alone on a dark and scary street.

A Nation of Lunatics or Idiots?

What kind of country allows men with illegal guns to roam freely mere yards from a platform where the prime minister and his Cabinet are seated?

What kind of country keeps babbling about responsible parenting, but ignores the fact that less than 40 per cent of its children has registered fathers?

What kind of country obsesses about the death penalty - which has been or is being abolished in most United Nation member states - but has not built a new prison in at least 46 years, despite a 1,600 per cent murder-rate increase over that period?

A Good Day for Democracy

In retrospect, no other outcome would have been acceptable. Only in military coups or staged revolutions are popular leaders replaced by less popular ones. People are supposed to be led by the person most of them prefer, and Portia Simpson Miller has been favoured by wide margins in every poll taken. So it would have been an electoral travesty if Peter Phillips had garnered more delegate votes on Saturday and replaced her as People's National Party leader. From this perspective, Portia's victory was a good day for Jamaican democracy.

PNP Race: Heart vs Head

Politics, goes an old adage, is two-thirds emotion and one-third intellect. And in the heat of elections, when the battle is soon to be lost or won, the ratio often seems to be nine to one.

Intra-party fights can be as vicious as broad-based elections, or even more so. Veteran political observers remember Pearnel Charles and Rosemarie Shaw being physically assaulted at the 1992 JLP conference. Now, when the unlettered masses, or 'the lumpen' as Professor Don Robotham likes to call them, get carried away and do foolish things, you hear people remark, "Well them just don't know better." But when highly educated people start acting in a totally irrational manner, all one can say is c'est la politique.

Expecting Too Little or Too Much

There has never been and never will be an ideal government. But this doesn't stop many from judging their rulers by a standard of perfection not found on Earth. Places we Jamaicans look up to as models of democracy and prosperity - Britain, United States, Canada - regularly show large majorities thoroughly dissatisfied with their politicians.

In contrast, many abysmally governed places freely re-elect leaders who keep them mired in poverty and violence. Between 1989 and 2007 for instance, the murder count in Jamaica went from 429 to 1574, and the economy grew by an official cumulative total of less than 10 per cent. Yet the PNP won four straight terms and only missed winning a fifth by 3,000 votes.

All Different, all the Same

The Olympics may be the most unifying international force humankind has ever known. Over a billion persons watched the opening ceremonies in Beijing. And black, white, yellow or brown, who didn't feel a momentary sense of kinship with every one of the 204 national contingents parading by? All different, yet all the same human beings as us. This, too, am I.

Guided Democracy or Palace Coup?

"Ladies and gentlemen! It's the big rematch all Jamaica has been waiting for since March 2006 - the battle for the undisputed leadership of the People's National Party, Round Two! In the St Andrew South West corner wearing yellow, is the defending champion, Portia 'Grass-roots Girl' Simpson Miller! In the St Andrew East Central corner wearing traditional orange, is the number one ranked contender, Peter 'Dr Drumblair Establishment' Phillips! Let's get ready to rrruuummmbbbllleee!"

How did life get so cheap in Jamaica?

My late grandmother Annie used to regale me with stories about life when she was young. I remember her laughing description of how stunned people were the first time they saw a plane in the sky, especially a next-door neighbour who bawled out 'Lawd a massy! Judgement day come!'

Another thing that stuck in the mind was her puzzled reaction to the increasing murder rates of the 1970s. She just couldn't understand it. When she was young, she recalled, the rare news that someone had been killed was always greeted with amazement that one human being could actually take another human being's life.