2002 Articles


Upper class verandah talkers love to compare Singapore to Jamaica. “How much better off we would be with a Lee Kwan Yew!” they lament. Now you have to admire Singapore’s accomplishments. Starting from virtually the same level as Jamaica in 1962 it has become one of the 10 richest countries per capita, and is spotlessly clean and crime free.


Why is Jamaica’s murder rate – which at 44 per 100,000 was last year the world’s second highest after Colombia’s – so high? Well garrison politics obviously play a part. As do drugs. And deportees. And guns. And illiteracy. And an inability to resolve conflicts peacefully. But these are all symptoms and not root causes.


The PNP got 52% and the JLP 47.5% of the votes cast on October 16th. However in garrison constituencies many people vote not as they desire but as they are told. It’s hard to say how many seat results are primarily determined by force. But four constituencies – which also contain the island’s most crime stricken areas - gave one party over 80% support


The Jamaican electorate got it right again. After taking everything into account – government performance, opposition promises, media reports, competing advertisements, leader debates – we voters came up with a result which made almost everyone happy. Comrades were glad to see their party get home on top, if only just. Labourites were pleased at avoiding humiliation for the first time in 4 elections. And non-partisans were delighted to get our balanced parliament since independence.


Britain is the world’s oldest democracy. America is the richest. India is the most populous. And watching the JLP mass rally at Half Way Tree last Sunday it occurred to me – and not for the first time – that Jamaica must surely be the most exciting. What other nation celebrates democracy with such unbridled passion?


Having spoken to him only a few times, I don’t know Bruce Golding very well. So my judgement of the man is based on media reports and the opinions of those who know him well. But it’s my strong impression that there is no more intelligent and honest politician in Jamaica. And everyone who puts their country’s interests first - as opposed to party agendas or personal vendettas - must be happy at having a man of such stature involved in national affairs once again.


While cutting my hair last week I overheard some people discussing the upcoming vote. No one liked the idea of a fourth consecutive one sided PNP win. But, everyone kept asking, what was going to happen to the JLP when Seaga retired? Try as they might, no one could come up with a positive reason to vote for either main party. “Boy” one man finally exclaimed “it look like we have a 911 election. We on the top floor and the building on fire. So we can either stay up there and burn up with the PNP or jump out and crash with the JLP!”.


Thanks to Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley Jamaica is famed as a font of black consciousness. And no country gave stronger moral support to Zimbabwe and South Africa in the fight against apartheid. So what will Nigerians watching the Miss World contest next month think of a white Jewish Miss Jamaica?


“There’s no humourist like history” Will Durant once wrote. Meaning that no matter what the situation, go back or forward far enough in time and circumstances will be completely reversed. Eight hundred years ago for example Mongolia was the centre of the largest land empire the world has known, while North America was a sparsely populated wilderness. Today Mongolia is an isolated backwater and North America is home to the most powerful nation yet known to man. Who is to say that in another 800 years their positions will not again have revolved?


Every August we hear dewy-eyed imperialists nostalgically lamenting how much better off we were under the Union Jack. And the recent Stone poll showing that 53% of Jamaicans feel we would have been better off if we had remained a British colony was certainly food for thought. Yet suppose a referendum had been held in 1962 and a majority of Jamaicans had voted against independence. Would Britain have continued to support us as a colony?