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PNP Unity, JLP Rift and a Generational Divide

To those who believe that a strong democracy requires a strong opposition, last Sunday's vibrant People's National Party (PNP) conference was a very edifying sight. There was a large and enthusiastic crowd, it was incident free, and Portia Simpson Miller gave perhaps her best-ever public performance.

Can the JLP Learn from History?

In september 2007, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) triumphed in a contested general-election victory for the first time since 1980, and tasted real political power for the first time since 1989. You would think that droughts of such durations would make Labourites wary of falling into the same traps that kept them so long in the wilderness. But recent events make you wonder.

Good Ad for Democracy

Enquiry, shamquiry. That was pretty much the initial attitude of the general public towards the ongoing Manatt-Dudus commission. Not only have we grown accustomed to enquiries costing taxpayers lots of money and producing nothing of value, but the relentless press coverage of the Manatt saga over the past year left most people utterly sick of the topic. The early stumblings suggested a grand 'business-as-usual' waste of time. But the fitful stops and starts began to curiously coalesce into rather interesting courtroom theatre, and what started out as a tedious joke is becoming a pretty good advertisement for Jamaican democracy. Chairman Emile George left the gates a bit hesitantly, but has settled into a firm non-partisan stride, quickly quashing the constant efforts to politicise the proceedings.

Murder Tipping Point?

Lots of countries suppress bad news and exaggerate good news so as to put on a 'happy face' to the world. Jamaica must be the only place on the planet where the media trumpet national misfortunes and hide positive deve-lopments. Our press constantly refers to 73 persons dying in last May's Tivoli Gardens incursion, but remains silent about the subsequent 37 per cent decline in murders, which has, in effect, 'saved' more than 540 lives. How can anyone who truly loves this country not exult when they see numbers as these?

Political Perception and Numerical Reality

Of the 10 contested general elections since Independence, the PNP has won six, outpolling the JLP by an average of 6.3 points. Which gives statistical support to the adage that 'Jamaica is PNP country'. Dig a bit deeper and the equation shifts. Under Edward Seaga, the JLP lost five of six contested elections by an average margin of 8.9 points. The other four elections saw three JLP wins, with an overall PNP margin of 2.4 points - 'within the three per cent margin of error', as pollsters would say.

The Smallest World Cultural Power

When the black, green and gold went up on midnight August 5, 1962, this island was unknown and insignificant to most of the world, and even to those who lived here the word, 'Jamaica' evoked little emotion. Forty-nine years on, we are famed planetwide for our vivid music and culture, and 'Jamaica' instantly induces a sense of spontaneous excitement and freedom of spirit. Now world-influencing nations are usually old, big or rich.

Dreaming of a New Jamaica

All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs. - Enoch Powell Powell was probably right in a short-term sense. Democratic political careers are usually ended by death, illness, scandal-driven resignation, term limits, electoral defeat, or impending defeat. An elected leader voluntarily stepping down while basking in glory as voters beg him to stay is a vanishingly rare sight.

The Garrisons of Gordon House

"Both political parties have it within them to mutually agree to end the social construct of the garrison ... . Let us start the process by getting the leaders to walk together in these areas of exclusion ... . Hopefully, this small step will lead to other steps that will eventually remove garrisons from our political landscape."   - Andrew Holness, October 23 Andrew Holness' potentially historic end-garrison-politics inauguration address has spurred much debate about what a garrison is, which constituencies are garrisons, and even if garrisons exist. Few have referenced probably the most significant document produced on the topic, namely, the 1997 Report of the National Committee on Political Tribalism, often called the Kerr Garrison Report.

A Chance for Transformation

Industry Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (right) has a word with Andrew Holness, who has been endorsed by a JLP parliamentary caucus to be the next prime minister. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer In 10 days, Bruce Golding advanced Jamaican politics 10 years. He resigned as prime minister on September 25, then threw his weight behind the youngsters in his party, which led to 39-year-old Andrew Holness being proclaimed prime minister-designate on October 3.

How Stable is Jamaica?

Since becoming independent in 1962, Jamaica has remained uprising free, suffered no major political assassination, adhered to the rule of law, maintained a free press, and held regular multi-party elections in which the incumbent party has been voted out more than once. This might seem a rather common-place achievement. But over the past 46 years, few of the over 150 nations with more than a million people can make such a collective claim. In fact you can count them on fingers and toes: Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Jamaica.