The #ArticulateMinority: alive and kicking. Ignore us at your peril.

He dismissed them as the #articulateminority. He said the “average Jamaican” wasn’t interested in the things that seemed to consume those Jamaicans who agitated from the relative comfort of their keyboards and touchpads. He sought to divide us into middle class, educated keyboard warriors versus the masses that accepted t-shirts, curry goat and hot Guinness. He sought to dismiss us. That FORMER minister of government betrayed his ignorance of a changing world and lived to eat his words on Thursday February 25 2016.

On Thursday February 25 2016, the lowest voter turnout in Jamaican history booted the PNP from government. There was a 3 week period of campaigning, a period where we the electorate were denied the opportunity to hear and interrogate (albeit through our surrogates, the journalists) the plans of those seeking to serve through leadership. A 3 week period of campaigning that saw the ruling party offer up every excuse in the book NOT to debate: “How did he get that big house?” ” He called me a con-artist” I kid you not. Issues of national import, like waste management, environmental conservation, primary and early childhood education, security and health care took a back seat. Sigh.

The usual trappings of mass rallies, on-stage antics, hot, empty rhetoric all to the background music of those god-awful vuvuzelas were never in short supply. According to the pollsters, it was going to be a close race.

Righteous indignation raged on Twitter and on Facebook. “How dare they…” was the common sentiment echoed in cyberspace. I observed Comrades and members of the Showa posse arguing their points of view with vigour during this 3 week period. I saw fence sitters literally make up their minds up to the night before election day. I saw the pictures of purple inked fingers on election day. And I KNEW that the so called #articulateminority could no longer be dismissed. It appeared to me that they…WE…were shaping opinions, were framing the dialogue and we were determining what was important. The Articulate Minority was angry. We were angry at what was being dished up to us. We wanted to plumb issues that were important to us. We believed that our leaders were answerable to us (gasp!) We wanted to see our leaders and would be leaders defend their positions and answer for actions past. And when we were denied, we weren’t happy. At all.

I am eagerly anticipating the elector analysis that will be published in a few weeks as promised by the Electoral Office of Jamaica. I could be wrong, but I think that the record low voter turn out would have been worse had it not been for the youth vote and the #articulateminority. I think that naturally larger base of PNP supporters, unable to vote for the PNP in the face of their display of arrogance, opted to stay home, as they would rather die than vote for the JLP. My assumptions only. We’ll see once the data is published.

The defeat of the PNP in this particular election signals a change that will forever shift the paradigm that defines politicking in Jamaica. And it’s for the better methinks. It is a little harder to bamboozle the electorate, Guys. We have information. We spread information. WE determine what is important. WE tell you what we want to discuss. IGNORE US AT YOUR PERIL!

My own 20 year old daughter voted for the first time, and so did many of her friends. I scrolled her Twitter timeline with keen interest and many “Ohhhhhhs” realising that our very own millennials had strong views about the PNP, JLP and voting.

This government was too arrogant to get my vote. Dem essentially screw di country…and pat demself pon di back fi it…”

I’m uncomfortable with the moniker “Articulate Minority”. I feel as if it reduces us to a temporary, insignificant, curious looking and sounding bunch. It has served as a rallying cry. A few of us gathered to protest during the Outameni Scandal, the genesis of our Christening by the Honourable Former Minister. I recoil every time someone sums us up as such. I much rather prefer #JamaicaTwitter or the more succinct #Twitta.

The #ArticulateMinority is birthed.

Let me be honest: I’m scared about the JLP tax plan. I stand to take home less money per month than I currently do if they implement the plan in its current iteration per the 10 Point Plan. But I’m also scared about the PNP’s continued emphasis on fiscal austerity to the exclusion of growth…won’t everything grind to a halt if all that is done is to extract more and more taxes? And where will that leave us? Passing successive IMF tests allows us to 1) assure the IMF that we’ll be able to repay them and 2) qualify for more loans. I want more than that. I want to flourish.

The morning after the Election, my almost 13yr old son who had stayed up until the end to see who was declared winner (Sure you can stay up, Son…this is history! It happens every 4 years…you can sleep on Friday night) responded to my fears about the JLP plan and my concern about economic growth: “Mummy: if the JLP gets Governance right, and reduces political corruption, then we’ll have growth. Nothing is more important than good governance.”

You hear that, Andrew Holness and the JLP and our Opposition PNP? Nothing is more important than good governance. We’re here to stay. You can’t take our voice. Listen up.

Justice, Truth be Ours Forever…What does Justice look like?

Poor Governance… What are our options?


I was frustrated with the present government. I watched our Prime Minister deliver the main address at the PNP annual conference. I listened carefully. “So this is as good as it gets with the PNP? What are our options?” I was desperate for an alternative. But when I looked across to “greener” pastures, that hope dimmed. I blogged then about our need for a credible alternative, and opined that in their present state, I did not think that the JLP was much of a choice. I begged the JLP. I pleaded with them.


I was challenged, on separate, unrelated occasions by two people that I think highly of, whose opinions I respect, to think carefully about what I was saying. Their common thesis was “how can a credible alternative reside in another creature of the same system?” (my words). Think about it. How different are the JLP and the PNP really? Was I looking for mere respite or was I in search of a systemic fix?


The Tivoli Incursion and the Commission of Enquiry into it.

In May 2010, under a JLP government, turmoil in the community of Tivoli, itself a JLP garrison, resulted in 72 civilians being killed. Having initially resisted an extradition order for “community leader” Christopher Coke, then PM Golding eventually capitulated and ordered the security forces to enter Tivoli, where it was thought he was hiding, and extract Coke for hand over to the US authorities. Conflict arose when the security forces came smack dab against resistance from elements in Tivoli. The entire city remained on lock down for a few days. Property was destroyed. People died.  The nation and the world were appalled at what happened.

The Don Reigns Supreme

What were these barricades supposed to do? Who erected them?
Security Forces Ordered In… to do what exactly? What was their mission?

Fast forward to December 2014. The PNP is now in power and with the support of several civic groups and other agencies, has convened a Commission of Enquiry (COE) the terms of reference of which are summarised here.  It seems to me that the aims of this COE fall into two camps: discovery and recommendation. The events leading up to the incursion, the actions of the security forces and the impact on the people and community are all within the scope of the enquiry and the Commission has been tasked as follows: “The Commission… shall make a full and faithful report on and recommendations concerning the aforesaid matters, and transmit the same to His Excellency the Most Honourable Governor General, within two (2) months after concluding its enquiry.”
How Useful are Commissions of Enquiry

How many COEs have we seen in this island since Independence from Britain in 1962?
What has come out of them?
Has governance improved?
Has the standard of living of our people moved up?


The Tivoli COE: Facing what’s in the Mirror

We are now into the second week of the Tivoli COE and I am disturbed.
What I have seen and heard have caused me to confront some of my own prejudices and some ugly truths about Jamaica in 2014.

Maiden Cay
Out of Many, Two Jamaicas

Hellshire


From Day 1 of the enquiry, I have grappled with this observation:The COE is being conducted in two languages. For the most part, the people giving testimony are doing so in Patois, but the lawyers are questioning in English. The need for clarification has come up repeatedly. Conflict between the written statements of the witnesses and what they are actually saying in the enquiry come up over and over again. You see, the people speak only Patois. But their written statements are in English. Are the discrepancies evidence of lies or are they misalignments, “lost in translation” as it were ? 


I searched myself to uncover the discomfort I felt listening to the two languages operating in the same space. I think that it demonstrates that though we are “out of many” we are certainly not one Jamaica. We know this intrinsically (KPH vs Tony Thwaites, Prep school vs Primary School, Ft Clarence vs Maiden Cay, air conditioned SUV vs JUTC…) but the language divide throws this sad truth into sharp relief.  “Sad” truth because despite the passage of time…the years since 1838, the years since 1944, the years since 1962, right now, in 2014, with successive governments of our own choosing, from among us, there is a part of Jamaica that struggles to simply communicate with the seemingly more powerful, more resourced, more articulate in the universally accepted language of the World, part of Jamaica. With so much “lost in translation” will the nation get the truth? Will all stories be told and be understood? And if at the end of the day truth is not revealed, then what’s the use?  

Then there is the other question I asked myself in the face of the inability of sections of our population to converse fluently in English: are we really equipped to compete globally? Who else in the world speaks patois? This is not elitism at work. It is a simple, pragmatic question. I am not an academic seeking to publish an interesting paper on Patois speakers and their inherent expressiveness. Or on the history and structure of Patois as a language. All of that is nice, and it fills journals and makes for great presentations at international conferences. Jamaica has to compete globally. We have to communicate, express, market and sell. Think on these things.

What does Justice Look Like?

Albeit early days, most of the citizens testifying have come around to the matter of restitution. They want money. Sure some of them have declared that they want recognition as people, that they felt as if they were treated as animals. But it always comes back to money. I was again disturbed by this. How can they want justice yet they always come back to money? I was challenged when I voiced my discomfort: “So what does justice look like to you, Kelly? And what do you think justice looks like to that woman whose son was killed in Tivoli, Kelly? What does it look like to that man who was beaten, Kelly? Whose picture of justice is right?” 

My picture of justice is filtered through my middle class lens. My basic needs are taken care of: I eat, I have shelter, I am safe, I am loved and I love. I have the space, fiscal and intellectual, to contemplate more seemingly abstract concepts of universal fairness, governance systems and sustainable development, for example. What if I did not know where my next meal was coming from? What if I felt oppressed by State Agencies put in place to enforce the law of the land, but I lived in a community with its own code of conduct, where loyalty and obedience to the Don were the immediate imperative, my survival depending on how well I did this? What if this was all I knew? After all, I had never traveled or read or conceived of an alternative way of living… What would justice look like to me then?

I don’t think that the mechanism of a Commission of Enquiry will uncover truth. All sides are lawyering up in order to get/preserve their version of justice. Just as I am not naive enough to believe that just because you speak English while wearing a suit means that you are telling the truth, I am not naive enough to believe that your colourful, expressive testimony in patois with your wrapped head and humble skirt means truth. Lies are told in both Patois and English. Motivations are the same: self protection and self enrichment. So where do we go from here?
The Cause of the Problem cannot be the Solution to the Problem

Consider this: Garrisons and Dons are a construct of the Politician. It was a way of securing and mobilising large blocks of votes in order to secure power. Both the PNP and the JLP have associated garrisons and dons. 

Over time, the Don has evolved beyond the politician as his power source. He amassed wealth through his own means and wielded influence outside of the Politician.The balance of power shifted. The Politician now had to kowtow to the Don in order to keep his voting blocks secure. 

The same Politician who birthed the Don and the Garrison, is the same Politician who sent in the Security Forces in the face of pressure and embarrassment. When the people demonstrate loyalty to their new boss the Don, and people die, that same Politician convenes a Commission of Enquiry to do what? Elicit truth? Seek justice? Justice for whom? And what does that justice look like? 

Don’t seek to differentiate between JLP and PNP. The scenario that played out in May 2010 and the COE in 2014 could well have happened in another garrison, with different administrations playing alternate roles. 

The Solution cannot reside with either the PNP or the JLP

Toggling between the JLP and PNP has landed us here. Their antecedents are the same. Their mechanisms are the same. Only the individuals differ.

The move from slavery to being a freed people under Britain, to becoming an independent nation took many years. It took challenging to laws of the day and agitating for change to move us along that trajectory. It took demonstrations. It took representation at the highest levels. Perhaps we just got too unwieldy and expensive for Britain to keep us on as a colony. Once we decided what we wanted however, we had to go after it. 

Perhaps Jamaicans will have to challenge the status quo in similar fashion… how else will the systemic issues that allow successive governments to build and secure enclaves and plunder and hide and lie and reward loyalty change? 


So What does justice look like?

The Jamaican middle class, the “Articulate Minority” stretched and growled in unprecedented manner the other day. Offended at the casual dismissal by a senior government official in seeking to differentiate between veranda talkers and tweeters here in Jamaica, and the voting, political base that keeps governments in power, middle class Jamaica lifted their voices. Stepping out of their comfort zone, they made placards and stood in New Kingston to voice their indignation at being dismissed out of hand and at the latest display of poor governance. 

The Articulate Minority Dec 1 2014

Perhaps we ought to stretch ourselves just a little more out of comfort zones and consider matters of justice that impact lives and society beyond our own.  

It is past the time to allow the Politician to hoodwink us. Do you really expect anything to come out of this COE given the roots of the issue and the authors of said issues?

It is time to press for real change…not just change of government, the same old systems remaining intact. Justice will come from systemic change that makes it difficult for corruption and inequity to prevail. 

The people of Tivoli need justice. The increasingly pressured middle class need justice. Members of the security forces operating under orders need justice. We who can, must articulate a vision of Justice. We must press for it. I am aware that significant change doesn’t often happen overnight. But still we must press. We must guard those institutions and systems that offer even a measure of protection from marauding politicians. Even while acknowledging that toggling between orange and green is not The Solution, I cannot distance myself from one of the basic mechanisms left to us to effect change. Perhaps incremental change towards new systems, enacted by the party that wants our votes the most will prevent total destruction while we crawl towards a better day. 

Clyde Williams, PNP member and lawyer, this morning posted this as his status on Facebook:

I have turned to Norman Manley’s speeches and writings to keep faith with the historical mission of the PNP, and to remind myself of some foundation ideals of this young democracy. In his address at the public session of Conference, 15 November 1964, Nettleford (1971, Selected Speeches) reports Norman Manley to have said, in talking about abuse of power, “Already men say when they hear of wrong: ‘what can I do about it?’ But for every time you allow wrong to pass unrebuked, you are breaking down the will to resist, and step by step you will find yourself left without courage to fight for what you believe in. Therefore, it is a duty to resist where resistance is right.”

The walls around our properties can only go so high. Our air-conditioned SUVs will continue to take us to select destinations until blockades and raging fires keep us prisoners in our own homes. To feel safe because you are in that section of society where a police will not drape up your son, or lock up your man for days, or where you can see your private health care provider in comfort and secure your child in private school is a to dwell in a fool’s paradise.  After all, “justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere. Martin Luther King Jr.

Being effective is more important than being right!

My very first blog post, January 2012 was entitled: “Being Right Isn’t Enough”. The JLP had just lost the general elections to the PNP.  I spoke about what I deemed to be the JLP’s failure to engage the electorate, the electorate choosing instead to respond positively to declarations of love and validation from Mama P, and the promise of great things ahead in the form of JEEP. In that blog post, I opined: 
The space to make decisions after thorough analysis simply does not exist in Jamaica’s context of poverty, and the JLP ignored, to their downfall, the Jamaican psyche. Thus, they did not frame their communications appropriately. They did not work the communities effectively. Instead of being focused only on what was “right” in terms of managing the economy, they should have placed equal focus on getting buy-in from the Jamaicans who put them there to serve.”
The tension between being right and being effective…
I started thinking about this last evening after a conversation with a friend of mine. We were going on and on about a favourite topic of ours: “good” leadership and the lack thereof…
“You’re Lucky that I’m Bright!”
About a decade ago, I was a newcomer to the management team of Organisation X. I had come to them by way of an acquisition, and to further complexify things, we were once fierce rivals in the space that we operated in. I also happened to be young and female, a minority in the demographic of the management team at the time. So we started our relationship with a thin veneer of civility overlaying layers of tension. One management meeting in particular stands out in my mind.  
The then sales manager, reporting on a project we were working on, was waxing eloquent about how he had “properly schooled me as to how things should have been done” and that he had taken the time to “show me the nitty gritty of things.” I simply lost it. I turned my full body towards him, raised my voice and cut him off mid-sentence: “You did what? All of you in here are lucky that I am bright!”. I am lucky that the general manager didn’t fire me then and there. Yes, I had been handling my portfolio efficiently and yes, I had been contributing positively to the good fortunes of my new employers. And yes, perhaps I am bright, whatever that means. But my outburst did absolutely nothing to help the relationship among us managers. 
Tensions spilled out of our little circle and staff knew that management was divided. My boss hauled me to the CEO, I resented him, he resented me and the next few years were stormy. I continued to be right in a lot of instances going forward, but I know I was not as effective as I could have been. We wasted a lot of time tiptoeing around each other, being suspicious and guarding ourselves. I sometimes think about how much more we could have accomplished had I focused more on building good, professional relationships that would have facilitated more productive brainstorming, problem solving and strategy formation. 
Do you have the right support?
Eventually I was promoted out of that particular organisation to a senior position within that group of companies. By this time, I had mended fences with my former colleagues in Organisation X, and to this day, I remain good friends with them even though I have since left that group of companies.
Let’s go back to that promotion, though. The group of companies had problems. They had spent resources that they scarcely had to contract a world renown management consultancy company. Let’s refer to them as “M”.  I am chuckling now as I remember my audacity so many years ago. M had recommended a course of action aimed at lifting the group out of the slump that it was in. In my new position, I was expected to implement M’s recommendations. There was a problem though: I disagreed with M. Ha! I didn’t just disagree though, I had a plan of my own that I was sure was the way to proceed. So I told them I wouldn’t accept the position unless I had the latitude to implement my own plan.
To their credit, I was given permission. I was sure I was right. I even had the backing of SOME members of the executive management team of which I was now a part. Here’s where I went wrong: I spent hours and hours and consulted experts and more experts and formulated what I think of to this day as The Right Plan. I found and allocated resources, including having some of the best human capital at my disposal. BUT I didn’t get my boss fully on board. He was skeptical (I suspect that he was under tremendous pressure from his board, and he didn’t have a single original thought as to how to fix our issues. He was just happy to have M thrust a recipe at him, his only duty being to implement) and took the approach of “let me see what you can do” instead of “let’s do this, Kelly”.
In two years, we achieved some major successes with my plan: we implemented a warehouse management system which imposed never before seen order and efficiencies, cut labour costs, increased visibility across the network and drastically reduced stock variances. The change that the board wanted did not come fast enough apparently though, and half of that executive management team was eventually “made redundant”, including yours truly. I think it was easy for my CEO to cut me. You see, in all my “rightness” I never bothered to spend the time or energy to get him on board, and fully supportive of my plan. Had I focused on being as effective as I was right, I would have ensured that I was aware of the balance of power. 

In the literature, they refer to this as “force field analysis”.  It’s simply a common sense approach to implementing change. The leader has to know where support is, where it is lacking, and then implement measures to deal with those obstacles to change. 
An effective change leader would know that failure was certain without the backative of the most powerful member of the team, the CEO.  
So a decade later, I know for sure that I am older. I hope I am wiser. I remain passionate, opinionated and a seeker of truth. 
I know I am right! 🙂
What I do know for sure, is that no matter how right I am, if I don’t implement properly, if I don’t get all stakeholders on board, if I don’t engage my team, if I am not effective, my rightness means very little.

Wanted: A viable, credible alternative to the PNP!

I will not spend too much time bemoaning our sad state of affairs as a nation.  I opt not to launch off into any long winded narrative replete with statistics aimed a demonstrating our status as a “failed state”. Who cares about an exchange rate of 113 JD : 1 USD.  The decline has slowed down!  But that has had zero effect on our grocery bill. We have certainly become very innovative in our bid to continue feeding ourselves and our families.  Good stuff! Now that we know the definition of employment (to be considered as employed you must have engaged in one hour of income generating activity in the week prior to the survey), who cares about the latest employment statistics that show that the employment rate has improved by 2.7% year on year in April 2014 to a whopping 86.4%! The fact that this administration claimed that Jamaica had 31 cases of Chik-V is great news…despite the fact that those of us in the productive sector are faced with  very real manpower issues as our teams remain at home, reporting “Chik-V like symptoms”.  Let’s not focus on that. The Prime Minister spent 70 minutes addressing Comrades and the wider public at the bashment that is the PNP Annual Conference.  She listed her administration’s successes over the past 2 ½ years and insisted that the PNP continues to “pass the people’s tests.”

There has not been a whole lot fact checking with respect to her claims.  The print and electronic media have simply by and large reported her statements.  Poor job, Media Peeps.  Two days after her speech, Nationwide Radio, having been chastened ion this regard by commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang, did a fact checking feature on PSMs speech.  Better late than never I suppose.  The youth arm of the Opposition JLP, G2K did something in this regard, although I would hardly term their efforts at fact checking “robust”:
“The organisation also noted the false portrayal of the PNP taking office in a period of 14 consecutive quarters of negative growth and would like to point out that in 2011, when the PNP took the reins of government; the country was on a growth path of over 1.5%.
 Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller must remember that this sort of analysis destroys her credibility and makes it more difficult for her to unite Jamaica to lead it down a truly transformational path,” added G2K Vice president, Matthew Samuda.” (https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=708914739157307).
The only official statement I could find from the Labour party proper on the Prime Minister’s speech, was a statement from Audley Gordon, Deputy General Secretary (https://www.facebook.com/AndrewHolnessJM/posts/875514722460380). 
It felt like the obligatory, predictable response from a party in opposition that is expected to rebut:
The Prime Minister’s presentation reflected a Party leader needing to ‘whip up’ her base but not a Prime Minister interested in the mandate of the people or the real issues affecting people. She dodged the issues of crime, the cost of electricity and even the current health epidemic! How can you then say you passed the peoples test?” 

He went on to lament the impending JPS fee hike and inflation and its impact on families trying to cope in today’s Jamaica. All true, Mr. DGS, but hardly breaking news.  We live it.  We feel it. We see it.  We live in Jamaica too, Mr. Gordon and the JLP, and we heard the Prime Minister.  Trust me when I tell you that we were more than able to come to our own conclusions as to the credibility and relevance of her pronouncements.
Former PM Bruce Golding defended the JLP against PSMs accusation of 4 missing years .  I’m all for setting the record straight, and I agree that PSM is entitled to her own opinions, but certainly not her own facts.  But establishing fact is only the beginning.
We need more from the Opposition party.  I suggest that they issue a specific mandate to the bright young resources of G2K to create a center for fact checking any and every claim made by the Party in Power.  Create and maintain a data base in this regard.  Very easy;  very, very important.  That’s the first step.  But more importantly, we need for the JLP to move beyond this very basic (albeit important) task of keeping the facts straight. What Jamaica needs is a viable, credible alternative to what we now have. Repeating to us what we already know adds absolutely no value to the process and renders you irrelevant.

I believe that the PNP is the default setting for Jamaica. The JLP is the override button. One only hits the override button if something has gone drastically wrong. More often than not, we hit restart, opting to start again with the same settings.  Think on these things, JLP.  You have to present a compelling reason for Jamaica to choose you.  That the PNP is not handling our business properly does not automatically mean that you’re it!

The JLP’s last press release as reflected on its website (http://www.jamaicalabourparty.com) is dated July 21, 2014.  The home page has a statement attributed to Dr. Baugh about Chick-V dated Sept 6. There is an option to look at the JLP’s position on a number of issues of national importance. Again, comments where they do exist (there is nothing under “crime” for example) feel platitudinous at best. I looked for something along the lines of “The JLP’s Vision for Jamaica”.  You see, I am in search of an alternative.  A credible alternative does not merely pick holes in their opponent’s arguments.  A credible alternative does not merely sit back and criticize the other party’s every move and misstep. We can and do do that already.  A credible alternative is just that: an option that presents a better way forward. All I see on the JLP website by way of an articulated vision for our beloved country is a link to their 2007 manifesto and their 2012 local government manifesto.  What is the JLP really offering Jamaica?  How does Jamaica look and feel under a Labour Party administration?  How will the quality of our lives change under the JLP? How will they do it? This is what we want to hear from the JLP. 

In between rattling off the usual rhetoric to do with Jamaica being better off under the PNP and of course, the fact that the PNP will most certainly win the next local and general elections, Madam PM repeatedly referenced that fact that we had passed IMF tests.  Yet 52 years post independence, I can’t help feeling let down that we monitor with such alacrity an agenda imposed on us. And yes, perhaps we are here because of how we have (mis)managed our own affairs.  But monitoring our performance against an IMF agenda does not mean that we have to discard Vision 2030.  Where does the Labour Party stand on Vision 2030?

Let us reframe the narrative around our politics.  Success must be defined as more than one girl from the country now sitting in Jamaica house.  Success must be considered as more than simply winning power.  We know success when we see it and feel it, and we aren’t doing either right now. I invite the labour party go beyond their present modus operandi , the ethos of which is summed up in  Dr. St. Aubyn Bartlet’s very telling tweet in response to an entirely reasonable plea from a citizen on Sept 21 2014 :

@tonispencer: PSM, where is the opportunity for the average Jamaican?  Those of us NOT in politics???? #PNPConference #Leadership #JLP

@drstab56: @tonispencer @fayvalwilliams ask the PNP #MAMMA P

Dr. St. Aubyn Bartlett is a former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member of parliament for Eastern St Andrew, and he is reportedly seeking to represent the party in a Manchester constituency in the next parliamentary elections.  Dr. Bartlett and the JLP: We heard what Mama had to say.  We feel and live under the conditions resulting from her administration of our country’s affairs.  We want to know what the JLP is offering.  You, Sir, passed up an opportunity to convince us that the JLP is a credible alternative.  

Jamaica needs a credible alternative. But the JLP obviously loves being in opposition. 

Winners and Losers from the JLP Dec. 2011 Election Campaign

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lost to the People’s National Party (PNP) in the recent National polls here in Jamaica.  The following are who I consider to be the winners and losers in the campaign leading up to the elections.

LOSERS

G2K: Generation 2000, or G2K, the youth affiliate arm of the JLP, lost much of the shock and awe factor they displayed in the 2007 elections.  This time around, their predominant message was about how wrong the leader of the the then opposition was for the role of Prime Minister.  The adverts were cleverly put together, complete with sound effects and made for more than a few laughs, I have to confess (watch one of said adverts here).  Mrs. Simpson-Miller was portrayed as loud, war-like and lacking any ability to speak convincingly in public.  But were they able to garner votes for the JLP?  I don’t think so. Perhaps, the adverts were even seen as insults coming from a group of youngsters who could be her children! Mrs. Simpson-Miller, Mama P to her supporters, has been a public servant and a former Prime Minister in what can be described as a matriarchal society, one where the postion of mother is revered.  It is not inconceivable to me that the JLP probably lost votes in their relentless attack on the lady and the absence of a clear message of what the JLP has accomplished and would accomplish given the chance.

I sincerely hope that the G2K honestly assesses their role in the last election, with the input of objective outsiders. If the present leadership of the organisation has to be changed, so let it be.  It is certainly worth considering.

Daryl Vaz: Mr. Vaz, mere days before the elections, stood on a platform and declared words to the effect that there were a number of civil servants who were holding back the progress of the government and that they would be rooted out once the JLP was returned to power.  I don’t think threats to a huge voting group who were already in fear of losing their jobs under a JLP administration was the best way of garnering support.  It probably also turned off voters who were not even civil servants.

Performers who lost their seats: Christopher Tufton and Bobby Montague come to mind. They demonstrated a can-do approach to their work at the national level.  This obviously was not seen in their constituencies and they lost their seats in Parliament. I hope they remain in politics. It is in Jamaica’s best interest to have a vibrant and functional Opposition, and I believe these two men have more to offer.

Andrew Holness: Mr. Holness, I honestly believe, has a good grasp on the challenges facing Jamaica.  I also am convinced of his sincerity in wanting to address them and see Jamaica prosper. Having said that, the results of the recent election clearly show that Mr. Holness failed to fire up and inspire his own base, and indeed the wider electorate. A great leader is able to articulate a vision and sell that vision to his people and get buy in and participation. He failed to do so. To the extent that his intentions were misaligned with the results (his party was soundly whipped), I have to declare him a loser. In the shadow of his defeat, I really hope that Mr. Holness, regardless of the forces that pushed him to the top of the ladder in the JLP, will now dig deep and find a way to reshape and reposition the party. It will take determination, a vision, focus, wisdom and strength of character to do this. I would like to see more of Mr. Holness in the future. If not as team leader, certainly, a team member.

WINNERS

Kamina Johnson-Smith: This young lady, a former senator, came out of the woodwork and impressed tremendously.  She was part of the JLP manifesto team and therefore secured for herself and her party quite a bit of air-time. As she did the talk-show rounds, she proved that she had a real grasp on the issues. She was an excellent communicator.  She demonstrated a perfect blend of agression and passion without being offensive. I remember seeing her go head to head with bright, young, Julian Robinson of the PNP.  She made him look positively ordinary in that particular interaction! I hope to see way more of Mrs. Johnson-Smith in the future.

The JLP Manifesto: This beautifully produced document clearly outlined successes and plans as per the JLP.  It failed to sell the JLP to the electorate, but the facts therein are indisputable.

These are my opinions. God Bless Jamaica.

Being right isn’t enough

Happy 2012!

Here in Jamaica, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) just lost their bid to remain government for the next 4-5 years.  By all accounts (polls and general sentiment amongst my peerage) the results were going to be close.  But methinks no one saw it coming…the People’s National Party (PNP) won the December 2011 election in fine form, winning 41 seats out of a possible 63; the JLP winning 22. The process itself worked…no one has cried foul with respect to the proceedings on Dec 29. I cast my own vote in under 5 min. So how could so many people have gotten in wrong? Here are my own thoughts on the issue. And as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

Your decision making platform is directly related to your circumstance.  So someone with adequate resources at their disposal will process options differently from someone scrambling to have their basic needs met.  I believe that the JLP was doing well given the context of the Jamaican and indeed, world economy.  Of course, that was from my personal vantage point. I was able to eat well, pay my bills, take modest vacations on the island, live debt free, school my kids, I was gainfully employed and I was even able to save a little.  So when faced with missteps that the JLP had made during their term like the mishandling of an extradition request for a known JLP strong man and the resultant chaos and loss of life that this mishandling caused…the mishandling of significant funds that were to be used to fix and build out our roads…the innuendo around the integrity of key players of their administration, I was prepared to overlook the deficiencies in the administration for what I termed “the greater good of managing the economy”.
I suppose the JLP was banking on the majority of persons processing in the same way that I was.

Here’s the thing: the number of people living below the poverty line in the island had increased. 

The JLP displayed no empathy for the growing number of people that were finding it increasingly difficult to have their daily needs met.  They set out their equations and the numbers looked right.  But those equations ignored one critical variable: human emotions.  Jamaicans have very clear notions of what disrespect looks like and they reject disrespect very quickly and very definitively. In addition to what the masses perceived as disrespect from the JLP, their ability and willingness to do what I did in overlooking the “missteps” was severely impacted by the awful reality of their lives. They simply did not possess the space to appreciate macro-economic variables being aligned correctly when mounting bills, lack of food, absence of jobs and a rapidly declining standard of living were what they looked at each and every day.

So along came the PNP with declarations of love and promises of jobs in the form of JEEP and clearly articulated understanding of the plight of the people. Love and understanding mean nothing to those of us who are relatively comfortable. But to a drowning man, it appeared a better proposition to the alternative: a regime of suffering and the absence of empathy. Hence, the majority made their decision based on their context and not based on the equations handed out by the JLP or the track record of the PNP for the 18 years they were in power prior to the outgoing JLP administration. The space to make decisions after thorough analysis simply does not exist in Jamaica’s context of poverty, and the JLP ignored, to their downfall, the Jamaican psyche. Thus, they did not frame their communications appropriately. They did not work the communities effectively. Instead of being focused only on what was “right” in terms of managing the economy, they should have placed equal focus on getting buy-in from the Jamaicans who put them there to serve.

Subsequent posts will explore the benefits of a strong Opposition, the JLP’s next steps and hope for Jamaica.

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