The Case for Constitutional Reform: thoughts from a 16 yo in Jamaica

Exactly one year ago, my then 16 year old son shared his thoughts with me on how our political system was (not) serving us. I was impressed that such matters were actually occupying his mind, and I encouraged him to write down his thoughts. He wrote this last year and sent to our two main newspapers, but they didn’t publish it. We’re 2 days away from our next general election and I thought it timely to share his words on this platform. Here are the thoughts on representation of the people from my son, Nicholas in his own words.

Continue reading The Case for Constitutional Reform: thoughts from a 16 yo in Jamaica

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.

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.


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.


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.