Woe is me! Shane and ‘scandal’ in the family

In a crude attempt at damage control, the PNP spin machine whirred so far yesterday that it made itself dizzy. Within 24 hours of Dr. Alexis indicating on RJR that he had no immediate plans to address his Jamaican citizenship issue, his party issued a statement:

“Dr Alexis was born in Canada and has been residing in Jamaica since age two. Having been granted permanent residency since 1987, he is married to a Jamaican and lives here with his family and will formalise his Jamaican citizenship immediately,”

Now, I won’t get into how you can formalise something that doesn’t exist even informally.

But, the spin masters were taking things from 33 1/3 rpm to 78 in a quick turn when they posted on Twitter:

I’ve used screenshots because I had a feeling the post would disappear.

As you can see, these hasty efforts to ‘wash’ image looked scruffy and mismanaged. You only have to ask where is ‘St. Marry’? to get to an important question. Who, with any sense, is overseeing this set of manouevres?

That question goes deeper.

How can a well-educated and seemingly bright and intelligent person as Dr. Alexis get snared in a web of such seeming incompetence?

You have to answer that to understand how and why the obvious embarrassment of a candidate who was not a Jamaican citizen was not seen and addressed (at least by starting the process of ‘formalisation’) from before he was rolled out in August?

Moreover, with PNP having stressed that the candidate was duly nominated and faced no legal problem standing as a Commonwealth, why the rush now to get citizenship?

Guess when you buck your toe on one rock, bucking it on another seems less painful 🤔😩🙄

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To be, or not to be, that is the question: Citizenship raises its head

Dr. Shane Alexis, PNP candidate for the upcoming by-election in St. Mary SE, has found himself in a firestorm over his citizenship. It’s on public record that he was born in Canada, and is a citizen of that country. According to his testimonies, yesterday, on RJR, he was born there while his Jamaican mother was there as a doctor. He came to Jamaica as a child and did much the same as many children in Jamaica, in terms of schooling. He gained his undergraduate degree from UWI, then went on a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba, and has since worked long and hard in Jamaica’s health sector. On that basis, few would think that there are issues about his commitment to Jamaica. However, his actions opened questions about that by the seemingly simple fact that he has chosen to not become a Jamaican citizen. In his answers on why he had not done that, he suggested that it was mainly a matter of time—he said he did not have opportunities to take a day off and stand in line to go through the processes. Sadly, that argument seems a little weak given the amount of ‘days off’ he has taken to be able to campaign, since his selection by the PNP. So, for many people the questions are not complicated:

  • Does Dr. Alexis want to be a Jamaican citizen?
  • If he wants to be a Jamaican citizen, why has he done nothing to get that process started?
  • If PNP officials did not think Dr. Alexis’ citizenship was an issue, why did they think that?
  • If PNP officials thought lack of Jamaican citizenship was an issue, why was the potential candidate not urged to start the process of applying for citizenship as soon as he was selected? (Depending on the countries involved, the process of obtaining another country’s citizenship may or may not be simple, but usually does take time, in the simplest of circumstances, including the need to obtain or confirm documentation from the country of current citizenship.)

But, Dr. Alexis might have compounded his inaction on Jamaican citizenship, because it’s reported that he has a Grenadian passport. So, he stands for election not as a Jamaican citizen, but as a citizen of two other countries, both in The British Commonwealth.

But, let’s be clear. Our Constitution allows Commonwealth citizens to both vote in elections in Jamaica and stand for elected offices in Jamaica. So, Dr. Alexis’ eligibility is not at issue.

But, his situation—being classed as a foreign citizen (even from a friendly, likable and liked Commonwealth partner like Canada), standing for office, and never having sought Jamaican citizenship—opens up potential issues in the eyes of many Jamaicans.

That he does not have Jamaican citizenship was seized upon by the JLP—ironically, by Daryl Vaz, who himself had issues previously about his citizenship and eligibility for a seat in parliament because he was a dual Jamaican-US citizen.

Mr. Vaz did what was not surprising in seizing the moment to seek to weaken the credentials of a political opponent. He pointed to the series of inactions that led to this situation, including not seeking to become a naturalized citizen, with Jamaican mother and Jamaican wife on his side. Vaz says he sees this as a ‘moral’ not a ‘legal’ issue, claiming PNP is being ‘hypocritical’.

Some commented yesterday that this was only brought up after nomination day on October 9. Well, that’s no surprise: it only becomes a matter to throw out there once nominations are in. There would have been little political mileage to gain from raising this while campaigning was going on but Dr. Alexis was not duly nominated. Whether one is a good card player or not, it makes little sense to expose the cards in one’s hand before they need to be played.

PNP officials suggested that they knew about the citizenship situation at the time of Dr. Alexis’ selection but did not see that it was a problem.

The episode raises many more questions than there are answers, at this stage—something not so unfamiliar in Jamaica.

It would be naive to think that some would not see opportunities for mischief-making in this situation, or to beg questions about how past actions can be re-interpreted, in light of certain facts. For instance, Dr. Alexis’ choice of red, instead of orange, can look odd, given that the national flag of the country whose citizenship he carries is also red. That red is also a colour of choice for PNP may or may not seem relevant to some.

Personally, I think it was mightily ironic that Jamaica’s by-election nomination day, October 9, was also Canada’s Thanksgiving Day.

That nobody thought that would make a few people look like turkeys tells me that I am doing well to stay far from politics, if the lights of oncoming trains are thought to be those on Santa’s sleigh bringing presents. 🙂

All of this may be nothing more than a storm in a teacup—and the puns that may follow because PNP decide to dub its candidate ‘Sugar’ are too many to resist. Those who want to sir things up can go ahead, at least for the customary nine-days of wonderment.

Some, like me, will wonder whether those running political campaigns have their eyes on the right moving pieces.

Of course, Dr. Alexis could announce today that he has started the process of becoming a Jamaican citizen. Then, he could be made to look like a political opportunist, who’s only taking such a step to try to bolster a weakening position. Rock and a hard place?

It’s all well and good for Dr. Alexis to argue for a change of Jamaican politics:

But, we’re not there, yet. In light of that, forewarned is forearmed. Take care of business! Don’t be surprised by the obvious, eh.

Some people have started to criticize parliamentarians for not having resolved various citizenship issues that have arisen over who can or cannot stand for political office. As I wrote last week, when talking about revealed preferences, this has clearly not been a priority for the government of the day. One can speculate about why. Reasons that seem obvious to me include the not trivial concern about what ‘resolving’ certain citizenship issues may mean for possible ideas for expanding the role of the diaspora. Seen with that is mind, certain issues become more complicated as we considered who may be seen as a Jamaican, including how many generations removed may be acceptable to those Jamaicans living on the island and those Jamaicans and their offspring living overseas.

Elections coming, in the sweet by and by…

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October 9, 2017, was ‘nomination day’ for three by-elections in Jamaica, which will each be contested on October 30. As is often the way with Jamaican politics, issues are a mere small part of the contest, and much more is about political positioning, name calling, and in-fighting. So, let’s have a look at that, with a little bit of whimsy.

First, political positioning and in-fighting. I’ll be brief. The major seat at issue is St. Mary SE, whose sitting MP Dr Winston Green, died suddenly. The two candidates for the two major parties are both doctors—Norman Dunn (JLP) and Shane Alexis (PNP). Dunn has the #namefortheframe, and if the result isn’t already a *done* deal then it soon will be done, the JLP hope. Alexis is trying to find a name, and his party has dubbed him ‘Sugar’. Well, the JLP wags jumped on that and happily talk about how he will get a *caning* and that his defeat will be *sweet*. Well, we know the medical profession think too much sugar is bad for your health, so whoever thought of that nickname had better go back to writing premature death notices. The seat was won by 5 votes in 2016 and the result was working through court petitions. Will it be close? Well, that old adage of ‘vote early and vote often’ seems to already have its head in the air, judging by a piece in today’s Observer about ‘pre-inked fingers rife’.

In the other two seats, St. Andrew SW, formerly held by former-PNP president and former-PM, Portia Simpson-Miller, will be contested by Angela Brown-Burke (PNP) and Victor Hyde (JLP). This is a PNP stronghold at the moment, or what Jamaicans would call a ‘garrison’, not least because many of the JLP supporters, who used to have a good showing, have ‘run out of town’. JLP won the seat four times, and PNP 9 times, since 1959. But, it’s been PNP/Portia territory since 1976 (though PNP boycotted elections in 1983), with Simpson-Miller getting well over 90% of votes every election since 1989. Hyde will hope he is not in for a *hiding* in such an unfriendly place. Hyde ran before and lost and is out of hiding again to hopefully inflict a major defeat on Brown-Burke. The JLP have started making noise that they see an upset in the making. Funnily, the seat already had an upset with the selection of Brown-Burke, who got in through some backdoor chicanery by the PNP to deny Audrey Smith Facey the selection for which she thought she had been groomed. Brown-Burke won the selection by 595-502 votes in late July. The process had been criticized by Peter Bunting, MP, a former PNP general secretary, who thought the process was not impartial. Bunting, funnily, has his finger in the pie in the other St. Andrew by-election.

The third by-election will be in St. Andrew Southern, formerly held by Omar Davies, who decided he had ‘run with it’ enough in representational politics. There, the PNP will be represented by Mark Golding, currently a senator, and former justice minister. His JLP opponent will be Dane Dennis. Both played the ‘political money’ game, with Golding paying his $3000 nomination fee with $1000 bills, which have PNP icon Michael Manley on one side, while Dennis paid with $100 bills, which carry the image of JLP stalwart Donald Sangster. They say ‘money can’t by you love’, but it does make the world go around. Golding, recently given the shadow cabinet portfolio on finance, has gotten his teeth into that and the finance minister, Audley Shaw, quickly. He’s no newcomer to that topic, and with his close ally, Bunting, has been one of the leading lights in previous successful financial ventures. While Omar, a Clarendon man, seemed to revel in getting into the mud of representative politics, rather than the erudite style of education, I’m not yet sure if Golding can pull that ‘getting down and dirty’ act off. Being educated at Oxford University has a funny way of rubbing off rough edges, if there were any 🙂 But, then again, having dealt with *dons* at… he should have an idea of how to deal with *dons* at home. Mark said he’s ‘no soft, uptown boy’, and seemed to know how to ring the chimes to get rid of his PNP opposition Colin Campbell.

The name-calling hasn’t gotten off the ground much yet, except in St. Mary, and interestingly much of the attempt to generate that has come from someone who has little to do with that by-election, Damion Crawford (PNP), who was de-selected from his seat in the last general election, which then went to the JLP. He’s since focused on his metier as a maths lecturer and ventured into the *shell* game through a liquid eggs business.

The other aspect is what government has been doing to influence the by-election. I’m sorry! It’s a piece of utter naivety for the PM to argue that the rolling out of a major road improvement project for St. Mary isn’t politically inspired. It looks like a duck. It walks like a duck. It’s a duck. It’s not the worst piece of pork-barreling we will see (excuse the mixed metaphor), but call it what it is. Moreover, the more the PM tries to say ‘it’s not a duck’, the more the web-footed waddler looks like Walt Disney’s ‘Donald’.

Well, we’ll let the Office of the Contractor General do its job monitoring the project.

Sure, the Junction road needs a major improvement, but some of the roads in Kingston/St. Andrew are also amongst the most shocking. Sadly, nothing can offer the ‘swing’ potential of the Junction road works. It’ll be interesting to see if some of the PM’s words leading up to the last election about crime and security, such as who should be elected if citizens wanted to be able to “sleep with [their] doors open” come back to haunt him. Crime is an issue that shoudn’t be politicized, but having ‘gone there’ in an effort to win a a general election, it would seem to be ‘fair game’ for a by-election. Let’s see how clean the fighting becomes in coming days.

Would I ever let my daughter marry an economist?

Two things that I’ve found to be a universal truths are that,

  • given the chance to blame someone else for a seeming failure, many politicians rarely look at themselves;
  • given the chance to take credit for something, politicians rarely give that honour to someone else.

Economic statistics are a great area to see this in action. So, while Jamaica’s economy is doing better in many ways than it has for a long time, there are plenty of signs of some ragged edges. So, what follows is not about one set of numbers but worth thinking about as the gloss goes off the budding economic ‘miracle’ that was taking shape.

One of my good, good Jamaican business friends with a keen eye on what goes on here often suggests to me to write about my time working at the IMF; I keep refusing. I’m not ashamed or hiding any thing really terrible, but I find it more interesting, for the moment to let memories find their way out through some reconnections with current events. Maybe, one day when nothing much is going on in Jamaica, I’ll find the need to fill my days with a set of such reminiscences.

I was sparring this morning on Twitter with attorney-turned-mild-mannered curmudgeon, Gordon Robinson, about some economics data. I don’t need to defend those who compile economic statistics in Jamaica. I think they do they best they can to produce timely and accurate numbers, that meet a number of criteria, including international comparability. Many organizations have their hands in the economics data pie, and many countries are followers not leaders. especially in the area of so-called ‘best practices’.

One thing about a country and its economy is that even when you think that things look much the same as in another country the details can defy all comparison. But, many economics data compilers try to work with a framework to overcome those detailed differences, and produce aggregates that broadly mean the same thing. Just a simple example. Money is something that many people will think they know and understand, but sadly it’s not just a one-size-fits-all concept and can become a different matter when one thinks about how a country actually functions. We can all agree on cash (notes and coins) and often that will be the preferred measure because of its clarity and simplicity. But, once you have any kind of banking system, even one that may be highly dysfunctional, then other things that can act like cash start to matter. The simplest of these would be deposits, which can be used or drawn upon to pay. Already, you get into complications because while cash is cash, all deposits are not alike: some are immediately availabe, some may need notice, some come with chequeing facilities, some may be local currency, some may be in foreign currencies. Some may be in banks, some may be in other financial institutions. But, I wont bore you with the ramifications of those different configurations. I merely wanted to touch on how things can get complicated quickly.

The ‘argument’ centred around inflation statistics. Now, how prices are changing in an economy is hard to measure at the best of times, because they can move in a number of different ways and over different time periods. There are also so many of them that do not behave in linear ways, depending on quantities. Some are explicit, while others are implicit. But, bravely, statistical agencies go through a range of exercises to try to measure price changes. Most often, they design a so-called ‘representative basket’ of goods, and check on their prices in different outlets on a regular basis–daily, weekly, quarterly etc. Economists know this is not perfect not least because the basket, while good in general, can need refining faster than systems allow, so get out-of-date. Goods change in quality, sometimes in ways that are hard to perceive. But, until we arrive at a world where we can monitor all transactions in real-time and get that to feed automatically into some databank, these price ‘surveys’ and their ilk are about the best that can be done.

Of course, with things like prices, each person could tell you how close or far he/she is from the representative basket and also how he/she adjusts, if possible, and if desired to changing prices. (One odd socioeconomic phenomenon is how and why people do not automatically tend towards cheaper goods and services or goods and services whose prices are falling relative to those whose prices are rising. Many factors come into play in purchasing decisions, including ease of access, brand loyalty, access to information, and source of funding. So, one can often find situations where people complain about prices rising yet do little or nothing to mitigate that. Some of the relative inaction relates to budget constraints and how close people are to those limits. We also have situations which run counter to general concerns, such as people complaining about prices falling. Attitudes to price changes depend much on whether you are a supplier or consumer of the good or service.) So, the aggregate always has to contend with the stream of anecdotes that are readily available.

This tells us what?

No one should trust any data set without reservation. Those who produce them should never hesitate to highlight their general shortcomings and any particular problems with the latest set or with any past set, including if they needed to be revised, for whatever reason.

If you feel the data are misrepresenting realities, then you’d better come up with a viable and reliable way of countering those. Sometimes, various pressure groups do their own work to focus on their own group, and that may usually highlight differences of composition of goods, services, timing and other things. But, it’s no easy task to supplant national statistics and to also prove that at the outset and during the time when these alternatives are going to be in play that they have been constructed and collected in what all would agree are unbiased ways.

With a slight knee-bend to other professions, economics rarely has the luxury of anything called ‘incontrovertible evidence’. Even then, so-called open and shut cases sometimes end up inconclusive, at best, or upside down, at worst. That’s not to say that economics data are useless. Far from it.

Tomorrow is National Tree-Planting Day: Let’s Start Greening

I will be continuing my planting and nurturing of plants… 🙂

Petchary's Blog

I should have given you more warning: Tomorrow is National Tree-Planting Day.Unless the rain washes us all away (which, the way the weather is going, is more than possible) I hope there will be some efforts made to try and redress the balance.

Another little tree goes into the ground at Mt. James Basic School. (Photo: Forestry Department)

Balance? You may ask. Well, yes. You see, although Jamaica’s forests have gained a tiny bit (0.4 per cent) between 1998 and 2013, this is largely due to an increase in secondary forest (that is, less valuable forest that has already been disturbed). According to the Forestry Department of Jamaica’s National Forest Management and Conservation Plan(revised just last month), we lost 95 per cent of our wetlands (mangrove and swamp forest) during this period, and there was also an 88 per cent reduction in tropical dry forest. St Ann, Hanover…

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Where can growth come from? Jamaica shouldn’t be surprised to see expected policy outcomes

All one can do as an analyst is to apply your understanding to policies and actions, make your assessments, then see if they’re borne out by later events or data.

I’ve said repeatedly that Jamaica’s government is running a fiscal policy that is not conducive to growth. Now, the pieces are beginning to show that to be the case.

Yesterday, the acting financial secretary in the ministry of finance reported to parliament that growth in the first fiscal quarter was negative: see Gleaner report.

In recent days we also learned that PAYE revenues are down in the first four months of the fiscal year, to July. That should have been no surprise, after relieving people of tax obligations by raising the threshold and making it punitive for those who exceeded the thresholds. So, smart and rational people who look set to earn more wound want remuneration in ways that didn’t put them into higher tax brackets. It’s not complicated. It’ll take some more thinking to understand why this is happening while employment has increased. One obvious answer is that people are getting jobs that pay below the PAYE threshold. That would make sense on several levels, not least the type of jobs supposedly growing.

The other nugget on negative growth was that the primary budget surplus was larger than envisaged under the IMF program.

Personally, I can’t wait to read the next IMF staff report to see how it stitches together this quilt that looks tattered. 🤔

Jamaicans and their revealed preferences

I’m no great lover of lists for ordering preferences, but they can be useful just to clear one’s mind about what people are doing or what appears to be going on.

Economists know of a phenomenon termed ‘revealed preference’: consumers reveal their choices through their purchases. More generally, people reveal their choices by what they do and accept.

As I observe what passes my eyes and ears, some of it reported by organizations whose business it is to provide us with information, I see several features of the Jamaican that keep recurring. I wont attempt to be exhaustive, but just highlight a few traits that I believe are well-ingrained.

Jamaicans appear to like:

  • Simple solutions; people often show little patience or interest in ideas that are not what I would call linear. See problem, ‘hit it’ with this solution (even though the proposed solution might have been shown repeatedly to have failed in the past). If we want reasons, many good ones result from education systems that favoured listening and repeating over thinking and solving problems. 🤔
  • Retribution: whether this is simple ‘eye for an eye’ or ‘sins’ must be punished, Jamaicans tend to steer toward punitive solutions, with little time for rehabilative alternatives. If we’re looking for reasons why, we can blame many Christian missionaries. 🤔

Policy makers and politicians seem to acknowledge these likes by often proposing seemingly easy solutions and seeking out people for blame, other than themselves. 😒 I’ve not gone through Hansard, the record of parliamentary proceedings, but, I would be shocked if it contained more than a handful of statements that essentially said ‘the government wishes to acknowledge that it is to blame for…’

Jamaicans tend to have short attention spans and/or are poor at following up, in general. Oddly, many instances exist where it seems that Jamaicans are also poor at following up on matters that affect them directly. This is complemented by policy makers and politicians who are poor at carrying through actions, often happy to repeat or renew promises. All of this is captured by the easy use of the term ‘nine-day wonder’. For those people who did not realize the difference between wonder and wander, the term has nothing to do with walking around aimlessly waiting for something to happen. But, then again… 🙂

Related to these two phenomena is the love of ideas and things that are foreign. Like Toad of Toad Hall, who was always dazzled by anything new and having shiny baubles, Jamaicans love something once its been repackaged with the ‘made abroad’ label. We’ve taken this to new heights, or lows, by some of our official actions that deny the possibility of our national talent to have anything to do with the creation or development of things to enhance our future. Many will look at the debate involving our national architects and the government about plans to redevelop our Parliament. Sometimes, that dismissal of national over foreign seems well-deserved, as in the case of who may be better for road construction. It may not be that our local road engineers are not capable of doing a good job, but certainly the jobs they do seem to have very short lives and lack quality. But, that may not be what it seems, as the companies involved may just be responding to the many incentives to do shoddy work—ready renewal of contracts, poor oversight, connected relationships, etc. Whatever people may feel about Chinese companies getting ‘all the work’, they come to the dance with their money and talent and are only seeking the ‘girls’ who want to dance tangle with them. Visitors often comment favourably on the politeness of Jamaicans they meet. Of our many features, this is one of which we can all be proud. I believe that we are genuinely a warm and welcoming people. However, we have been diverted by a few ‘sinful’ ways, including the lure of ‘easy money’, which, like a Siren’s song, turns many into utter fools. Our general inability to figure things out by working through possibilities leads us to act in ways that can been downright ridiculous and some of the best examples of ‘cutting off our own noses to spite our faces’. Cue the song! Self-destruction is the yang to the ying of our good side.

It’s often about how people see only themselves in the future, and somehow don’t see the effects of their actions on others. So, we are not afflicted by short-sightedness, but we are also blinkered. One of the most common examples of this can be seen daily on the roads. Many Jamaica drivers stop to deliver a person or package to a desired location, with little or no regard to the inconvenience that causes. I don’t mean minor things like slowing down the flow of traffic, but major things like positioning the vehicle directly in front of the only entrance and exit to a place. The ‘I’ll only be a few seconds’ thinking does not have space for ‘what if anyone else wants to do something?’ Don’t believe me? Just stand near a business complex. I’ll admit to being less-than-thrilled the other day, when I was trying to leave a plaza and a minibus had parked across the entrance way and was not only letting off passengers but also negotiating with them over fares. To amplify my point, two taxis were lining up behind the minibus to take its place. We are the true believers of ends justify means. Those who’ve seen the film The Harder They Come should remember the scene when two bus drivers were approaching a narrow bridge and the passenger urged their driver to let the other pass. Sounds familiar? Read a column by George Davis, in today’s Gleaner, to get similar impressions.

With this little glimpse I’m left where I often am, pondering how to get from here to somewhere better. One thing that keeps repeating itself in my head is that Jamaicans have been given few, if any, convincing examples of how things could be better for them all by doing things differently.

What’s the purpose of OPM petitions?

The Jamaica Observer published yesterday my letter on this question. Funnily, I’d written it the evening before and sent it at about 7pm. So, seeing it published the next morning was a bit of a surprise. I hope the government take the questions seriously. The one point that really bothers me is what I believe is an arbitrary threshold and one that is set ridiculously high, in terms of the percentage of population that is set as the trigger. That has the inevitable result of making ‘reasonable’ support that is lower than the threshold seem like ‘insufficient’ support.

***********

Dear Editor,

What is the Government trying to achieve with its posting online of various petitions?

The Jamaica Observer article titled ‘Few Jamaicans buying into OPM petitions’, published September 27, 2017, suggests it’s to give about “1.5 million” Jamaicans on social media the opportunity to raise concerns of national interest with the Government. But what about the approximately 1.5 million Jamaicans not on social media? Why exclude them by, say, not issuing or offering equivalent paper petitions for people to sign?

I admit, though, that having a web page to which people can go is much simpler than finding time and people to manage the process of soliciting signatures from citizens.

I’m also bewildered as to why the Government has chosen a threshold of 15,000 online signatures, which is about 0.5 per cent of the population. It’s no argument to say that it was lowered from 30,000. As far as I can see, this threshold is arbitrary. It is also high in proportionate terms. The USA has several thresholds for government responses to petitions, but its ultimate threshold of 100,000 is about only 0.03 per cent of their approximately 320 million population? However, the UK also has 100,000 signatures to force a petition to be discussed in Parliament, which is 0.15 per cent of its 65 million population. Why do Jamaicans have to plead so hard, relative to some other countries, to get its Government to take notice?

A cynic could give several answers. A cynic could also easily conclude that the Government is making a measly attempt to suggest it is garnering public support for issues, and if the threshold is not met that people do not care enough. This is pure fallacy. Our caring for issues has nothing to do with our willingness to sign petitions. That care is displayed in many other ways.

Further, why is the Government displacing itself by putting issues to the public in this way? In our representational governance system, nationally elected officials are there to take decisions on our behalf and to argue the merits of these through our legislature. Why is the Government not displaying how it cares about issues by drafting legislation and seeing how they pass through Parliament? Of course, we can argue about how representative a Government of a one-seat majority can be. But why is the Government proposing some matters for parliamentary consideration and yet putting others to some quasi-referendum?

I’m utterly confused.

Body-Worn Cameras: A Secret Transparency Tool?

Susan Goffe tries hard to keep us focused on civil rights in Jamaica, and she is doing that again with concerns about the tardiness being shown by the police in developing and publishing protocols for the use of body care as.

I want to believe that Jamaica’s police force would do everything to offer us honest service with a high degree of integrity. Sadly, it comes with a history of doing the opposite. This delay in making operational an important tool in ensuring those two things causes worry for several reasons. One of these is the fact that police forces in many countries have shown that they are willing to be dishonest and show no integrity in their pursuit of criminals. Earlier this year, Baltimore police were caught by their own body cameras fabricating evidence. That shows an astonishing disregard for truth—to lie in full sight. Jamaica’s police force has also been charged with such actions, thought not with the clear evidence of their own cameras. I’d like to think that the incentives in Jamaica are stronger now for police officers not to be caught in the act of their own deceit, but we must also accept that many see ‘ends justifying means’ as a reasonable approach.

The use of body cameras promises much in terms of police accountability, but experience in the USA shows also many of the problems with video evidence, not least that it does not address fundamental flaws in the way police behave, and accountability does not change that much when police charged based on video evidence do not get convicted. (See Vox commentary.)

I look forward to hearing more soon from Police High Command that will reassure us on these points and others.

Right Steps & Poui Trees

I remain concerned that to date the public has no idea what protocols govern the use of body-worn cameras  by police or soldiers in Jamaica, although these cameras are now being used by the police here. Body-worn cameras are widely regarded as a tool that may enhance accountability and transparency in policing, bringing an additional source of information about interactions between the police and the public. Inadequate protocols governing their use can, however, completely undermine any benefit to be derived from the wearing of such cameras. How can the Jamaican public know if the protocols governing use of body-worn cameras here are adequate, if we don’t know what those protocols are?

Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) Act & Body-Worn Cameras

The recently passed Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations)(Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, 2017 makes provision for the wearing of body-worn cameras by members of the Joint Forces…

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