It’s not often that I take issue with what Jamaican politicians do or say. Sorry! That is a blatant lie! But, look, I fessed up immediately and owned my mistake. Those two things immediately set me apart from the common or garden, or dare I say lesser-MP.
In recent days, I have rubbed my eyes blood red as I digest what passed for logic in certain decisions made by our PM. Not content with getting learned counsels criticizing his decision to not appoint an actual Chief Justice, the PM tried to justify his appointing Bryan Sykes as acting Chief Justice. The latest salvo came in a stinging Gleaner editorial this morning, entitled Justice Holness acting beyond his competence. I’ll just give you a taste:
‘Justice Andrew Holness’ waffle regarding his decision to appoint Bryan Sykes as acting chief justice, contrary to precedence and the tenets and spirit of the Constitution, has revealed his tone-deafness in the face of unchallengeable legal wisdom.
His intransigence now centres on the claim that he had never had contact with the previous chief justice Zaila McCalla, nor with the current acting holder, Justice Sykes, an argument that is immaterial.’
1. It is unprecedented in Jamaica’s history and adds fuel to the fire that, in recent times, there appears to be an attempt to interfere with the independence of our judiciary, be it whether by declaring on political platforms that judges should not give bail to persons charged for certain offences, or that judges should not impose certain types of sentences. In both these instances, there is a flagrant disregard for the rule of law by those who are critical of our judges.
2. Section 99 (1) of our constitution, which is being relied upon by the prime minister to appoint an acting chief justice, is in my respectful view not in conformity with the spirit of that which was intended by the framers of our constitution. This section did not contemplate the appointment of an acting chief justice in a situation where there is a clear vacancy of the post upon the retirement of the holder of the office.
My measly words cannot do justice to the subject, and I would be acting out of character if I tried to upstage either the Gleaner Editor or one of our pre-eminent Queen’s Counsels. So, I rest my case on their arguments.
But, let me say that the current government has not sought to curry favour by avoiding seeming like it wants to be a laughing stock. It’s taken a page out of the manuals of good PR companies and sought to dress up many a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s most recent was in deciding that it’s possible to speak our murder problem away. Minister of National Security, Robert (‘Bobby’, how fitting for one overseeing the police) Montague said, yesterday (my stress):
“We want to make it very clear that after this afternoon, we will no longer refer in St James to the state of (public) emergency. We are in the tourism capital. Tourism is the life blood. A state of emergency has a negative connotations (sic) overseas and therefore, we would like to refer from hence forth to the enhanced security measures,”
A man not noted for the best choices in words, and who recently apologized (many months after the fact) for saying that is uncle is an Obeah man (you can’t choose your relatives), tells us that the life blood is in tourism? Pray that no life or blood of a tourist is taken in the vaunted capital of St. James! Never mind the optics, feel the cynicism! Jamaicans, let the minister tell you that murder has been overstated. A cynic will recall that when the Zone of Special Operations was designated in Mount Salem, St. James, in came in a hail of inaccurate statistics about murders in the area. Now, the nasty taste of murder will be wished away in new polticobabble.
So, foreigners are so stupid that they will now shower positive connotations on St. James–the land of enhanced security measures. “Oh, those murder figures that are rising through the roof for St. James and Montego Bay must fake news, honey!” They will now in a flash ignore the travel advisories issued by their feckless governments and decide that Montego Bay etc are no worse for murder than Iceland. Bring it on! My cousin organizes an annual conference for neuroscientists in Montego Bay and it was held about 10 days ago. I should suggest he bring in the minister for a live study in neural activities.
As lawyer and former-Contractor General Greg Christie noted (as did I earlier), the change of name for the state of emergency is not trivial; a state of emergency has legal and constitutional backing:
These utterances are from same government that decided recently that we did not have criminals anymore, but ‘violence producers’. Look how well that affected the crime statistics (not). I hear that the apprentice starting wages for these posts are poor, but with diligence and regularity the takings can be much better. Wait till STATIN can get its hands on the activities of the underground economy. Which makes me wonder.
Taking my and others’ concerns aside, this could be the start of great things for Jamaica. It’s surely only a matter of time before we remove the negative connotations of data that show more anaemic economic growth by restating that as ‘spectacular growth performance’. That way, tourists can visit Montego Bay and live with the impression that they are not going to Jamaica, possibly one of the places an American president referred to recently as s***hole countries, but heading to Monte Carlo.
What could possible go wrong? ‘Mr. Trump, your golf cart is waiting.’ 😉