#COVID19Chronicles-93: July 16, 2020-Holland pull-up; ants will bite you if you eat sugar in bed

In Patois, we have the expression ‘Haul ‘n’ Pull-Up’—a messed up situation, applied to things or people. So, it’s a short linguistic step to ‘Holland pull-up’

Right now, no matter how you try, it seems you can’t miss that some Cabinet minister is putting his foot into his mouth. We have metaphors about you don’t know what it’s like until you walk in another person’s shoes. Well, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking I’d like to have on a pair of those size 10 loafers that these guys seem to wear. They’re comfortable, often leave no tell-tale footprints, and easy to clean, too. So, where’s that trail of mud coming from and why are sugar grains on the floor?

The answer is simple. A Cabinet minister, clearly lost in translation what ‘Dutch courage’ or ‘going Dutch’ or ‘double Dutch’ or ‘pass the Dutchie’ mean. He’s in charge of the agriculture portfolio and represents a seat in St. Elizabeth, where the Holland Estate sugar lands are located. Simply put, he let his closely connected ‘family’ get their hands on a sweet deal. The Gleaner kindly summarized the details in an editorial this morning—‘Holland Deal Doesn’t Pass Smell Test’. (As it involves sugar, I’m surprised they went for smell not taste test.)

Let’s just simplify the story by saying the minister let a company in which his ‘life partner’ is a director have a sweet deal on control of a 2400 acre piece land, and their son operates a supplies store on the property, apparently unbeknownst to the MD of the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ). The MD is named ‘Mr. Shoucair’, which is so close to sugar that it’s almost ludicrous. Leaving the son aside for the moment, the ‘life partner’ is ‘a member of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) board, which, like the SCJ, falls under MICAF [Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries]. RADA provides extension and other support services to Jamaica’s farmers. Ms Marshall-Williams is also chairman of RADA’s advisory board for the parish of St Elizabeth, where Mr Lee, her co-director at Holland Producers, is RADA’s deputy parish manager according to the Gleaner.

The Gleaner is clear: ‘For the issue relates not only to Ms Marshall-Williams. It involves, too, a host of other connected parties, an absence of transparency and arm’s-length dealing, as well as, at the very least, poor judgement by public officials in their handling of taxpayers’ assets.’

The Holland Producers and the son’s company were registered/set up on the same day in 2019

Yet, No alarm bells started ringing.

Say what?!

Those of you who took ‘Principles of Elementary Ethics’ know the answer.

In many countries, this would be an appropriate reaction, and a call for smelling salts would be in order, plus a punkawalla to come fan the fevered brow. But, this is Jamaica, where people have eyes that look out to either side and never see what’s right in front of their noses.

I did not hear the minister give several interviews on the radio yesterday, but reports are they were a series of ‘car wrecks’ in communications terms. I just listened to the first 30 seconds of his interview on Nationwide Radio and I can see where the car was heading for the cliff.

Many will be blinking, listening to it, that the minister, living with his ‘partner’ and son, said he has nothing to do with their businesses and knows nothing at all about them. Well, just out of prudence, it’d be a good idea to know, so that one doesn’t unwittingly get into embarrassing dealing with those entities. Sitting back and saying the that ‘people’ elected his ‘partner’ to a position to transact, seems naive beyond comprehension. In that small, rural community, who would not think that having the minister’s wife in a leadership position was a great idea. C’mon man!

What is immediately apparent is that Jamaicans are so besotted by ends justifying means (in this case someone has control of the land and squatting is prevented) that they think that a good serving of a rotting herring (a closely connected person) is a good meal because a plate of food was provided for someone who had nothing to eat, and the stench it leaves or the upset stomach at best it leaves are just normal. This mentality clearly resides in the mind of senior politicians who can only see the deed and think nothing else matters. Brother, history is not so kind, you know.

Anyway, a lot of dust has to settle and many questions should be asked and adequately answered. For my part, I wondered aloud yesterday if the minister did any of these things or allowed them to happen with the advice of his senior civil servants as a public official, or in consultation with a lawyer, if we believe that he had the capacity to act as a private person.

If the lines in Jamaican politics were not already smudged like a two-year old trying to write its name on a wall with chocolate icing, it couldn’t get any more so.

Finally, I’ve long followed events and noticed a tendency for those involved to almost mark their trail with names that fit, so I have a #NameForTheFrame hashtag. So, look what I found out about the meaning of ‘Hutchinson’:ED327F89-8897-4483-A317-6CE623857CED

Don’t try to tell me that your name meaning ‘hug the son of kin’ is not meaningful! 😉

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)