#COVID19Chronicles-140: September 1, 2020: Trust in who?

We have been fed the ‘personal responsibility’ mantra about dealing with the pandemic for several months. My own personal responsibility is to try to make sense of what goes on around me.

I was heading to help manage a golf tournament yesterday morning. As I stopped at a traffic light, I saw a car cross the carriageway towards me. Rather than go on to the next light and make a U-turn (because Jersey barriers prevent right turns at this point), it passed alongside my car to enter a driveway.

Well, I never’, would have been an apt reaction, except often I ever have seen such things. In Jamaica, taxi drivers do such things because they can get away with it.

It’s a broken record to say that lack of enforcement is one of Jamaica’s common weaknesses. With it comes the belief that it’s alright to break rules, no matter the risks.

Yesterday, while I was working, we saw the familiar ‘after the horse has bolted’ ‘enforcement’ effort: a flurry of arrests for people not wearing masks. But, this, after months of tolerating it, despite wearing them in public being mandatory. Rules without consequences are usually useless. What do you believe people think about the rules now lately applied?

But, as I noted, if your nation is built with people like this—rule breaking abetted by weak enforcement—why would you place your trust in their readiness to act for the common good, not the personal gain? You’d have no grounds for not being declared insane. Yet…

My father often said “Don’t be surprised by the obvious.” Yet, Jamaican politicians are repeatedly surprised that people act selfishly.

Why would anyone vote for people like that to be their representatives? Increasingly, they don’t: our lowest national turnout of some 48% in 2016 says so. Increasingly, they vote for what they feel the representatives can give them, literally; they’re a set of ‘free lunches’, and if played right, each will keep ‘feeding’ to keep getting the votes from the others.

September 3, will likely see even lower turnout, though burdened by COVID19 fears. But, underlying sentiment hadn’t much changed, so fewer voters should have been expected anyway.

I rarely take at face value what politicians say. I’m happy to confirm for myself that a ‘truth’ might have been a ‘half truth’, at best, or a blatant lie, at worst. Politicians learn to be master manipulators of information. Their support systems that try to tell you that government only tells the truth are filled with sychophants or brain-washed people. But, that’s not today’s beef soup.

So, on the horns of a dilemma: a population you cannot trust, led by people you cannot trust. Sounds like a bad set of choices, to me.

#COVID19Chronicles-126: August 18, 2020-Nomination Day

Nomination Day has been full of fanfare, crowds and shenanigans. Music—which has been front centre with dub plates by some candidates—was at the centre of most ‘road marches’. I found it funny that Trini soca star, Bunji Garlin should feature in this Peter Bunting march.

Some scenes of absurdity made for a chuckle:

A dog was painted green then had the pain removed. Shoes-Clarks-featured:

‘Lawlessness’ was seen by some online commentators:

But, the Press Association of Jamaica said it thought the ‘right balance’ had been struck between health protocols and campaigning activities:

I have to admit, that from my home up a hill, I never heard a peep. But, I’m keeping my social distance, in general, and only going out as necessary, and take my exercise mainly at home. It’s been a great day checking on my garden, where some cucumber beds are doing nicely, thanks to recent rains. More on them, later.

Have a blessed evening.

#COVID19Chronicles-124: August 17, 2020: Managing elections during the COVID19 pandemic

With nomination day due tomorrow, many people are anxious about the upcoming general election on September 3. They feel that the recent surge in active cases should have made the PM delay any call to vote until that seemed to level off. Of course, with a choice to be made, more waiting means more uncertainty. Nothing guarantees that later will be better in terms of what the election may do in terms of creating conditions for a COVID spike.

We’ve been urged to learn to ‘live with COVID19’, so in my mind that means applying what safeguards we can in trying to ‘accommodate’ the virus.

In that vein, Electoral Commission of Jamaica published a video of what it’s put in place for polling stations during the pandemic.

As we’re finding with the daily management of the pandemic, the weak links are not absence of protocols or advice but people’s willingness to apply them. The frenzy that often accompanies elections in Jamaica has to be curtailed and that’s down to candidates and the parties.

New Zealand is looked at as a paragon for its handling of the pandemic. However, having seemed to have put a firm lid on with over 100 days with no local cases, they’ve since had about 50 cases reported. Auckland has had to go back into lockdown:

As a result of the re-emergence of the virus, locally, New Zealand’s PM has delayed general elections by a month:


Notably, PM Ardern said it was to “to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under…This decision gives all parties time over the next nine weeks to campaign and the Electoral Commission enough time to ensure an election can go ahead,” Ms Ardern added that she had “absolutely no intention” of allowing any further delays to the vote.

New Zealand is coming up against the hard constraints of when voting must occur in their 3 year cycle; the last election being in September 2017.

Jamaicans have a short campaign ahead. However, if a report in this morning’s paper is indicative, we have even more problems than we need when those in charge of enforcement are falling down on the task:

While, I think the government has done a good job of managing most aspects of the pandemic, it Achilles heel may well be the inability to get most parts of the population to take the pandemic seriously all the time. If your supposed strong fences are now also your weak fences you’re on a hiding to nothing. People may well express their frustration or annoyance with events like this or reports of people breaking quarantine and register than negative sentiment at the polls. It’s never over till the fat lady sings. 

What every country will have to learn is how to best handle their elections during the pandemic. The upcoming US presidential elections offer options many countries don’t have, with mail-in ballots, even though that has become a political issue. For most others, it’s about getting out the message about health protocols and putting in place the measures to ensure their observance. The need for that won’t change in the near-term. The worst case scenario for many countries is what to do if they are due to hold elections but have most of the population locked down. In that regard, better to hold elections while that doesn’t prevail, knowing that it may be an option after, if expected spikes in cases materialize. 

#COVID19Chronicles-120: August 12, 2020-Elections will be September 3

The waiting and guessing are over; the election date is set. As I noted earlier yesterday, the die was cast for those who cared to notice:

The main dates to note are:

• August 13 – Dissolution of Parliament
• August 17 – States of Emergency end
• August 18 – Nomination Day
• September 3 – Election Day

The PM announced the main dates after a barrage of party slogans:

Part of living with COVID19 is keeping processes going while mindful of the health risks. The line will always be a fine one.

Trinidad and Tobago held its general election two days ago. They are just the latest in a series of countries due to hold national elections this year.

Some people raised valid concerns about the recent spike in Jamaica’s infections. Truth is, that change has to be managed, elections or not. Whatever views people have about better dates start to run into another set of issues: election dates eventually run up against real constraints:

As with all things, we’ll have the benefit of hindsight to assess things later. Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission is putting in place health protocols.

The political parties are also supposed to follow campaign protocols that fit pandemic conditions, issued by the ministry of health and wellness:

As always, it’s down to individuals and whether they abide by the rules. If parties transgress, the test will be if and how they’re sanctioned. So, we’re back at the door of compliance and enforcement.