I think that people who put themselves up for public office deserve to be put under public scrutiny a lot. Jamaicans are not necessarily of the same mind, and with our often too-visible sense of deference, we give politicians a bligh/bly far too often. Apart from cartoonists, and newspaper editorials, it tends tobe that elected officials and nominated officials get the kid gloves treatment. Now, I have never desired being a politician and I rarely put myself up to be voted upon for positions, but I have done the latter–often warning people to beware what they wish for.
Now, of the many ministerial positions in Jamaica that seem to come with hardly any sympathy, Minister of National Security (MNS) is up there, maybe neck-and-neck with Finance Minister. But, with that in mind, you’d think that the post holder would do as much as possible to garner public support and sympathy, not create reasons to doubt and even to ridicule. However, in recent times, the MNS has done little of the former. So, the latest incarnation, Robert (‘Bobby’) Montague is in good company.
We should have been warned, when last October made the following somewhat astonishing remarks:
“I have been truly blessed and I cannot deny that I have been blessed. Many of us will prefer, and can, like experts, tell us what is wrong and we can complain and we can find fault; but I am blessed. I am specially chosen by my God to be here to confront what confronts Jamaica and I am confident that with the prayer of everyone, we will overcome…Many persons will tell you that we face serious times. But I don’t tell God how big my problems are, I tell my problems how great my God is.”
While Manchester United thought they had the ‘Chosen One’ (snagged after being discarded by Chelsea), Jamaica learned abruptly that the CO was on their soil.
Now, Mr. Montague could be excused his bit of hyperbole, speaking to Jamaica Christian Diaspora Conference, in St James. First, pols often lay it on thick for the diaspora. They lay it on thicker for relgious contexts. They also (need to) lay it on thick when in the so-called new murder capital parish of Jamaica.
But, Harold Wilson (former British PM, and a decent economist :)) once said “A week is a long time in politics.” Well, poor Mr. Montague has had to endure a few weeks in his post. So, fast forward to the start of this year. Far from being happy to fly under the cape ‘given’ to him by his Maker, he has turned to the dark side, to deal with what he had called the ‘murder index’. This time, he was addressing attendees at an interactive session with heads of security held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
“Oonu goin run weh because we goin to pursue oonu. This minister no fraid a oonu, my uncle is a Obeah man.”
So, no longer is the greatness of his God going to carry him along, but evoking the demonic spirits. He noted how many criminals carry New Testament Bibles in their back pockets and wear guard rings, which allegedly make them disappear from the police. OKAY!
Now, a few people were not keen on this revelation–as practising Obeah is still illegal in Jamaica, and a few called for the arrest of the Minister’s uncle.
If people didn’t have doubts about the Minister’s capability in the post, they were beginning to wonder…just a bit, now. He was put on the spot by one of Jamaica’s ace radio current affairs host, Dionne Jackson-Miller (on January 25): “Are you out of your depth in this post?” Now, this was the moment to be statesman-like and moderate in the reply. Unless you are Mr. Montague: “Absolutely not! A St. Mary mi cum from!”
What that really means may be the subject of at least a few research studies.
This kind of utterance may be part of the new political vogue.
I wont mention the name of the new President of the USA, but our Bobby can trump anyone when it comes to comments he wishes he hadn’t said.
It’s perhaps fitting that today’s Jamaica Gleaner Editorial is titled What’s Next, Minister Montague? The following extracts summarize the newspaper’s concerns (my emphases):
The deployment of soldiers to boost crime-fighting efforts in western Jamaica has apparently flopped. Killings have continued in several communities. It is clear that traditional, predictive methods being followed by the security forces are not working to stem murders and other criminal activity.
So what’s next, National Security Minister Robert Montague? There has to be some smart, innovative moves to beat back this scourge.
Citizens across Jamaica are anxious to hear about the Government’s law-and-order initiatives. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has been in office for nearly a year, enough time to formulate a plan that will give comfort to those who are living in fear of becoming the next victim.
People are losing hope. Mothers are cowering behind their grilled doors not sure whether their daughters or sons will be returning home from school or church or whether they will find them dead in bushes somewhere. Entire communities are living under unofficial curfews as the culture of fear spreads.
It’s not a laughing matter, so why would the Minister set himself up to be a laughing-stock?