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PNP desperation grows

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, December 10, 2017

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I went down to the river, I set down on the bank. I tried to think, but couldn't. So I jumped in and sank. — Langston Hughes

The fib machine of the People's National Party (PNP) that crashed in the February 25, 2016 General Election has been refitted with junkyard parts which some internal party mechanics warn are suited only for the smelter.

Last week, for the umpteenth time, the contorted political mentality of the PNP was exposed. End stage Jamaica House Withdrawal Syndrome has fastened its icy grip upon Norman Manley's party. The antediluvian splicing of tapes to deliberately misrepresent what Prime Minister Andrew Holness said at a town hall meeting last week is a manifestation of a PNP whose talent gauge is on 'E'.

The birds tweet that there will be similar instances of the PNP's desperation early in January 2018. Several weeks ago, the birds warbled that certain satellites of the PNP, which masquerade as trade unions, were readying themselves to apply strong-arm and obstructionist tactics against this Administration. The Black-Bellied Plovers, Banana Quits, and John Chewits are also singing of advanced plans by one group to trigger rolling strikes before the end of 2017. It is an open secret that many trade unions in this country are more concerned with the propagation of their party's agenda and less so the welfare of the workers from whom they collect union dues to keep their doors open and their lights on.

The Banana Quits shriek that a large, influential block in the PNP has openly espoused the Pickersgillian dictum for State power retention and acquisition as the party's best political lever to peg the double-digit lead and expanding national popularity of leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and prime minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness.

Recall, Chairman Emeritus Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill said publicly: “We believe that it is best for the People's National Party to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.” “Anything” excludes nothing. The PNP has, however, made three massive miscalculations. More anon!

Last week, large numbers of Jamaicans in social media expressed shock at this public revelation. The chickens of morbid political bad mind and envy have come to roost. This modus operandi is consistent with the hankering for State power by any means necessary which has afflicted some at 89 Old Hope Road.

Rural folks maintain, “Chip nuh fly far from the block.” I agree. Recall these putrid comments by Peter Phillips at a constituency conference in St Ann in August:

“Make sure, Comrades, that the People's National Party is ready to become the Government of Jamaica. Remember is only one [seat] separate us in Parliament and we don't know is which one, whether is one weh a go prison, or is a sick one, or a crazy one, but is one, and any number can play, so get yuhself ready.”

Dr Peter Phillips is under severe pressure within his party to make a greater impression on the country's electorate, in particular the youth. The severity of the internal party squeeze on Phillips is getting tighter by the day. Phillips is a caged political animal. Three younger lions are circling his pride. Phillips's fear for his life and his cubs is conspicuous. Time is not on their side.

PNP '6 for 9' strategy

The PNP, for decades, has been a party steeped in emotionalism, fluff, razzle-dazzle, and less about economic pragmatism. Its opposition to the implementation of the national identification system (NIDS) has little, if anything, to do with the protection of human rights. The PNP's record on human rights is murky at best.

Recall the PNP oversaw the locking up and brutalisation of scores of key Jamaica Labour Party supporters in 1976 during a dreaded state of emergency, which lasted for almost a year so that it could win a national election. The findings of the Smith Commission afterwards revealed that the calling of the state of emergency was predicated upon the facilitation of political opportunism and not bona fide concerns about national security. The commission also uncovered that the heads of both intelligence agencies of government — the Special Branch of the police force and the Military Intelligence Unit (MIU) of the Jamaica Defence Force — never advised Michael Manley of any potential threat to national security during Carifesta. And, indeed, Deputy Commissioner of Police Curtis Griffiths, head of the Special Branch, testified to the commission that he knew nothing about the intention to declare a state of emergency; he read about it in the press, although he was the chief intelligence officer of the Government. Captain Carl Marsh, in charge of the MIU, also gave devastating testimony. He advised that there was no need for a state of emergency.

Those who are interested in the truth can consult the archives of the Institute of Jamaica.

Sad, dark days

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, after less than two years in office, has apologised for the hurt caused by the 1963 Coral Gardens massacre and the Tivoli Gardens joint security operation in May 2010. When will Dr Peter Phillips and the PNP apologise for the trauma of the December 15, 1976 General Election and the Green Bay massacre on January 5, 1978, plus numerous other wicked acts which have caused serious, lasting, emotional, and financial injury to large numbers of Jamaicans?

Recall members of the Jamaica Defence Force's MIU went into Southside, which was an area of Kingston Central, then the constituency of former Prime Minister Michael Manley. Southside was, however, an enclave of the JLP. The army personnel spent upwards of two months gaining the confidence of young, unemployed men. The dispossessed men were promised jobs at $300 per week. Army personnel lured some of those whose confidence they had won into ambulances and took them out to the army shooting range at Green Bay in St Catherine where a platoon of soldiers waited. Five of our citizens were slaughtered after bullets from a general-purpose machine gun rained bullets on them. Two escaped. According to the army, they came upon the men offloading a shipment of guns at around midday.

NIDS, NIDS, NIDS

But back to the NIDS and the PNP's grandstanding. Since it cannot defeat the logic of the arguments supporting the implementation of the NIDS, the PNP has resorted to pillars of popular culture which are situated on magic, superstition, and religion. Social media is replete with erroneous postings from PNP surrogates about body scans, chip, mark of the beast, rectum scans, and blood tests as precursors to NIDS. I have not heard any announcements from 89 Old Hope Road dissociating itself from these blatant acts of public misinformation.

The PNP's primary interests, it seems, are the propagation and preservation of ignorance married to the prevention of runs on the board by the Andrew Holness-led Administration. Recall that some 40 years ago, former Prime Minister Michael Manley called for a national identification system. Recall also that the PNP held State power in 22 of the last 28 years. During those wasted years the PNP pussyfooted on the implementation of the NIDS. This story from the Jamaica Information Service on March 29, 2012 is one of many similar news items:

“Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has charged the relevant technocrats and stakeholder agencies to ensure that the national identification system (NIDS) becomes a reality this year, the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's Independence.

“[In] remarks delivered by minister with responsibility for information, Sandrea Falconer, on Wednesday, March 28, [at the] opening ceremony of a three-day NIDS seminar at the Terra Nova Hotel, Kingston, the prime minister emphasised the importance of a secure centralised identification system.

“ 'The absence of a central identification system, and not having the right piece of identification, often leads to all kinds of frustrating experiences for our citizens, especially for the poor. Whether it is in applying for a job, opening a bank account, accessing services, including the services of government, or even registering for an educational opportunity,' she observed.

“The prime minister lamented that, despite the fact that the country is able to produce documents that have a high degree of security and integrity and are acceptable the world over and by the international partners, 'Jamaica does not have a central national database with the accompanying systems for verification and authentication.'

“She noted that even with the voter identification, which for many Jamaicans 'is the only piece of identification that they have', there are deficiencies. 'I know that even with my voter identification, there are issues, and we have to commend the EOJ (Electoral Office of Jamaica) for all the work that they have done.

“The NIDS, the prime minister stated, is a clear attempt to put right such frustrating experiences. 'One unique and secure ID will also reduce the risk of identity theft. Our fingerprints and other biometric data are unique to us,' she pointed out.Placing the proposed identification system within the context of national development, she stated that it will ensure that more citizens have easier access to the services of the State and, by extension, increased opportunities, which will better enable them to play a role in the development process.

“ 'We must make it easier for citizens to apply for and renew such facilities as drivers' licences and filing of income and other tax returns. We must also ensure that the transactions our citizens conduct are secure,' she stated.

“She said that care should be taken in the search for an effective and efficient system of national identification to ensure that it is secure, does not compromise matters of national security, or the privacy rights of individuals, or is above what Jamaicans can afford.

“Welcoming the seminar as a step in efforts to 'fast-track the implementation of the NIDS', the prime minister noted that since the formal launch of the initiative in 2011, much important work has taken place.

“She noted the intention of the seminar to explore the utilisation of digital technology to capture data so that the individual's identity can be undisputed, and the threat of identity theft eliminated.

“The NIDS is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to the tune of US$670,000 through a loan which was approved in September last year.

“Local stakeholders in the promulgation and implementation of the system include the Registrar General's Department, the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency, the Electoral Office of Jamaica, Fiscal Services Limited, the Ministry of National Security, and the Ministry of Health.

“The project is being implemented through the National Registration Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister.”

I agree with these poignant comments by Leader of Government Business Senator Kamina Johnson Smith: “The Government has been very receptive of the concerns of stakeholders. It is interesting to note that members of the Opposition encouraged the NIDS to be mandatory, and that fact is reflected in the minutes of consultations held with them by the government technical team. This is reflected in the Bill passed in the Lower House. The further changes made since tabling in the Senate have largely been to accommodate civil society concerns, as well as to include clarifications needed. It is disappointing that after suggesting amendments, which were taken on, there is now criticism by the Opposition that there are too many amendments. We carried out an open process where groups were encouraged to suggest changes. The Government is committed to transforming Jamaica and will fulfil its mandate given to it by the people of Jamaica,” said Johnson Smith.” ( Jamaica Observer, November 13, 2017)

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude. — William James

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

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