Andre Wright | Will Commissioner Quail-up bow again?
Robert Montague seems determined to complete a coup within the police force by arrogating to himself powers that are beyond the scope of his ministerial purview and definitely beyond his competence. And like any coup-plotter, the national security minister, smarting from being chucked aside to the fringes of his portfolio by the prime minister, has sought to hog the spotlight by his mutinous dog whistle.
When he publicly scolded the police leadership last week for not doling out hundreds of promotions like candy, it wasn't the first time he sought to drop his pants and engage in a pissing contest. And Commissioner George Quail-up is fast eroding public confidence by his tinkle on the stones.
By stoutly defending the administrative review report clearing the police broadly, and five officers specifically, of breaches in the bloody blitzkrieg unleashed in west Kingston, Commissioner Quail-up not only spat on the considered recommendation for sanctions but showed contempt for the Jamaican people. And after public pressure was brought to bear on him, he and the officer corps stood steadfast against criticism.
Yet his dramatic turnaround after a meeting with Bobby Montague, which led to him parroting the Cabinet's view of the events in Tivoli, raises grave questions about his genuflection to the minister. Either Commissioner Quail-up is headstrong in his embrace of the administrative report or he isn't. But his quickfire volte-face sounds like lip-smacking surrender to Bobby's butt. And having pushed the envelope, Mr Montague has been emboldened to go a step further.
His classless press release ordering the police commissioner to immediately promote "the hard-working men and women of the Jamaica Constabulary Force as vacancies and funding are available" must be seen for what it is: political bullying with motive.
Minister Montague, in his attempt to play to the gallery, unwittingly accuses the police force of conspiring with praedial larcenists in their plunder of farmers' hard work and property.
Said the press statement issued with the minister's approval: "While addressing a group of farmers, he (Montague) stated that it is because police officers feel disheartened that farmers sometimes have not been receiving robust support in getting rid of the thieves that plague them ... .
"This cannot continue. It is unfair, it is not right and something must be done. ... It is a shame that these men and women who put their lives on the line every day cannot reap the benefits of a promotion. It is demotivating and demoralising and it must not continue," Minister Montague said.
It's not news that the issue of promotions has rankled members of the rank and file, as well as the officer corps. Days into his tenure, in March 2016, Mr Montague had revealed that he had pressed Carl Williams, the then commissioner, to craft a merit-based promotions protocol to limit the possibility of favouritism-based elevation. In fact, last year, more than 30 cops sued the attorney general and police commissioner over non-promotion but later retreated.
While there is wisdom in Montague advocating for a transparent, merit-based promotion system, his publicity-seeking antics are a sinister swipe at Commissioner Quail-up, who might yield again, not on merit, but under pressure.
Indirectly, Bobby Montague's loud-mouthed trespass seems not only targeted at making Commissioner Quail-up his lapdog but to wrest and assert operational influence in the force. For if he is allowed to dictate to the Gordon Shirley-chaired Police Service Commission how many promotions should be issued, he would have a grateful bunch, perhaps ready to return political favours.
Mr Montague might find it useful to occupy himself with contemplation about why the prime minister has seen it fit to demote him by taking ownership of the ZOSO initiative. Surely, Bobby and his bobbies have been anything but inspiring. But, fortuitously, in that he has now found refuge and escape.
For Prime Minister Holness, in his haste to so brand ZOSO as his personal achievement, has been thrown under the bus by the incompetent (or is it malicious?) statisticians in the police force. Within hours of him declaring Mount Salem a zone of special operations, politicians and other stakeholders on the ground questioned the veracity of the murder figures.
The police later fessed up that they were hopelessly wrong. And the Mount Salem ZOSO, which was supposed to be a mock-up, is turning into a muck-up, cock-up and an unprintable -uck-up. The basis of the initial Mount Salem ZOSO declaration, gang pillage and murder, has turned into a monumental embarrassment, despite the sleight-of-mouth of the spin twins, Basil Jarrett and Stephanie Lindsay.
The police inflated the Mount Salem murder figures for 2017 by nearly 700 per cent. Seven hundred fricking per cent! Mayhem and murder were the key drivers of public pressure that led to the incarnation of ZOSO. And while National Security Adviser Antony Anderson is trying to plug the holes in the ZOSO ship, talking about the strategic wisdom of not taking on challenging tests, he must know that the Jamaican public is tired of swimming in blood. Two guns and a dozen or so knives can be found in many high schools across Jamaica, much less gang fiefdoms.
Andrew Holness promised voters, quite foolishly and flippantly, that the ushering in of a Jamaica Labour Party Government would automatically cause them to leave their doors and windows open. He should have added the rider of a bribe-induced gun licence from the FLA.
Pat yourselves on the back for the Mount Salem tragedy of errors, boys. Clarendon's bodies are piling up - headless even! - and I don't think windows and doors there are left open at night.
- Andre Wright is the opinion editor of The Gleaner. His comments do not necessarily reflect those of The Gleaner Company. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.