Ronald Thwaites | Darkness and light
We are a truly remarkable people to countenance instances of wilful darkness and brilliant light, all in one week. First, the atrocious part. The Government very well knew that the Opposition would not support the continuance of the states of...
We are a truly remarkable people to countenance instances of wilful darkness and brilliant light, all in one week.
First, the atrocious part. The Government very well knew that the Opposition would not support the continuance of the states of emergency (SOEs). But on the eve of a political conference, when the shine is obviously off their balls, the choreographed and bloviated charade in Parliament (notably by some of the chief defenders of Dudus and the ‘Showa’ posse) is the perfect set-up to be able to blame crime and violence on their opponents. And solve what?
Had they wanted it otherwise, why not heed every voice in civil society, sit down with the Opposition and work out a compromise on the indefinite detention elements of the SOE regulations? But no. As in the ‘70s, the proto-fascists are prevailing, heads drunk with the arrogance of power.
“We need to have them in custody so we can build evidence against them.” That from a security force head abolishes the presumption of innocence and negates centuries of jurisprudence. What say you judges and lawyers? Cabinet members, remember your oaths.
“’F’ the Constitution, the people are deddin; is preventive detention we want,” went one honest rant this week. “Hey, shut yu mouth, Rani Twait, ‘bout talk wid PNP (People’s National Party). A 49 seat wi have!” That was one post. “Go back a church” was another.
The SOE issue is a foil also to deflect from at least three other egregious events directly affecting national well-being last week. The first was the restiveness by the police for unpaid wages – this is deadly serious. It is the closest to a threat of strike action by the ‘red seam’ men and women at a dangerous moment in recent history. Who can deny the central Kingston lady’s pithy ‘Bite of the Week’ on TVJ? “Dem a pay tief, but no want pay police.”
Then there was the multimillion-dollar pay-off to Ruel Reid. So from now on, when a school or, indeed, any other publicly sponsored institution decides it wants to part company with a particular ‘permanant’ employee (and remember the secret Petrojam sweetheart deal) the taxpayer will have to pay in order for ‘things to settle down’? Something can really go so? The Government is really a ‘boops’ – for some people.
How does that square up with the teachers or policemen taking home less than 100,000 rapidly devaluing dollars a month? The 60 per cent of the labour force earning minimum wage or just a ‘tups’ more? The pensioner waiting months, if not years, for their award? The unemployed who has had to “trus’ more food than the long-expected $10,000 can ever cover?
Almost unnoticed also was the dumping of more than 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine due to ignorant anti-vax sentiment and the weak capacity of the State to motivate the populace towards their own safety, the energy to restore economy, not to mention our preparation to withstand the inevitable fourth surge of even more virulent strains of the virus.
The darkness of unfairness, miseducation and increasing inequality!
Let there be light! Both Peter Phillips and Bruce Golding, out of their long experience and sacrifice in public life, offered us searing light to dispel the spiritual and political darkness of last week. Peter’s suggestions for the reform of the representative function and modernisation of parliamentary practice should provide the basis for a national campaign to restore faith and efficiency in governance.
Would that the proposers of states of emergency would heed Bruce’s acknowledgement that negative socialisation is the root of crime. Redressing that is the integral partner with containment, which we refuse to spend sufficient money and effort on. I would support a state of emergency which constrained unattached youth to undergo social rehabilitation, skill training and employment – not the scrape up, beat up, lock up, ‘yu nah get release till yu tell us whey di gun deh’ SOE of the present order.
Then on Monday, I attended the well-supported fundraiser put on by lovers of the Jamaican people – the Rockhouse Foundation in New York. These are Americans, Canadians and Australians of means who rate us so highly that they contribute millions each year to do what we don’t do for ourselves – to educate and feed the weakest and neediest in western Jamaica. No hubris, no pleas for ‘big-ups’, no contracts, no corruption – just genuine response to human need across all boundaries of race, nationality and status. Pure light!
And there is more brilliance rising from central Jamaica. Some years ago, at the insistence of alumna and Chairman Trisha Williams-Singh and principal Allen, the New Forest Infant and Primary School progressed to become a high school as well. Despite much scepticism and some rank prejudice, they have established a well-rounded curriculum, including academics and practical competencies like modern agriculture. Now they are partnering with HEART to offer levels one and two to high schoolers and the community.
Undaunted by entering students with low GSAT/PEP scores, they have remediated effectively and their exit passes at CSEC and City & Guilds rival many ‘traditional’ schools. New Forest is fast becoming a school of choice in a deep rural area because of the verve of leadership, the commitment of teachers, and the anxious participation of parents. By the way, they do not condone ‘social promotion’. You have to properly complete the lower grade before you are advanced.
At their first graduation last Thursday, some students who had entered reading at pre-primary levels had progressed to university matriculation. This is real progress and a true boost to national security.
Each of us can choose light over darkness.
Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to email@example.com.