Friday, July 04, 2008

Failed leadership

I have always said the main problem I have with previous administrations is not the way they have managed the economy, but the breakdown of law, order, and discipline. Jamaica's problems with violent crimes did not start today. The fact that people were allowed to get away with small infractions has led to the major crimes we face today.
The indiscipline on the roads, the corruption by public officials (described as runnings), the blaring music at nights, and the general "Jamaica no problem" attitude. These have all resulted in Jamaica being one of the most murderous countries in the world. It is the inaction of our leaders who have been honoured with so many accolades, that has caused us to be where we are today. Leadership both in the public and private sector. This is what has caused the assassination of someone I have known for over 20 years, Douglas Chambers.

A sad day for Jamaica
It is a very sad day for our country when someone with all the intentions to make this country better is slain. For it is saying to us that if you try to do anything to improve Jamaica, and help to improve the lives of Jamaicans, then you will not make it. It is very symbolic of the way our leaders have approached this country, that is, Jamaica is a place to be plundered, not developed. In other words the tradition of Henry Morgan, the pirate, must be continued. When there is nothing else to plunder, and Jamaicans have killed off each other, then the same persons that have led us to this sorry state of affairs will move on to another country and retire in comfort.

Douglas' death was not orchestrated this year. If we are honest with ourselves it all started in the 1960s, after independence, when political violence started to rear its ugly head. At the time there were no high-powered weapons, which cause the gruesome slayings today. But we have always sought to use the best technology available to create bodily harm. This technology improved to what it is today, not because the poor man hired to commit the crime could afford to bring in the guns. He was too busy trying to find food for himself and his many children. Rather it was the "Honourable" politician, isolated behind security, that used the poor Jamaican like a rag cloth to wipe out what he considered dirt.

So, irrespective of what anyone might think about Douglas' style, his intention was always to clean up the corruption that is the legacy left to my generation, and the ones following, by those who have fought their way to power with the blood of the poor, plundered our coffers, and retired to a life of plenty. The Jamaica today is the legacy that has been left for us by some of the leaders we have bestowed with the title Honourable and many other awards. As I see what this legacy has done to Douglas, I ask, what is honourable about the Jamaica that has been created?

The legacy left by the generations before us is aptly described by Douglas' circumstances. He was given $1 a year and bullets. In other words, the legacy left by previous generations for us is poverty and crime. That is what is meant by $1 per year and bullets. Should we be thanking those who have gone before us for the legacy created, or should we be saying to them, "You have failed in the leadership of this country. It is time that you stop giving solutions to something you could not do when you were asked to by the people and allow us to do it". There is nothing I hate more than to hear those responsible for where we are now speak about what the solutions are to the problems we have today.

Jamaica as an experiment
It is as if Jamaica was nothing more than a lab rat to be tortured and poked in an experiment to prove a theory of the resilience of Jamaicans to "sufferation". Because no real attempt has ever been made to truly improve the lives of Jamaicans. So I find it very difficult to reconcile the fact that we have $1 Trillion in debt burdening the poor people of this country, while the old lady I saw walking on the sidewalk a few weeks ago (in bright sunshine) had to step off into the road to avoid a puddle of water. I find it very difficult to reconcile how we have supported public sector companies losing billions per year when the children line the streets hustling with no hope of a proper education or any health care. I find it very difficult to reconcile how we spend billions on hosting a cricket tournament for a few weeks when at the same time the police, teachers, and nurses are crying out for more resources.

And then when these questions are raised, some have the audacity to try and defend it. It is not only corruption that has helped to destroy this country, but the wanton way in which we have approached public expenditure in this country. We have spent money not to ensure the development of Jamaica, and Jamaicans, but to ensure that political parties hold on to power. And we may say that it is the people who decide who is put into government. But what we have been doing is keeping the people hungry and ignorant so that if we give them a plate of curry goat and a beer, then they will give away their lives. If our leaders had any respect for Jamaicans they would never entertain that sort of politicking.

The trigger of the gun that killed Douglas may have been pulled by a poor Jamaican man. But it was the mismanagement and inaction of our leaders that developed the criminal and gave him the gun. The trigger was not pulled last Friday. It was pulled as far back as 1962 when we gained independence and failed to develop this country to become one where discipline, structure, and development were given top priority. Danville Walker has realised this in his recent address where he said that those evading customs duty are the well-to-do. It is not the poor man who pulls the trigger who evades customs duty. It is not the poor man that is abused by the police who evades income tax.

So when I hear people criticising the government for not giving a long enough time for the tax amnesty I think about how bare-faced criminality is. For those who evade taxation are as criminal as the man who fires the gun. So how can we criticise the "dons" in August Town for calling a peace truce when the white-collar criminals who evade taxes are also calling for an extension on a tax truce? In fact it is the deprivation of the revenue that has resulted in many respects to crime in this country because education, health, and social services cannot be funded. But then again, maybe if that revenue was coming in we would have wasted it on the scandals that have dogged Jamaica for many years.

It is not one or two wayward men who killed Douglas. It is a well-oiled system of corruption, indiscipline, and lawlessness that has been created by years of neglect and dismal leadership. But we must all understand that when violent crimes take place in Jamaica it is a cry for help by poor Jamaicans who have been abused for decades. And we who have the ability to do so must double our resolve to improve this beautiful and blessed country by fighting the corruption and indiscipline that engulf us.

Douglas was one of thousands of Jamaicans who lost their lives in the fight for "scarce benefits and spoils". But he was at the forefront of trying to change a system that stinks of corruption. He was at the forefront of trying to put in place a better life for Jamaicans, who suffer the indignity of travelling the public transportation system while those responsible for its demise drive in air- conditioned gas guzzlers. So even though he may have had his conflicts with the people, he was truly a champion of the people.

So I say to the young people of Jamaica: Even though the legacy left for us is one of "$1 a year and bullets," we must have the resolve to help Jamaica to rise like the Phoenix from the ashes. And when we have our conflicts, as we always will, do the same thing Douglas would do and say "Come, let's go drink a beer and talk bout it". Big up Dougie.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Concur with you 100%. One thing. You have repeated this consolation that so many Jamaicans continue to spout without giving much thought to its credence: "...our resolve to improve this beautiful and blessed country...". Please explain the beauty we keep trying to convince ourselves is still there. I have traveled around a bit, and have found breathtaking beauty in the rest of the Caribbean (St Lucia, for one), as well as islands in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. next thing: "blessed". I guess we're blessed that the citizens have not long ago taken to the streets en masse to demand justice and protest the wanton waste of public funds -- but is that a blaessing? Our complacency and apathy have been a curse upon us, for it has given governments carte blanche to pilfer the nation's coffers and neglect the welfare of its citizens.

We have not sought to hold any of our leaders accountable for creating garrisons, for arming the poor, idle and ignorant for the benefit of themselves, and of course, for keeping the populace poor, idle and ignorant. Those leaders who are still alive today should answer for these crimes against the Jamaican people, but what have we done? Given them accolades, awards, respect and elevated positions in their golden years -- we have rewarded them for sowing the seeds of the destruction of our once-beautiful, once-blessed country. The ugliness of today's reality is a tragedy.

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ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID said...

I am in total agreement with your perspectives.Excellent post!!RESPECT

Nicole H. said...

Dennis excellent blog, I concur with you completely. I worked at Chambers Henry straight out of UWI and Douglas was such an intriguing character. Many may not have understood his style and approach to things however his heart was in the right place and his intentions pure. He always wanted the best for Jamaica and the people of Jamaica. I hear all you say about the violence and corruption that I agree are deeply embedded in the system, our culture and general way of life and continue to question how can we TRULY make a difference?

Anonymous said...

Dennis - Your article went straight to the heart of the problem in this country - our leaders and their style of politics. You know what is even more sad is that many Jamaicans are fiercely loyal to the political parties more than they are to thier own well-being and that of their families. Look at the response of Kern Spencer's constituents to his overt corruption!!!

We have allowed politicians to feel it is OK to treat us this way. The Portmore toll road is another example of contempt for us by our leaders. Many (or some) Portmore residence felt it was a good thing to pay "tax" to go to their yard - particularly on a road that was already paid for by taxpayers and then taken away only to be altered and made into a highway.

After 18 years of corruption the attitude of many in this country was like that of a battered wife who feels she deserves nothing and is tickled pink by even the slightest show of attention. That was our attitude towards the Portmore toll road - we did not recognise that it was our right to have good roads.

Our leaders will only act differently when we as Jamaicans start to respect ourselves and stop being so loyal to political parties. We have allowed ourselves to become so tribalised and it is just downright shameful

Arlene

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