Which party is best for Jamaica?
By Franklin JOHNSTON
The PNP is the natural party of the Jamaican people. The first and only party to adumbrate a mantra for the disadvantaged and social institutions to give it effect. This was attractive to the grandchildren of slaves who prized their freedoms. Norman Manley was driven. A soldier, athlete, Rhodes scholar, he knew political dogma - the strait-jacket of communism and capitalism. He chose the middle ground which social democratic parties in Germany, UK, Italy, Greece, Scandinavian nations used to build world-class industry and great welfare systems. Bustamante was not of this ilk. He went to primary school, was a rolling stone - Cuba, Panama, America - policeman, hospital orderly, investor; changed his name on a whim and returned home in his 50s with some money. He was an activist; joined a union, founded his own and used his talent to help workers with success. He founded the JLP on "sibling rivalry" - a contest with his "educated cousin". The JLP still reacts to the PNP. We say to kids, "See Mr Manley, his life, study, law career, service in politics... copy him!" You can't tell kids to copy Bustamante's life! The JLP's capitalist mantra lies between his "we are with the West" and Seaga's "haves and have-nots". The JLP is mainly a spiritual vacuum, but the ascendancy of Adventist ethic in leadership in the last four years may change this. The benign union of church and state and the clique of Adventist fundamentalist right-wingers in Cabinet is ominous. More anon!
The PNP is also the omni-directional creative, cultural and sporting home of the nation. The vision of Norman Manley - world-class sportsman, lawyer, art connoisseur and bon vivant - is breathtaking. An inspiration to Jamaicans here and abroad. Bustamante's life was rambling and we have anecdotes often which he supplied, not facts. But the drama of what we know is compelling. He loved his cousin, shared successes. Manley outfoxed the British. They trusted, respected him; he fought with them in war, studied with them at Oxford, held forth in their courts, they knew his commitment and performance and he knew them!
The PNP is the spiritual home of the nation. Drumblair was the hub of artistic expression; the energy of our creative class. Liberal jargon as freedom, economic independence, decolonisation, equality, class struggle, environment, self-reliance, Nkrumah, Lumumba, Africa are the legacy of PNP semanticists. The UWI was said to be PNP just by being a place of intellect. The spirit of craft, cottage industry, domestic work; gender equality, child equality, shade equality were nurtured by conscious people, many not PNP but classed as such. The JLP went the other way. Bustamante was educated, but he used a folksy illiteracy which attracted poor people yet they retreated as it devalued education. Some recidivism is still evident at meetings where there is a striving of educated JLP people to appear less so and diss education to curry favour with poor people - a paradox of politics! The PNP also got "street cred"; many "buttos" had free rein and principles suffered. Mr Seaga nurtured Kapo but the JLP never bought into his artistic genius. The JLP as a capitalist party has never been of artistic or spiritual trenchancy.
The PNP is the spiritual home of the media. Its leaders marched and demonstrated when media workers were disadvantaged and fired; meanwhile the JLP were banning speakers, books, writings and UWI lecturers. I smuggled books, was interminably searched by customs and had my books confiscated. Every journalist over 50 - not media owners - is a virtual PNP sleeper because of its track record on their behalf. Early PNP leaders sacrificed; politics was not their best job; their families suffered. After the PM's job they did public service - spoke globally and served the Commonwealth. They lived in their pre-politics houses and died with less than when they started politics. Their children's legacy was a good education, not money or a business. Ex-JLP top brass expressed their capitalism in finance; new houses, business to capitalise on their years in politics. No global speakers emerged. People rightly worry about JLP corruption as they expect it, but they wrongly ignore PNP corruption because they think them high-minded - both are wrong. If the PNP mantra also resonated with other ethnic groups, they came on contract, indenture, fleeing persecution and it was PNP social openness, not JLP restrictive capitalism, that attracted them. So where is this going?
The big question
Why is the PNP not more successful at the polls? Given this love affair, how come they won only eight elections to the JLP's seven since 1944? What are we missing? What is the PNP doing wrong or the JLP doing right?
The JLP is filler when people want to punish the PNP and sometimes it delivers the goods! First, despite his work, Norman did not lead us to Independence. Was the referendum principle or naivety? No matter; he did not get the nod. Second, Michael's self-reliance which makes Cuba the region's innovator in health industries, education and housing, even with two hands tied by a USA blockade, did not get the nod. Third, Finsac is a metaphor for woes. The USA used debt resolution with dozens of failed banks and building societies. Here, true to its mantra, the PNP rescued hundreds of thousands of small savers. The few thousand investors and bankers had to face the nightmare of all entrepreneurs who use poor people's savings to build themselves - grief! Finally, the PNP has not explained how in 18 years of unbroken power when the world was prospering we could not even catch up with Barbados. So has the PNP squandered our generosity? Is the JLP stability just the usual calm after an IMF loan boosts our cash flows? More to come. Stay conscious, my friend!
Coat of arms or jacket?
Last week arriving passengers were told by NMIA Immigration their completed forms were illegal. The reason? The coat of arms was wrong? The crab louse was upside down or such? Who printed them? It did seem more jacket than coat! The explanations were confusing. Tired tourists and locals were not amused.
Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston Consultants currently on assignment in the UK.