My Super Prime Minister

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I had a wonderful time at dinner last night and invariably whenever a group of ‘well-meaning- and ‘forward-thinking’ Jamaicans link up we will talk a little bit- or a lotta bit -about politics. So of course we spoke of bells and fists and ‘showers’ and ‘powers’ with all out passionate zeal for tribal colours in orange and greens. We drew up battle lines along five year periods of recycled ideas masquerading as new and we spoke of which Prime Minister did their best to ‘mash up Jamaica’ – agreeing of course that someone was successful in that quest. I mean, isn’t it obvious, look around you – Jamaica nuh mash up?

Of course we disagreed heartily as to who was the main perpetrator for the mash-up. As the meal came to quench our appetite, we dug in but our appetite for arguing our individual political views could not be quenched. Through it all we laughed because as I said we are ‘well-meaning’ and ‘forward-thinking’ Jamaicans.  That means we love our country so passionately that even through the storms of tribal political warfare waged on the battlefield across our dinner plates, we ‘mean’ all Jamaicans well.  The knives and forks were there only to support us in eating our meal that strengthens us to live another day.  But I tell you all this only to mention that even as I argued vociferously for my preferred party and politicians and prime ministers it occurred to me that each prime minister brought something powerfully to the table. This made me wonder and ask myself, “What if our politics over the past 50 years could have been as argumentative through camaraderie as we were over dinner last night – like knives sharpening knives without bloodletting or willful sabotage?” What if they sparred only towards the end of a place of betterment for all? Those ‘what ifs’ held me captive through the night and so when I woke up I decided to have a conversation as them through them, as only a dramatist can. I will let you in on my conversation:

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                                        Source: Jamaica Gleaner

BUSTA

There is no denying for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for me. It was I who said shoot me and set my people free. I went to jail for the workers of this country. I helped set us on a path to democracy and the Jamaican worker owes a debt to me.

Norman Manley

NORMAN

Your poetry is quite…touching my friend, but just remember now that I helped you out of that jail cell quite a few times Busta…

 

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BUSTA

Yes Norman. But the fact is that it was I who was in the jail cell. I was the one who stood up to the police guns for the people… I must admit we both spoke about a Trade Union. But I took the necessary action first. Revolutions may begin with powerful words but if no one takes powerful action, we will just become a revolving door going back to our starting point again and again.

 


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PJ

I must point out that my esteemed leader Norman has made laws and policies that had significant impact on our country in regards to education; the environment; fiscal responsibility and establishment of our central Bank; even the right to vote.

michael-manley

MICHAEL

Categorically speaking, that is true. My father was an intellectual of the first order and a passionate man of the people who set the tone of our democracy.

 

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EDDIE

But it was I, the ‘One Don’ who restored order to the Jamaican economy. I was the one who brought fiscal responsibility back on the books after you subjected the country to ridiculous and unnecessary socialist ideology in the seventies.

MICHAEL

I gave the people what they needed. It was a time for empowerment of us black people….

EDDIE

Us….? Black people… We are Jamaicans yes. Out of many one people. But not out of many one colour. That was always your problem. You could sell ice to an Eskimo but charisma alone does not make a leader.

MICHAEL

My policies stand for themselves. If I never put down my foot, our bauxite industry would still be benefitting everybody else except Jamaicans.

EDDIE

When you put down your foot you crush a lot of corns Michael. And dem crush yuh back.

MICHAEL

But if I never…

EDDIE

If you never sent our middle class packing in the seventies, we would have a better country now. How yuh mean to tell di people that ‘if they want to be millionaires there are five flights a day to Miami?’ Jamaica is not a communist country…

MICHAEL

You and I know that I never wanted a communist state in Jamaica. That is propaganda from up north. You know that they destabilized my government. You know that the FBI and CIA operatives destabilized not just the Jamaican government but numerous others in the region. I spoke of Democratic Socialism. That is not Communism. They are two separate things. Are you not familiar with the word Democracy?

EDDIE

I am familiar with the word. As you may recall, I beat you soundly in a democratic process and sent you packing.

MICHAEL

But I returned…

EDDIE

And Jamaica has never been the same!

 

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PJ

Indeed. But I am the master of ‘the return’. And how many times did I beat you Eddie? And who sent who packing? This is PNP country and Jamaica is better with our government. With the PNP the people are more at ease in their minds. When the JLP is in power, people are on edge.

BRUCE

They are on edge because they see greater possibilities for themselves and they are anxious to make great things happen. Let us not forget that it is my former leader who laid the foundation for Jamaica to be so prominent a cultural powerhouse on the world stage. Edward Seaga has given and done more for culture than any other Prime Minister this country has ever had.

PJ

Well, even culture needs roads to travel on.  I have built more roads and highways and byways than any other leader. Physical infrastructure is the path to development.

EDDIE

But cultural development impacts greatly on social development and further impacts greatly on development in the financial sector. If you had stuck to my policies…

Portia & Andrew

PORTIA

Your policies did not do enough to help the poor. There are too many people in Jamaica living below the poverty line.

ANDREW

Your policies are keeping people below the poverty line.

PORTIA

My government has provided ways and means and inroads and opportunities for poor people to rise above their station in the same way that I did.

ANDREW

You love the poor so much you are making more and more of them.

PORTIA

When I say I love the poor, I mean that I love the masses and I know they are often ignored in the policies. One of our Jamaica proverbs says that: “Jackass did say di world nuh level”. If  we are not starting from the same place, then we don’t have the same opportunities even if they are out there. Let us not pretend that the masses of Jamaicans have access to the same opportunities as the middle and upper classes.

ANDREW

Education levels the playing field and provides equal access to all.

PORTIA

But let us not pretend that everybody has equal access to education in the first place. My government believes in empowerment, as espoused by the words of Marcus Garvey…

 

AND So, the imaginary conversation played out in my mind as a ‘Round Table Discussion’ on party politics in Jamaica. What was more important to me however, was the realization that all together and without the self-sabotaging (which is what one must call the intention of any one Jamaican to destabilize or otherwise destroy any policy that benefits other Jamaicans) we have had leaders with vision. What we have not had too often, is consistency in sustaining useful programmes and policies that carry forward the successes of one regime’s policies into another regime in the interest of the Jamaican people. With this in mind I took it upon myself to create/define a super Prime Minister who would do just that.

 

All our Prime Ministers have had shortcomings that were not strengthened by opposition but instead exploited. This is politics after all and not church.  Neither is politics a social experiment in cultural development. It is simply, politics Westminster style. Even the fact that the opposition is called ‘the opposition’ sets the tone and sends the signal that the second party is meant to oppose not support; oppose as a means of check-and-balance; oppose until your party gets into power; oppose till thy-kingdom-come. As a Jamaican with invested interest in Jamaica over party politics, I describe my super Prime Minister below.

My Super Prime Minister (SPM):

Is a courageous, outspoken Alexander Bustamante kind-a leader whose fight for just causes for our own people places him or her on the right side of history. This leader, will be like the Right Honourable Norman Washington Manley, who as Premier in 1957 made Jamaica the first to declare a trade embargo against the apartheid South African regime. Like both of the above-named leaders, he/she will walk a line in support of social policies that don’t tip the scale towards communism but like Michael Manley will have an ideologically driven mandate for ourselves, aimed at changing the trajectory of ‘Our-Story’ from one of ‘follow-fashion-ism’ (aka America-sneeze-Jamaica-ketch-cold-ism) to one empowering all Jamaican people (including and especially benefiting the masses). This leader will further social causes through policy, like maternity laws; ‘anti-bastard’ laws; anti-discrimination laws; social equity laws…fearlessly in a Michael Manley fashion, because it is right to do so. Also, like Edward Seaga, my Super Prime Minster will bring back the Jamaican dollar to a four-to-one and hold it there through fiscally sound policies. He/She will support culture through cultural policies as well as development of physical and social infrastructure that supports development on all levels and all fronts. He/She will develop institutions like HEART which support development through training for the masses of Jamaicans. A cultural anthropologist at heart with the mind of a global banker, he/she will further encourage Jamaica towards being more than just a cultural superstate but a super power that benefits from the spoils of its cultural contributions to the global economy. My Super Prime Minister will, like PJ Patterson, develop on the physical infrastructure of Jamaica, taking it to a first world space where people feel comfortable doing business and have access to all of Jamaica. He/She will maintain a sense of calm and give the government a sense of respectability through control of the government ministers and their excesses. Like Bruce Golding and Andrew Holness, he/she will herald in an era of stability, sustaining Jamaica through harsh economic times. Like Portia Simpson Miller, My Super Prime Minister will be a charismatic people person, who leaves no one behind. He/she will always have their eyes on even the least fortunate and be dedicated to improving their lot, even while building bridges for all people to a higher place.

 

I admit that my Super Prime Minister might not be possible in one person. But I do believe the Jamaican people deserve someone of that ilk. I also believe that if the political climate changes, it will be easier for us to find and benefit from such a leader. As it is now, someone with those qualities might find it hard to rise to power through the morass of corruption and political tribalism that exists as our political reality. All this is just my personal take on the politics of a country so small yet so potentially powerful, if only we could stop re-inventing the wheel every five years. I am a political animal with a culturalist bent and access to a dramatist’s tools, but I know I am not alone in wanting to see Jamaica achieve the kinds of success which is well-within our potential and our reach.

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