Minding Jamaica’s Business

Marcia Forbes PhD
A political activist recently accused me of never having anything to say when the suss starts at the non-political social events which we both regularly attend.  She intimated that none of the activists liked to tell me anything because I was usually unwilling to add any juicy bits to the conversation. Another one lashed me for being what she scornfully described as ‘a perfect Board Director’. Life is funny, imagine being castigated for not wanting to bad-mouth and get into people’s business. Anyway, truth be told, like most others in our little Jamaica nuff problems, I do listen to suss and perhaps too often do add my own views.
What I’m about to write may be regarded as just plain rumour-mongering. But in the interest of sharing a view that seems quite popular at this time, I put it out for public scrutiny. In any event the person who sent it to me seemed intent on either having me share the information or hearing my own views. Living up to my acquaintance’s description of being a tight-lipped ‘Board Director’, I had nothing to say to the writer but will share the comments with readers. The self-acclaimed cynic sent me the following:
“It is the self-interests of the JLP not to let the contents of those electronic telephone intercepts (ETI) be used as a basis for any extradition request or as evidence in any local or foreign court.  It is not about Dudus per se but the foundation of the extradition request. The JLP Government is mindful of setting precedent and a court adjudicating on the legality of the said intercepts.  It cannot take that risk.

In these "extradition treaty technicalities", the Tivoli don is merely a DUD.  Can you imagine the potential debvastation (sic) of those recordings of the conversations between "prominent persons" and the criminal network?  It would be off the Richter scale - a political earthquake triggering a tsunami of resignations (and arrests).”   

Now in my true style of always seeking evidence to support arguments, I have been conducting a little informal survey of how Jamaicans feel about this whole extradition matter and trust me; it is largely divided right down tribal political lines. Labourites have all the good reasons why the Prime Minister is to be highly commended for his principled stance and Comrades have now found the moral high-ground to lambaste the PM’s decision, or dithering as they prefer to label it. In general though, this matter is bringing about a state of anxiety and depression among Jamaicans, especially middle-aged women. They are simply fed-up with our country’s lack of progress and now this blithe on its image. Many are fearful for their US visas.
The visa revocation issue has substantially muddied the extradition waters and once confident Labourites are rethinking their positions. All of us love ourselves best and support our own best interests. In many respects the United States of America is still seen as ‘the promised land’ even if it too faces challenges associated with the global economic crisis and the resultant recession. The possibility of prominent Jamaicans having their visa revoked is real, whatever the motivation behind these revocations. There is precedence.
In September 2009, only months ago, in Honduras several ‘Government officials’ (if you support the coup d’état and regard the present administration as official) had their visas revoked. These were not just tourist visas but diplomatic ones as well, with that of the coup-installed President, Roberto Micheletti, included among them. Later in November 2009, a mere few months ago, the sting of visa revocation was felt in Kenya. The Attorney General, Amos Waco, fought back, describing the loss of his US visa as a show of “bad faith” on the part of the US and as a “proud African” vowing to look at legal actions against the US.  
So what led the US to this action against Kenya’s leading legal luminary? From reports, Attorney General Waco was regarded by the US as an obstacle in the fight against corruption and by failing to prosecute perpetrators of post-election violence which ended in over 1,300 killed. If we apply this logic to Jamaica then as citizens of a country where law and order is out of control, murders are senseless, public officials often corrupt and self-serving, then any one of us stands to have our US visa revoked. We are all guilty of mostly standing by and mostly doing nothing. We too fraid!!
To a large extent Jamaicans do nothing because we are afraid of loosing friends and falling out of favour. I know many Board Chairs and Directors who do nothing about damaging reports which indict CEO’s because they do not want to loose their prized position as Chair or as Director. I know Permanent Secretaries who are aware of unassailable reports of incompetence at the highest level in their Ministries but for fear of the ‘bigger boss’ they hold their corner and play the game of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’. Politicians often do nothing for fear of loosing the almighty VOTE or fear of falling out with colleagues.
Prime Minster Golding must be a very lonely, fearful man at this time. He carries the burden of a nation and must be acutely aware of the way the cards are stacked against us all as Jamaicans. My advice to him is one I learnt many years ago but sometimes ignore. When yuh han in Lion mouth tek time tek it out.  From what I hear behind the scene, it seems he may be trying to cautiously extricate his hand and save his face. If this is really so, it is in the best interest of all of us as Jamaicans to wish him well in that exercise.