Sister P, Bruce and the ‘Brownings’

“What difference does it make if it’s true? If it’s a story and it breaks, they’re gonna run with it.”

Robert DeNiro as Conrad ‘Connie’ Brean, from Wag the Dog 1997

Two headlines over the last couple of weeks have me shaking my head and wondering about the state of our collective mindset as Jamaicans and people of color.

The first was the characterization of PNP leader Portia Simpson Miller by JLP Finance Minister Audley Shaw as “Jumping around like a leggo beast” while at a recent PNP conference.

I may not share the outrage of some on this topic, mainly because I have long felt, said and maintain that the public behavior of Ms. Simpson-Miller is a constant embarrassment to her party and our country. The gift that keeps on giving to her political foes and critics of Jamaica.

There are those in Jamaican society however that are enthralled with her, and even want to overlook her behavior. We’ll get to those people on a minute. What is undeniable however is this:  The party of Norman and Michael Manley has not moved forward in either public esteem or meaningful achievement under her stewardship.

The PNP cannot point to one sustained successful initiative undertaken by the party while they were in power for eighteen years, when Simpson-Miller and her mentor PJ Patterson, were in charge. The Economist magazine, a well respected international magazine last week referred to Bruce Golding as ‘Jamaica’s best Prime Minister in decades’ a direct and accurate dismissal of the PNP’s nearly two decade stretch as leaders of Jamaica.

Eighteen years of political rule gives one the authority to do a lot of things-namely enact your entire political agenda.  The well documented scandals that point to a fattening of pockets by some in the PNP is clearly one of the only things that was achieved, but gives any intelligent person pause when they now hear stalwarts of the same party questioning and demanding answers ‘on behalf of the people.’

Yes, the same people they did nothing for in eighteen years of political control.

And on the heels of the ‘leggo beast’ brouhaha comes the innuendo rife Gleaner report about the HEART program and demands/requests/statements by private employers that they prefer ‘light skinned’ AKA ‘browning’ applicants from this program for placement in their companies.

I will not even get into speculation as to whether there is any truth to this Gleaner report. That is immaterial, because it names no names, gives no facts and sheds no light on anything of substance. What it does do however, is create a controversy where none exists. It’s a small morsel of meat thrown at dogs for them to bray and howl and gnash their teeth, but not full their stomachs. Kind of like the Hollywood movie scene quoted above.

Some would like to take this Gleaner report and accept it as factual, and demand changes, accountability or heads to roll. The only heads that should roll are the ones of the reporter and the editors who let that drivel go to press.

A responsible news agency that just recently touted its abstention from partisan politics should not print a story this incendiary and bereft of facts.

But lets assume for a second that the allegations in the “Browning Report” are true. The real problem isn’t with the private employers who made these requests/demands, it is squarely in the lap of the public sector officials who knew of this and either did nothing, said nothing or acquiesced to the demands.

The private sector people should be dealt with by the public they seek business from. If you as a member of the public is offended at the hiring practices, don’t support those companies. Simple as that.

A government agency however that receives these types of requests and does nothing is a government agency that should be completely overhauled-at all levels. They as representative of the people have the absolute responsibility to regulate and prosecute on behalf of all Jamaicans, black, brown or otherwise. Which of course plays into the political imbroglio that some seek to start and others never fail to react to.

Which int turn brings me to the “leggo beast” comment. As stated, I didn’t have much of a problem with what was said. If you conduct yourself publicly in a certain manner, its hard to be mad at people who may call you out on said conduct. The comment was crude and showing a distinct lack of respect for Mrs. Simpson-Miller and her position in Jamaican politics. However the only two questions I have to ask those who are offended is (1) Is the comment misplaced?  and (2) Who gains politically from this type of rabble rousing about brownings and name calling? Not the people of Jamaica, that’s for sure.

The political cesspool that has been Jamaican politics in my lifetime has now also claimed the scalp of the current Prime Minister, Bruce Golding and over the years tarnished the reputation of several other politicians.

Prime Minister Golding’s departure leaves the party of the ‘leggo beast’ gearing up for another shot at political power next year.  As mentioned previously I have noticed over the years a lot of sentiment from people in Jamaica towards Mrs. Simpson-Miller. There are those who feel she has been unfairly criticized and singled out because she is (take your pick) a woman, unpolished, not a browning, not of the right background etc. I tend to believe there are elements of accuracy in both the criticism and the position of her defenders. She has done little if anything however to dispel the criticism.

What can be readily agreed upon however is that she didn’t learn one of the truisms of political life; it is much harder to be the one in charge than to be in the background; harder to govern than to be a critic of government. It is a lesson Golding has been learning and one that despite her past position as the first female PM, she apparently also failed to grasp.

The next twelve months are going to be an interesting time for Jamaica, primarily because of the changes in the JLP leadership with elections on the horizon. Whatever the circumstances are that led to the hasty exit of Mr. Golding, make no mistake, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. His resignation, long clamored for by the PNP, has now eliminated that distraction and possibly put to bed forever the Dudus saga. So when the dust clears, it will be a new JLP leader squaring off against the old PNP leader.

I wonder how comfortable her party is about that scenario going into another election, considering how wonderfully she articulated her leadership skills in the last election.

Let the theatrics begin.