Monthly Archives: June 2021

Vaccines, vaccines !

Minister of Health Chris Tufton has had a rough week. Soldiers turned away hundreds of people flocking to vaccination sites islandwide to get their second dose. In some places only people under 50 were refused a second dose, but at others the huge queues in advance of the site opening meant that the site was closed without a single vaccine being administered. Vaccines are apparently on the way but right now there are clearly not enough for those who want them.

At the same time nurses were complaining that they haven’t received their hazard pay for the vaccination blitz and more than a hundred doctors are concerned that their contracts have not been extended or they are only being offered six month contracts. The Minister seems to be suffering from cognitive dissonance as he was appearing on all the talk shows to urge that the doctors and nurses be paid and their contracts sorted out immediately. If the Minister is not responsible for solving the problem, who is?

Tufton is riding a sea of goodwill as his valiant efforts to combat the pandemic have met with some success over past fifteen months, however people’s memories are short and some of the problems at the Health Ministry are recurring decimals: there is never enough money available for timely payments to health workers and the Cornwall Regional Hospital renovations were slated for completion by the end of 2020 (and all now nothing 😔).

While Tufton struggled, the Prime Minister basked in the approval of most Jamaicans as he relaxed the curfew restrictions as of July 1, 2021. The nightly curfew moves to 11pm to 5am Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 5am on Sunday, and most importantly the entertainment sector will be allowed to reopen subject to receipt of the proper permits. According to many on social media people in their area are behaving as if the 11pm curfew is already in force and, of course, the partying never stopped for some. No sooner had the Prime Minister announced the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, than many critics pointed out that the Delta variant (which has apparently not reached Jamaica yet) is causing infection rates to rise rapidly in many countries around the world (US, UK, Israel, South Africa), the so-called third wave. Dog nyam we supper.

Opposition business

The Opposition continued to try to capitalise on the George Wright matter, continuing to press for him to be seated with the Government rather than among Opposition members. Karen Cross did not turn up to her disciplinary hearing. Dr Morais Guy berated the Minister of Health for his treatment of healthcare workers and Mark Golding made forays around the island attacking the Government on a variety of issues. Peter Bunting suggested that the easing of restrictions means the local government elections are near. He is no doubt mindful of the PM’s protestations last June that he had no intention of calling an election, only to call it 2 months later.

However, the general pandemic attitude of the populace still seems to be that if you’re not the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health or the CMO, (Chief Medical Officer Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie) them don wan hear nutten from you.


Jamaican politics revisited

Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding continues to struggle to unite the party. The party has been divided since Portia Simpson Miller took over as leader in 2006 and the disunity continued under Peter Phillips. Fifteen years is a long time to be fighting over the leadership. The central issue of who has the right to lead Norman Manley’s party is apparently a matter of both credentials and electability. Portia was electable but lacked the middle class credentials, Peter Phillips had the credentials but was ultimately poison at the ballot box. Mark Golding is a lawyer, a banker and, like Bob Marley, has an English father and a Jamaican mother. He needs more time to demonstrate whether he can appeal to Jamaican voters.

It’s not clear why Golding is causing so much dissension inside the party. There are no policy or ideological issues at stake. It seems that just as Peter Phillips refused to accept Portia as leader, some members of the PNP are refusing to accept Golding on no better grounds than he was not their choice. He and Dayton Campbell were key figures in Peter Bunting’s Rise United faction that attempted to unseat Peter Phillips in 2019. The argument that the Risers caused the PNP to lose the 2020 election ignores the fact that the PNP and Phillips were never ahead in the polls after 2016. In any case most of the Risers lost their seats and the prime culprit, Peter Bunting, is sidelined in the Senate alongside another PNP leader wannabe Damion Crawford. Supporters of Lisa Hanna can’t deny that she has major problems in her constituency, with the resignation of another councillor. Until she can sort out her home turf, she continues to lack credibility as a leadership contender. However, Golding has not yet found his feet. He seems to have retained the same inept communications team that made Peter Phillips a laughing stock on social media, and he is a long way from remaking himself as a man of the people.

Until Mark Golding has been at least a year in office and the pollsters can go in the field, the question of his electability may best be answered by observing the current Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Nationwide’s 2020 Blue Dot poll found him to be enjoying historic levels of popularity. Can he sustain this until the next election in 2024/5 ? The success of the weekend lockdowns (since March 2021 ) in reducing the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations suggests that, right now, the Prime Minister and the government continue to enjoy the confidence of the majority who are willing to endure the very considerable difficulty and inconvenience of the lockdowns. There are many gripes about corruption, the indifference to the environment when mining or a new hotel is in the balance, crime continues unabated, vaccines are running short, and more than a hundred thousand children have not attended any form of school since the pandemic began, but nothing has yet happened to cause the nation’s hearts and minds to turn hopefully to the warring PNP.

Violence against women is a problem for both parties: George Wright’s resignation from the JLP still leaves him with a seat in Parliament (and he is insisting he will not only not resign but will run again) and Dayton Campbell’s defamation lawsuit against Karen Cross et al will be winding its way through the courts for months to come. As usual, both parties will hope for other less vexing issues to take over on social media and the front pages of the newspapers long before they are forced to do anything substantive.

Golding has appointed Tony Bogues, formerly Michael Manley’s right hand man, to chair the party’s Policy/Vision Committee. This is apparently in response to those who feel that the party has lost its way and needs to find out what it stands for. Arguably neither the PNP or the JLP have stood for much of anything since the end of the Cold War. Both parties run on promoting growth in a market economy, a slate of competent candidates, policies that favour both business and the working class, with a little something thrown in for the poor. Who wins appears to depend on the popularity of the leader and their supporting cast. Right now Holness, Tufton et al are winning the race.

Your feel good tune of the week is Go Down Deh.