In the UK, the “silly season” in the media refers to the summer period when parliament is on recess. In Jamaica, I was surprised to note, the “silly season” begins when the politicians start gearing up for election.
The first sign for me was the huge headline in the Observer last week:
COMMUNIST PLOT IN PNP [People's National Party]
Communists in Jamaica? Rarer than the manatees, I thought. Two days later, the paper carried a long interview with a hopeful Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate in the yet-to-be-announced general election. The candidate ranted about how the current representative, from the ruling PNP, had not had a consituency office in the area since 2002. The paper found out later that in fact the PNP had opened an office just a few weeks earlier. In shoddy contrast, this contender had left Jamaica some ten years ago and returned only in May to run as a candidate, parachuted into a “troubled” east Kingston hot spot.
â€œMy reason for being back here is my love of Bruce Golding (the JLP leader), but mostly my love of this country,â€ she says.
â€œIt was my intention to come back and to give my vast experience to the party on a whole, but I was persuaded that this particular constituency needs a special person, and I have fallen in love with South East St Andrew.â€
This is a woman with a whole lotta love.
â€œI love shoes! Thatâ€™s my weakness,â€ she admits. â€œPeople say this and that about Imelda Marcos (of The Philippines) and about her thousands of shoes, but I have no problem with her. That woman knew what she was up to,â€ she laughs, showing off the gold sparkles and paisley pattern of her heels.
Not only has she fallen in love with South East St Andrew, from which she plans her comeback, but from her own account, the constituency is beginning to love her back. [no details given]
Love has its limits, however, and it should be remembered that the last time this candidate ran for office, her opponent was shot dead by the police on the eve of the election – one of the 800 killed during the 1980 election period.
This week’s silliness was the revelation of a huge donation to the PNP by the Dutch-based oil trading company, Trafigura. No stranger to controversy, Trafigura has been held responsible for massive toxic dumping in Abidjan, CÃ´te d’Ivoire, just last month, causing the deaths of eight people, with thousands more suffering from the effects of poisoning. (Read more …) A few years ago, the same company was alleged by the independent inquiry into the oil-for-food scandal in Iraq to have bribed local officials and falsified documents (Read more …, p. 176). Trafigura then tried to sell the oil in the U.S. … but was caught there as well! (Read more … item 48)
Which proverb fits here? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth? (toxic breath!) Beggars can’t be choosers? I don’t know, but the initial reactions from the PNP were hilarious. The general-secretary of the party and Minister of Information, Colin Campbell said,
“[Trafigura] made the offer. They said that they know elections are imminent in Jamaica and they are intending to make a contribution, [...] I don’t know if it is for both political parties.”
Bwoy! Ice wouldn’t melt in his mouth!
The opposition leader had revealed that the donation had been deposited in an account known as CCOC Association.
Colin Campbell explained yesterday that the letters CCOC stood for nothing in particular, but was the name of the account into which the party’s campaign finances are lodged.
The signature on the cheques from the CCOC account to the party funds belongs to Norton Hinds, who today was eager to dissociate himself from any complicity. First he helpfully clarified the origin of the CCOC account.
That account was opened in 1992 when Colin Campbell went into politics. [...] At that time, a group of us came together to give him support, and we formed a group we called the CCOC Association, which stands for Colin Campbell Our Candidate.”
Funny that Mr Campbell forgot to mention that detail.
Hinds withdrew from active management of the account in 1993; nevertheless,
For many years since, he said, Campbell would, from time-to-time, come to him with blank cheques to be signed – which he would – without asking what the funds were for.
“Colin brings the cheques and I sit down and sign them, but I have no involvement in the use or acquisition of those funds,” Hinds insisted.
Brilliantly swatting aside an opportunity to score points for transparency and probity, PNP chairman, Robert Pickersgill, said on Wednesday that his party would only reveal their funding if the opposition party did likewise.
“As long as they are going to do theirs, we will do ours.”
This is known as the I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours political philosophy.
On a slight tangent, I note this morning that Jamaica ranks 60th in the 2006 Global Competitive Index and 64th in the Corruption Perception Index.
Given the current state of silliness here, I can imagine some politicians thinking that such similar rankings were actually an indication of stability.
Thought for today
In Jamaica, transparency is a blank cheque.