The king is dead, long live the king.
If there’s one thing sure to get a slightly vegetative Jamaican blogger out of his slumber, its the Bruce Golding’s announcement of his intention of early resignation as party leader and Jamaica’s prime minister.
There is very little to analyse about this, unless one wants to look at the Golding years (forgettable), or post-Golding Jamaica.
I arrived in Jamaica the day Golding gave age as his ‘reason’ for retiring… and as one taxi-driver said, “Nobody believe him!”. Neither do I. Golding has so long lusted for power, there is no way on earth he would be satisfied with 1.5 terms in office. Lets dismiss that one with all the contempt we can muster.
The Gleaner on the said day, Sunday October 2 asked “Who pushed Golding?” which is a nonsensical question in the context of that story, where the staff writer claims, “Despite speculation locally and overseas that have attempted to link the surprise resignation announcement to the botched extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke last year, there has been no word from any overseas government or agency to confirm a direct connection”. Really? Since his resignation was announced only a few days before, isn’t it premature to jump to that conclusion publicly? And doesn’t that statement betray a lack of cohesive thought?
Ok, let me speculate. I never doubted that the Dudus fiasco would lead to Golding’s fall, and the Manatt inquiry only starkly implied how deeply he was in bed with Dudus, and how badly the government handled the extradition.
There was fear by some that Bruce would have tried to brazen it out and run again, banking that the Jamaican electorate would have a short attention span. Well, he did try, but the electorate doesn’t have that short an attention span, and the Manatt inquiry only deepened the resentment for the Bruce Golding-led Jamaica Labour Party. The die was cast… Golding had become an albatross around the party’s neck.
Yet that wasn’t seen in the Jamaica Labour Party who had stood behind him and refused to even consider his resignation. Even after his announcement, they were begging him to stay on ‘indefinitely’.
The fact that the JLP was caught in so much confusion, clearly shows that the party was caught off-guard. Golding had made no prior signal of an intent to resign and there was no recent internal putsch. So who or what?
For that we have to look to the private sector and yes, the United States government. There I said it.
It was going to be difficult but not impossible for Golding to bypass the moneyed class. They clearly saw him as a liability but not because of moral principles. They didn’t give a damn about the 70-odd people who died in Tivoli, ‘Dudus’, or whether Golding dances with the devil. They just don’t want the People’s National Party under Portia Simpson back in power and weren’t going to take a gamble that Golding could develop teflon-like armour, enough to carry the next election.
After the extradition flop and after Manatt inquiry, it was the private sector leaders who were more than hinting that Golding’s position as Jamaica’s leader was untenable. If he didn’t go, I figure that campaign contributions to the JLP would be very tight. But hypocrites they are, I bet if Golding stayed, they would still grudgingly fill the party coffers… albeit in a losing cause. Yes, Golding would lose to Portia Simpson Miller next time around.
So there is the United States…. And I’m sure there were signals that the US were not very happy with Golding. To have the rumours continue and even grow that Dudus has named names, and that a sitting prime minister could be publicly indicted over the Dudus affair would definitely mean death at the polls. After Dudus was extradited back then, I was told that 3 high-ranking JLP members had super indictments handed down against them in the US courts. No need to guess who was one of them.
I’m surprised that many commentators felt ‘surprised’ at Golding’s decision. And I’m also surprised at the virtual whitewashing of his image by some columnists. Let us be frank. Bruce Golding was never ever going to be a good prime minister and the general public had long stopped buying into that idea. My informal poll each time I went to Jamaica, showed less and less favour towards him and the JLP. Dudus/Manatt made sure there was no way back.
So where from here? Well, the spotlight is now on heir apparent in Andrew Holness. Personally, my gut instinct would have gone for Christopher Tufton. But it might matter little. I don’t think either can beat the People’s National Party led by Simpson, should the PNP really want a return to power… no matter how much money the elite class pour into the JLP. Remember how much money was lodged in the JLP’s bank account the last time and Golding only squeak in a win.
There is a great deal of resentment about the JLP government as their performance hasn’t been anywhere near what they claim. Despite the tourism minister’s continual ‘happy face’, tourism is in bad shape. Not that you could tell from the way he ‘mishandles’ statistics’. Walk the streets yourself, talk to the interests, and it is glaring. Tings bad.
Foreign investment is down to an all time low (world global economy is a part of that), but far too many decisions of the Golding government have exacerbated the difficulty people have in earning a living in Jamaica… except of course for the ‘elite’ class. Apparently, they are currently having serious issues with the IMF. Golding’s resignation won’t change that.
The PNP has also tied Dudus/Manatt to the rest of the party because each and everyone of them knew what was happening and unswervingly backed the party leader. They are all tainted by association and by knowledge. And any of them who claim ignorance of ‘Dudus’ will be judged either a liar or a fool. Holness won’t have the time to cleanse himself of that smear, despite the party and their media sycophants claiming that he is without sin. Jamaicans won’t buy that.
And here is another question. Who gets Tivoli? That is more important than you think. Right now Holness dare not take the Tivoli militia, and yet he has to be wary who gets it. It has to be someone trusted but someone who does not have leadership ambitions.
Holness has to enter a fast learning curve with lots of pressure, and I doubt that he is ready for it. The JLP cannot entertain those made-for-tv debates because Simpson Miller would eat him alive. As friendly as the press has been to the JLP, Holness is not likely to have the experience to navigate dangerous waters and a bad interview will signal disaster. The JLP will be pushing the youth angle but its not the best one to stack all your chips behind. Its going to be interesting days ahead.
One of the legacies of the Golding age is the greatly noticeable shift against black skin. That I will deal with in a different column.