It is in the silence in between the campaigning on the political hustings that we must interrogate I suggest; the manifesto released on Friday last was surprisingly to me 56 pages in length when compared to their 2011 document of 134 pages, from which I quoted parts on human rights and some links to vulnerable groups. I just got a chance to read it through uninterrupted and I am left in lah lah land so to speak. The much touted referendum on buggery is missing from the document and as for the human rights component are only sentences of vagaries.
Despite the surprise and for some welcomed open support by former leader Edward Seaga at the mass meeting in Half Way Tree on Sunday 21st and his trumpeting of his baby the Charter of Rights which took 17 years to eventually come to life no mention was made of anything to do with buggery or when he hinted to his former rival P. J Patterson who also appeared at the PNP’s western Jamaica meeting of his perceived sexual orientation; everyone seems to be staying clear of that one.
While the JLP uses the Charter of Rights’ passage as bragging rights albeit it took some 15 years to get it to fruition the JLP needs to remember it sided with the PNP in many instances on the parachuted or invented futuristic gay marriage rights advocacy and the subsequent removal of the only protection regarding stigma & discrimination linked to sexual orientation. Case in point former Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s (post not in my cabinet BBC comment) during the Charter’s amendment debate in 2009 claimed no gay marriage rights when no one asked or claimed any such thrust and bearing in mind gay as defined between a man and a woman is deeply entrenched in the constitution so change cannot be a simple two thirds vote in the houses or even a high court ruling in our jurisprudence.
Interestingly former PM Seaga lamented that persons are still asking or crying ‘We want justice’ and that the Office of the Public Defender which was a creature of the Charter’s creation (a replacement for section three of the constitution) is to provide legal services for the poor who cannot afford private counsel; yet the Public Defender is swamped with cases and reports but short or deliberately starved of cash. Some of those cases frankly also include LGBT stigma & discrimination matters from my days at JFLAG’s crisis intervention desk between 2008 to 2010 as old cases were taken to the office when enacted.
Then comes the pushback on the 10 point plan and the seeming attractive tax relief on PAYE which has the very influential Economist Magazine saying the plan does not seem workable as how can 250,000 jobs be created when 178,000 are unemployed, they never stated the source of the figures. Then although the JLP has effectively reshaped the discussion of the issues and have the PNP on the offensive especially on the tax plan, when only an estimated 118,000 persons who are eligible voters will be affected by the PAYE removal which is about 6% of the total vote cohort; other issues of course will have an impact and the latest RJR commissioned Don Anderson polls show a 1% surge for the JLP supposedly based on the tax reform/PAYE removal proposal. The PNP has been chipping away at it relentlessly and it is now apparent why they refused to participate in the leadership debates outside of being forced to address obvious questions they may be unable to answer including the buggery law/conscience vote issues.
I thought that the referendum on buggery and the CCJ which had gained some traction since first mooted would have appeared prominently in the document but on page 48
“Review of legislation of sexual offences, domestic violence and childcare & protection.”
Given that that happens every four years and includes the problematic “Buggery Law” again uncertainty and vagueness of the documents and the pandering or not to either religious right groups or hugging up LGBT advocacies as a good image building tactic for international partners but no change in the actual legislations at all in fear of political demises. Seeing the diluted ‘Savings Law Clause’ which has opened up a door in a sense to tackling the law for amendment or legal constitutional challenges, is it that the JLP may somehow reinforce that clause so as to preserve the law and making it immune from challenges? And how would the PNP react to this although their manifesto is also silent on LGBT albeit the Justice Minister like many in the executive and elsewhere privately know that the law needs to go or be amended but the open will is just not there.
Frankly given the sequence of events this time around maybe legislatively qualified political organizations must submit or release their manifestos on the same day or time, similar to counsel in court making submissions so as to avoid one-upmanship and so on. I am just unsure and wondering what in hell am I going to put my X for? My member of parliament who I have not seen for nearly some twelve years or more has not passed by; only a bus or some thugs with the voter information card of the candidate which makes me wonder about safety of persons and who these questionable looking characters may recall.
Good to see however that despite the pigeon holing of the JLP’s ten point plan, a certain Matalon’ malcontent on tax reform suggestions and such cost and size of houses included the public debate seems widely placed on issues for the most part but one cannot escape the wrenches thrown in the mix. But the missing specifics on both party’s front is not aiding my decision where to mark my ‘X’
Audley Shaw Finance spokesperson spoke of a so called last minute swing for the PNP looks good in his eyes and Seaga’s appearance a first since his departure are signs maybe they smell victory somewhere. February 22nd police and election day worker voting preliminary figures suggest just over a 50% turnout when compared to 2011’s just over 28% a near doubling; pundits have since suggested that if voter turnout overall is over 60% then it is a close win for the JLP as they need to win back seats lost numbered some 18 then add to that to get the majority. I am feeling a close election given more eligible voters are around now and the parameters are different this time around especially the social media and smart phone app inclusion. Young people (18 – 35) make up almost 73% of the voting public and are very vocal and included in the articulate minority online; will those persons translate their thoughts to actual votes and then be vigilant afterwards is yet to be seen. Youth unemployment is 28% yet promises are made of jobs, jobs and so on yet to have their hopes dashed. It’s about the transforming of their social existence.
There are about 21 constituencies such as East Rural and Eastern St Andrew look good for the JLP in the eyes of some but violence in Eastern St Thomas or St Andrew and the aforementioned Gregory Park matter are done to put a spoke in the momentum for the JLP. The close seats are the ones to watch on election night.
I am nervous about surprises in the future or procrastinations or some explain-away that it not a priority right now that are simply not plausible. Finally the According to the Ramsamooj poll, 62.03 per cent of respondents said ‘yes’ when asked: “Do you think the Government was able to pass the IMF tests at the expense of the citizens of Jamaica?”
Mek we see nuh.
Peace & tolerance.