Andrew Holness must be living in a fairy tale. He most certainly has a fairy godmother looking after him. I don’t think Andrew expected to be prime minister at the relatively tender age of 39. He must be pinching himself every day, wondering if it’s for real. All of the competitors for the top job selflessly stepped aside and he became the unanimous choice for leader of the Jamaica Labour Party. So, abracadabra! Andrew Holness was magically transformed into prime minister.
Not satisfied with just the seal of approval from his party, Holness has been anxious to get his own mandate from the Jamaican people. So he has fast-forwarded the general election. After two false starts, the date was finally revealed last week.
And it was all quite anticlimactic. Everybody had done the maths and realised that the earliest the election could have been held was December 28. I suspect that when Holness announced that he was going to ‘call it’ before the end of the year, he hadn’t calculated that the best date would turn out to be December 29. In the exuberance of youth, he spoke without counting the cost. I wonder if he consulted any of the older, and presumably wiser, heads in his party to see what they thought would be the ideal date for the election.
Perhaps, those not-so-youthful contenders who were passed over for the job of party leader have decided to leave ‘di yute’ to his own devices: ‘Im want prime minister work; mek it breed him’. There are so many proverbs that speak to our prime minister’s apparent predicament: ‘New broom sweep clean; old broom know di corner. Cock mout kill cock. Wa sweet a mout, hot a belly. Craven choke puppy dog’.
I’m also wondering if Andrew’s fairy godmother warned him that at midnight on December 31, he’s going to be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, from a fresh prince to an old bullfrog. And no princess is going to want to kiss him and turn him back into a prince. That’s the best explanation I can give for our prime minister’s hasty decision to spring an election on us in the last week of December.
Politics and superstition don’t mix
Andrew Holness’ unshakeable conviction that it has to be this year is just as irrational as Portia Simpson Miller’s stubborn faith that the number 7 is what should have been used to determine the date of the 2007 election. In both instances, it is superstition, not reason, that is the basis of the calculation.
Sister P learned her lesson the hard way. She lost the election by dilly-dallying and flirting with the number 7, which figures prominently in many of the world’s major religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. But politics, religion and superstition don’t mix. Sister P too-trustingly believed the predictions of a false prophet. She would have been much better off with a good obeahman. I suppose these days she needs neither. After all, she now has Peter Phillips on her side.
So why did Holness insist, in the first place, that he had to try to get his mandate before the end of the year? What difference would two weeks or a month have made? I suppose it’s the same reason we make New Year’s resolutions. We believe in the magic of a new beginning, however illusory. A new year is an opportunity to reform. We’re going to stop smoking, start dieting, stop getting into debt, start saving, stop stealing, etc.
Most New Year’s resolutions don’t last past the end of January. It’s the same old person doing the same old things. One day, from December 31 to January 1, really doesn’t make a difference. But our prime minister is naïve enough to believe in the temporary magic of the New Year. The Dudus, Manatt, JDIP, NWA and Trafigura scandals will all be miraculously erased from our collective memory. And Holness will get a clean slate on which to write his own legacy.
‘Im young; im wi learn’
Even if the prime minister could have admitted to himself that he’d miscalculated in setting the date of the election, he really couldn’t back down in public: ‘Big man no tek back chat.’ Despite the outcry against a general election in the week between Christmas and the New Year, the prime minister couldn’t find the courage to eat his words.
In his rush to try to get his mandate, Andrew Holness is trampling on Jamaican culture. Traditionally, the end-of-year holiday season is a sacred period of relaxation and merriment. It is not a time for politics. The historians Brian Moore and Michele Johnson confirm this in their chapter of the book Jamaica in Slavery and Freedom: History, Heritage and Culture:
‘During slavery, celebrations began on Christmas Eve. All work ceased and the slaves set about gathering foodstuffs from their provision grounds and the markets. Planters also distributed food items such as meat, hams and wines to their slaves. Slave dances were held all night on 24 December, and early on Christmas morning bands of slaves would regale their masters with music and dance. Planters responded with gifts of clothing and money, and even opened their homes to entertain the slaves with food and drink. These festivities continued all day and night as well as the day after Christmas.’
And also long after slavery. Moore and Johnson report that, “For all practical purposes, the Christmas season in Jamaica in the later 19th and early 20th centuries could be considered to have extended roughly from mid-December to about the end of the first week of January.”
If our PM/minister of education knew his history, he would never have dared to ‘mash up’ the holidays with politics. But ‘im young; im wi learn.’