State of the Nation Debate, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson – 2012/2013

Release Date: 
Friday, November 23, 2012 - 12:00

ECONOMIC INJUSTICE AND GROSS INJUSTICE:
MOVING JAMAICA FORWARD FOR ANOTHER 50 YEARS
SENATOR TOM TAVARES-FINSON

Mr President,

It has become customary for these presentations to thank everyone who we are able to remember for everything they have done for us. I am going to forgo this form, not out of some atrocious ingratitude, but due to the fact that my gratitude to them has been recorded elsewhere.I will record, as I have not done so before, my gratitude to the Hon.

Andrew Holness Leader of the Opposition for appointing me thus giving me the opportunity to serve Jamaica in this Senate.

Mr President, the renowned London, England based The Economist magazine on July 21st of this year, carried a painful article on the state of Jamaica‟s economy fifty years after its independence. The Economist as you know is a global current affairs publication with very high readership over the world. The article titled,“Jamaica at 50, On your marks, get set… oh” and with a lead note stating, “Half a century after Jamaica’s independence from Britain, its economy is struggling to get out of the starting blocks” painted for millions of eyes to see the gloomy state of affairs that Jamaica has found itself in. The article stated in part that, “The world is used to trailing behind Jamaican sprinters. The small island has won a string of world records and may claim more at the 2012 Olympics. Its economy, however, is not so speedy: on current forecasts it will finish the year with the slowest average growth rate since 2000 in the Americas – behind even earthquake-stricken Haiti.”

HOW WE GOT HERE?

Mr President, it is statements like that that should cause all of us to introspect as to how we got here as a country. Why has Jamaica had such a blighted economic history despite the sterling accomplishments of our athletes, musicians and brilliant minds that have made us proud here and abroad? Why is it that so many of our young men and women are intent on migrating in search of opportunity? Why is it Mr. President that so many Jamaicans who can afford to opt now to educate their children in foreign countries? Why Mr President are our cities, towns, districts, villages falling into states of neglect with rundown buildings and houses now a common sight everywhere you go?

Why has Jamaica stalled for so long with little growth in our economy for the last fifty years? When are we going to get serious and get this country on a path on sustainable social and economic growth and development?

How did we get here? As the Most Honourable Percival James Patterson said recently in Parliament on the occasion of his being honoured, „Even as we focus on how to repair a stagnant economy and highlight the early completion of an IMF agreement we need to recognise that there are deep societal problems which also require our urgent national attention….”

How did we reach a point when the nation holds its breath while it awaits some word or signal from the Minister of Finance about the result of negotiations with IMF Technocrats as to our future? Or indeed, If we have one!!!! We certainly should not blame independence for our economic woes or deep societal problems.

Mr President, the Most Honourable Edward Seaga, former Prime Minister, in his presentation on being honoured by a special Joint session of Parliament last month said, “Independence did not bring such hardships to our regional sister states; Independence has not failed Jamaica; it is Jamaica which has failed independence, and it is Jamaicans who must reset the course to return it to its auspicious start.”

Mr Seaga is absolutely right. We have to reset the course and with determined vigour get Jamaica back on track. Mr Patterson had similar words. He said, “We have to make a seismic shift in our political culture for a renewal of energy and a rebirth of that motivation of our nation during the fifty years ahead” I have quoted Mr Seaga and Mr Patterson because I do not wish to be contentious and distract from the content of my presentation, nor do I wish to be accused of being “political” in this, the best Senate since independence.

I have used other quotes from Mr Seaga and Mr Patterson that I hope will be received with the same enthusiastic response and lusty applause that their words had elicited from so many of you on both sides who attended the special sittings.

FATHERS OF OUR INDEPENDENCE

Mr President, allow me just to make an observation while on the question of independence. Since Independence, we have customarily referred to both National Heroes the Rt. Hon. Norman Manley and the Rt. Hon Alexander Bustamante as „Fathers of the Nation‟. This is the position that we on this side embrace. Too often I have heard younger members of both the House and the Senate(and not so younger ones who should know better), in their desire, perhaps to outdo the orthodoxy of the party line, refer to the Rt. Hon. Norman Manley as Father of the Nation or Father of Jamaican Independence, without reference to the Rt. Ex. Sir Alexander Bustamante.

For the record, I state what is beyond argument and the position accepted by all historians of the period. Norman Manley was a Federalist who saw Jamaica‟s future as being intertwined within a West Indian federation. This position was not unpopular in Senator Tom Tavares-Finson – State of the Nation
those days, particularly among British Socialists many of whom held posts within the colonial administration. The Federal tool was in fact quite popular with them as part of the flight from empire. Indeed many Jamaicans includingSir Donald Sangster shared Mr. Manley‟s view. So there is no disgrace in that position.

However, the record is beyond discourse. It was Bustamante who proposed and fought for a referendum the result of which took Jamaica out of the Federation and placed us on a road to Independence.

I do not wish my words to be misconstrued. As a Nation, we are entitled to write our own history and to create our own national myths on which to forge our own future.

Let us record the role of both our heroes who played in bringing about our nationhood and not through some misguided notion of party loyalty which seeks to derogate the role of either of them.

There is, after all Mr President, nothing wrong in a nation having more than one father.

TWO JAMAICAS

Mr President, as we strive to create a unified viable nation the most fundamental problem that exists today is the stark inequality that exists between our people in virtually all aspects of our nation‟s life, whether social, political or economic. There is a general sense of unfairness that is interwoven into a fabric we call Jamaica‟s society.

This may well be part of what Mr Patterson referred to as quoted“deep societal problems”.

Mr Seaga in his seminal State of the Nation debate in the Legislative Council the equivalent of course of here the upper house on April 21, 1961 more than a year before Jamaica was granted independence identified these gross disparities in Jamaican society. The presentation is best known as the “Haves and Have-nots” speech. Today Mr. President over 50 years later we should ask ourselves if much has changed, and if not why not?

1960‟s

The Jamaican economy since independence has experienced times of sustained growth and development. The 1960‟s under the leadership of Sir Alexander Bustamante, Donald Sangster, Hugh Shearer saw Jamaica‟s best economic times ever. As a matter of fact, we appeared destined for great success.

Mr President, JLP administrations then were recording growth rates averaging 6 percent per year and surpassing 10 percent in its latter years of the sixties,placing Jamaica firmly amongst the fastest growing economies in the world. Many institutions were created including the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Jamaica Development and Mortgage Banks to anchor Jamaica‟s rapid economic development.

Empowering and developing the Jamaican people educationally and culturally was also at the forefront of the administration‟s development oriented ethos. Mr President, 59 Secondary and 126 Primary schools were developed with Secondary School attendance rising by over 100 percent. Teachers Colleges and tertiary institutions were also expanded and upgraded. Added to this was the establishment of the School Feeding Program, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS)and The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC). And not to be forgotten, the Cornwall Regional, Savanna-la-Mar, May Pen and Bustamante Children Hospitals were all built.

Many considered the period 1962 to 1972 as Jamaica‟s Golden years. And yet Mr. President, many highly regarded economists now view that period as a period where the economy was top heavy and too reliant on what was described as screwdriver industries. And a period that laid the foundation for the dislocation that was to come in the 70‟s Mr Seaga, himself not distant from the centre of power at the time had this to say about the economic orthodoxy of the day that was delivered with considerable insight and much hindsight.

“In the 1950s and 1960s, the dominant economic order was the need for foreign investment to establish manufacturing and industrial projects which could create jobs for the labour force. These investments were invited with offers of generous tax and non-tax incentives to encourage job creation. But the reality check, years later, showed that relatively few jobs were created by these capital intensive industries and, further, a substantial amount of revenue was foregone and foreign exchange expended to sustain their operations. The cost was greater than the return. Mostly, for more than a decade, it was a misdirected use of time and effort.”

1970‟s

Then the 1970s came along. Mr President, between 1972 and 1980, the economy lost 17.5 per cent of its GDP; the national debt increased tenfold; inflation rocketed by 250 per cent; revenues remained constant while expenditure rose by 66 per cent; the budget deficit increased from 3.9 per cent to 17.5 per cent of GDP, probably the highest for any country that was not at war; investment declined precipitously by 40 per cent of GDP; our foreign exchange reserves collapsed from US$239 million to negative US$549 million and unemployment rose significantly by over 43 per cent moving from 182,000 to 271,000. The World Bank President labelled Jamaica the second worst economy in the world. Mr President, Jamaica was set on a course of disaster.

Mr Seaga in his presentation to the special joint sitting referred to earlier summed up the 1970s best. He said, “In the 1970s, a new ideological order was adopted. Shifting from economic to social and political priorities, socialism, through its corner-stone policy of distribution of wealth to achieve egalitarianism, attempted to create an egalitarian society. It did not take long to learn from bitter experience, that the poor cannot be elevated by pulling down the rich, but by pulling up the poor. ………… Another decade was lost because the reality checks were ignored by the overpowering euphoria of the message that “socialism is love”. “

Mr President, raising the social consciousness of our people that Manley is credited with must not be undervalued. It was absolutely necessary. I must also Mr President, commend the 1970‟s Michael Manley led administration for moving decisively at trying to address the many social wrongs of the Jamaican society. But on a balance,it was a disastrous period with its effects here with us to this very day.

1976 STATE OF EMERGENCY

One of Jamaica‟s most inspired and inspiring historians Professor Verene Shepherd was recently part of a panel discussion at a Maroon conference in Accompong. To my mind considering that she was in Accompong, she quite fearlessly raised the question of an apology from the Maroon nation for, inter alia, the documented role of Maroons soldiers in the suppression of the Morant Bay Rebellion. I make no comment about that.

The Professor, however, had some advice to the Maroon leadership that is well worth us examining. She said “You must tell your own story including the uncomfortable truths………The same way we are calling on the State to reconcile what happened in Coral Gardens 1963….. I think it is the same way we have to say to our brothers and sisters of the Maroons …..There is something to talk about”

It is within this context that I wish to discuss the imposition of the State Of Emergency in 1976, a stain on the national fabric of the country. “There is something to talk about.”

On Saturday June 19, 1976 a State of Emergency was declared by the Government of Jamaica. This was officially positioned as the Government‟s response to the rising levels of crime and violence in Jamaica among a range of shifting reasons. In his address to the nation, the Prime Minister Michael Manley was woefully short of specifics on the declaration of the State of Emergency. Although the nation heard of plots to bomb Flat Bridge and plans to destabilize the country through an extensive series of terrorist attacks under the Wear Wolf plot. Much of this may sound laughable now, but in 1976 fear gripped the Nation.

On the very day of the declaration of emergency, the Jamaica Labour Party and many of its organizers and operatives were meeting in Montego Bay at the Holiday Inn. This is a day that JLP supportersdo not forget for many of our numbers were arrested that very evening and were to spend months in custody in the Red Fence facility (for elite prisoners) and Wire Fence facility (for regular detainees). You see, Mr President, even while being detained by a socialist government there was a class structure.

Then came the Reports of the notorious Spy Robinson who it was claimed had infiltrated the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party. Of course we know Mr President that that meeting was held at Jamaica House with Spy Robinson and Prime Minister Michael Manley present. It was at this meeting that Robinson was given a gun, ostensibly to entrap the JLP leadership. The Prime Minister, as you may recall, told the Smith Commission that although present at the meeting he had gotten up go to the washroom when the gun was given to Robinson!!!

Mr President, the State of Emergency was in fact a desperate tool used for grossly partisan purposes. In the end, a total of 596 detention orders were issued 407 of these persons were released without as much as a charge. The names of those detained at Red Fence are known to us, Babsy Grange, Pearnel Charles, Ferdy Yapp, but there were hundreds of others whose names you may never have heard but whose lives were ruined by their detention.

Naturally then, Mr President the PNP won the December 15, 1976 General Election.

Mr President, the Commission of Enquiry in 1978 on matters concerning the State of Emergency, presided over by Chief Justice Kenneth Smith, uncovered that the head of both intelligence agencies of government, the Special Branch of the Police Force and the Military Intelligence Unit (MIU) of the Jamaica Defence Force, never advised Manley of any potential threat to national security during Carifesta (which was put by Manley as another reason for the State of Emergency) and, the Deputy Commissioner Curtis Griffiths, Head of the Special Branch, testified to the Commission that he knew nothing about the intention to declare a State of Emergency; he read about it in the press although he was the Chief Intelligence Officer of Government. Captain Carl Marsh, in charge of the MIU also gave a devastating testimony. He advised that there was no need for a State of Emergency.

Another revelation coming out of that Enquiry was that the Minister of National Security Keble Munn corruptly executed his function by issuing blank detention orders for members of the Security forces to fill in names of persons detained willy-nilly. I really see no need to further go into the sordid details of this unfortunate episode in our history. I think it is sufficient to say that anyone who has studied this period, would view this declaration of emergence as anything but a flagrant abuse of power designed to win the 1976 elections for the PNP which of course it did.

I am always amused to reread Acting Senior Superintendent Eric Sibblies grounds for detaining George Lazarus he said, “The things he always said is (sic) against the government and if a person says things against the government you must regard that as campaigning and if it is against the government it must be dangerous to the governmentand I am an employee of the government”

In his address, Mr Patterson had this to say about the freedom of expression that caused the detention of Mr George Lazarus, “Many of our heroes perished because they sought their freedom of expression. Sam Sharp, Paul Bogle, William Gordon were hanged on the gallows. Nowhere is there greater freedom of expression than exist in Jamaica today. We have talk shows morning, noon and night expressing frank and unfettered views on every subject. We, (meaning the PNP) have never sought to surrender one modicum of that freedom for the maintenance of political power nor under the guise that suppression of speech is an acceptable requisite to accelerate sustainable economic growth” Finewords. But superimpose them on the history of the 1976 State of Emergency, against the words of ASP Sibblies. The history does not support the noble claim that “we have never sought to surrender one modicum of that freedom for the
maintenance of political power.......”, “There is something to talk about”

In the end nothing much came out of the enquiry. The government to this day hasn‟t apologized to the Jamaican people. The government to this day hasn‟t apologized to the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party and its members and supporters who were detained for obviously political purposes.

Mr President, it is without a doubt a massive injustice that should never be repeated. We must try resolve that no matter how broad our differences are we must never to the abuse of state power for political ends. This is a stain on the fabric of the society that we must erase. I call on the Government of Jamaica to apologize unequivocally to the Jamaican people for the torment caused by the declaration of the 1976 State of Emergency.

Again I quote Professor Shepherd, “Let’s talk people let’s talk……I am saying let’s talk about what happened in the past, let’s reconcile so we can move forward….” Let us now look at the viability of holding an enquiry into the Coral Gardens incident that Professor Shepherd mentioned. Many Rastafarians have been asking for such an inquiry for years.

1980

Mr President, the 1980 election victory won by Edward Seaga marked a turning point. After years of reconstruction, Jamaica returned to healthy growth rates after 1985 coupled with 30,000 new jobs created per year from 1985 up to 1989. Over 100,000 new jobs were created over the 1980‟s alone.

1990‟s

Mr President to say things were perfect would be grossly inaccurate. The fact is that it was one of the best times in Jamaica‟s history of development. It is unfortunate then that the solid work was not continued by the governing administrations post in 1989. The economic and social devastation of those times left many bewildered given the fact that the 1990‟s in particular had been characterized by surging growth globally.

Jamaica missed the boat and missed it big time. Mr Seaga again summed it up best, “The most calamitous plague of the failed systems and orders which beset the Jamaican economy in post-Independence was the financial meltdown of the 1990’s. The new government of the period allowed the IMF to guide it through the wilderness of the capitalist market economy. It was prompted to abandon the auction system which had maintained a stable, pegged exchange rate for more than two years with growth for the economy. This caused the rate of exchange to move perilously. Within 17 months into the new term, the exchange rate fell from J$1.00 equal US$0.18, to J$1.00 equivalent to US$0.07. Panic set in. Unfamiliar with the mechanisms of the market system, government allowed itself to be persuaded to prematurely remove the restrictions on foreign exchange moving freely in and out of the country. In September,
1991, the authorities made a fateful decision which precipitated an economic cataclysm. Exchange Control Regulations which prohibited the export of foreign
exchange were repealed, opening the door for capital flight without the Bank of Jamaica having reserves to satisfy the outflow. The expected compensating inflows of foreign exchange, never really materialised. With the door now open for capital flight, the exchange rate soared through the roof, interest rates and inflation zoomed through the windows and economic growth plunged through the floor. All but a small number of financial institutions collapsed. This was the beginning of an economic meltdown which eventually cost the government $140 billion in compensation to failed institutions to enable them to protect depositors. The cost was 45% of the GDP, ranking Jamaica third on the list of countries experiencing economic cataclysms. Only Argentina (55%) and Indonesia (50%) were more severe”.

2007 to 2011/ TIVOLI GARDENS

Mr President, between the years 2007 and 2011 when the JLP broke the 18 consecutive years reign by the previous PNP administration that resulted in damaging Jamaica‟s future growth prospects, much effort had been made at addressing some of Jamaica‟s most challenging economic and social ills. It was a time of some progress in a number of areas including tourism, crime fighting and stabilizing the Jamaican economy after the horrid impact of the global economic crisis, the global oil crisis and the global food crisis. It was also a time of tremendous internal crises. No one can deny that the events
in Tivoli Gardens and to what was referred to as „the Christopher Dudus affair‟ overshadowed all efforts of the administration to move the country forward.
In the midst of this crisis, emerged what was called „The Tivoli Incursion‟ which led to the deaths of over 70 Jamaican citizens and many more injured. This figure represents the largest number of Jamaicans killed by the state in one event since the Morant Bay Rebellion. Mr President, whatever anyone says this is undoubtedly a huge stain on Jamaica that will be remembered for years to come.

I am ashamed that after so much carnage, after so much heartache, after so much evidence of excessive use of force by some members of the security forces, to date nothing has been done. There has been no justice for the people of Tivoli Gardens and its surrounding communities. What this says Mr President is that these people are the “have nots”.

The Tivoli Gardens killings have not gone unnoticed internationally and we might like to believe that it‟s our dirty secret but that is not the case and sooner or later we will be called to give an account to the international community even if we as a society try to forget. This is just as much as a blot on Jamaica‟s history as is the 1976 State of Emergency. No closure for 1976, and 36 years later no closure for the Tivoli Killings.

The Public Defender has promised a Report. Deadlines for its publication have come and gone. I said all along that his office was technically incapable of enquiring into and reporting competently into this incident. The less said of this the better. I am calling for a full public judicial inquiry into the circumstances that led to the death of 79 citizens of Jamaica in West Kingston during the Tivoli incursion in 2011. The people of West Kingston and indeed the country require and deserve a full enquiry into this incident.

ELECTORAL COMMISSION

Jamaica has a long history of holding elections, since the first one in December 1663. So we have been involved in this process for 280 years. For most of that time, however, these elections have been conducted outside the boundaries of democracy. Under universal adult suffrage and since 1944, we have had 16 general parliamentary elections with 7 changes of government.

One of our achievements acknowledged locally and internationally has been the reform of the flawed electoral process that we have inherited from our colonial masters.

Today, our electoral system stands up to the scrutiny of the highest principals of democracy and electoral Justice. So as we celebrate our 50th year of independence, the last Parliamentary Election held in 2011 was acknowledged as being one of the best elections. It was also noted as being one the most peaceful elections conducted in the history of our country. I ask the senate to acknowledge the role of the hundreds of workers including the Director of
Elections, Returning Officers and volunteers who made this reality possible. A danger does lurk on the horizon, however, as a result of a lack of funding. We have failed to remain on the cutting edge of the IVABIS technology and we have failed to capitalize on the financial aspect of the technology.

December 1st 2013 bring to a close the first seven year period of the life of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica. Professor, The Hon, Errol Miller has already signalled his intention not to remain on the Commission beyond 2012. I ask this Senate to place on record its gratitude to Professor Miller for the tremendous contribution he has made to the Commission and the development of the country.

Two of the remaining threeSelected or independent members of the Commission have also signalled their intention not to continue their service beyond the 1stof December 2013. As a country, we will have to ensurethat the impending transition takes place seamlessly and without acrimony or political divisiveness so we can preserve the gains we have made in this critical are of national life.

ENVIRONMENT

Mr President, we have heard much over the past month about the dreadful state of the environment on the Pedro Keys. These conditions were brought to our attention by an NGO and to the credit of the relevant governmental agencies it seems that some remedial steps are being taken to save this natural resource. Although the problem of illegal and over fishing on the banks is yet to be tackled in a comprehensive way, I wish to use this debate to bring to the attention of my colleagues, Senators and the nation at large, another environmental disaster that is unfolding on our doorsteps but which has received scant, if any, attention from the Government.

I speak of the rapid destruction of the dry tropical forest of the Hellshire hills. This area of protected forest of some 114 square kilometres is one of the few remaining dry tropical forests in the world. And is the home of a host of some of the world‟s most endangered species of flora and fauna. Not least is the Jamaican iguana, thought extinct up to a few years ago. Worldwide, these forests have been rapidly destroyed as they tend to be easier to settle than more inaccessible rainforests. So to have a preserve such as the Hellshire hills is even more remarkable.

Sadly, Mr President we have already destroyed two thirds of this resource. This forest is a gem and an incredible resource if we know how to use and market it as an eco-tourism and scientific research product. Many of the trees in this forest are estimated to be well over 500 years old. The source of the threat to this resource now comes from the chain saw and charcoal burners who have descended on the area in unprecedented numbers.

Researchers from the UWI whose work has been assisted by grants and overseas funding have now reached their breaking point. In the face of threats from the coal burners a number of them now fear for their personal safety and the safety of their students and are now scaling down their activities in the reserve.
Mr President, it does not seem that the Government has the will to enforce the laws we have and protect this resource. But something needs to be done before it is too late.

Administration of Justice

Mr President, the daunting task of reforming the justice system and reducing the horrendous backlog of cases so that the system can live up to its mission statement “The timely delivery of a high standard of justice for all”, was highlighted recently by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice.

Under a banner headline “ALARMING” with a byline “Ministry needs $5 billion urgently to “fix” justice system”. The Ministry‟s Permanent Secretary informed the P.A.A.C. interalia:
“The reforms in the justice system need somewhere in the region of $5 billion, so if I was to tell you all that was involved, for example, in addressing the backlog of cases... because it is not simply putting the cases on the court sheet: Where is the court going to sit? Where is the courtroom? Is the building falling down?" she asked."We have, for example, had the laws for increases in magistrates, increases in the Supreme Court judges, increases in the Court of Appeal judges. We have not been able to increase the number of Court of Appeal judges because we do not have anywhere for them to sit.

There is no courtroom, so the ministry does what it can do within its area of control, and if nothing else is provided we can do nothing more.”

Mr President. It is said that Lawyers and in particular Criminal Lawyers are just Politicians in larval form.I have practiced at the Criminal bar continuously for over 30 years, while many of my colleagues were able to take a break through representational politics and serve as Ministers or M.P‟s. Mr President, I have not been so lucky or unlucky. I feel, therefore, that my time at the bar allows me some insight that I wish to share.

Contrary to what many observers may believe we are making significant progress in this area of national life. I wish to identify the reasons why progress is being made.

The establishment of the Justice Reform Task force under Min. Nicholson was critical.

Min. Lightbourne took a number of the recommendations from the Report of the task force and brought them into reality. Min. Golding insightful as he is has sought continuity and he is the first to admit that many of the bills coming forward now were prepared in the last administration. He has also proven to be someone who listens. I applaud his move to remove flogging from the books.

Further, we have a proactive Chief Justice and an equally proactive DPP supported by the Bar Association, Advocates Association and General Legal Council and an active Magistrates Association. In combination of the efforts of all I believe significant progress has been made.

I wish to make a number of suggestions with a short turnaround time and with minimal capital investment would assist further. I don‟t claim to be the originator of all but merely the conduit through which they are transmitted.

1) The first point of contact with the justice system for many of our citizens is the Magistrates Court and more particularly the Courts office. Citizens go
there to bail friends or relatives, get the relevant forms for spirit license or take out summons of various kinds. But it is there that the citizensen counter the most demoralized, underpaid and overworked players in the system.

Often considered haughty and downright rude, these civil servants have been demoralized by years of lack of recourses and attention. The Ministry
through the MOJ Education Unit should begin to address immediately a program of retraining to establish an ethos of customer service.

2) The Resident Magistrate through their association has for years called for improved remuneration and security of tenure. We support this call as a
means not only of preserving their independence but improving their moral and the quality of persons applying for the post of magistrate in line with
international norms. This should be a priority.

3) The system of mediation has been a remarkable success. The effect of magistrates has been able to refer cases to mediation hasplayed a significant role in reducing the case loads in the court. Magistrates should be given unfettered discretion in determining the matters sent to mediation.

4) Increase night courts where many unrepresented maters are heard.

5) Introduce flexi work hours for magistrates, clerks and court staff. St Thomas is an example where the lack of court room space has imposed this solution,
and it works.

6) Move with alacrity to make prelims optional the requirement of holding a preliminary enquiry.

7) Remove ganga cases from the adjudication of Magistrates.

8) With respect to jury, use single judges at option of defense.

9) Through police force orders establish time lines for submitting relevant evidence such as statements.

10) Recast the plea bargainlegislation

11) With respect to the attempt to cleat the backlog, I suggest that every senior lawyer at criminal bar take 25 gun court cases and 10 circuit matters. All layers in my chamber have committed to this suggestion.

12) Short term contracts offered to senior members of the private bar to sit as Judges and link there remuneration to their performance.

13) Remove mandatory sentences from gun courtlegislation. They were ill conceived in the first place and they inhibit pleas.

14) Repeal legislating that requires prelims for sexual touching.

15) Introduce legislation to remove the need for a doctor to give evidence of death at post mortem.

Mr President these recommendations are made with the greatest of respect and I submit that they are critical in overhauling our criminal justice system and ensuring, in the end, that justice is delivered to our people.

The Present

Where do we go from here? So here we are into the second decade of the new century aspiring to be a first world nation by 2030. The reality is grim and as the Gleaner proclaimed recently the Government appears to be paralyzed. Here are the grim realities; Jamaica‟s debt to GDP ratio is around 140 per cent making us one ofthe most indebted countries in the world. Sixty cents in every dollar earned must go to paying our national debt. Unemployment is hovering at around 14 per cent with no real prospect of an uptick in employment numbers anytime soon. Foreign Direct Investment is languishing at around US$230 million a year. The Net International Reserve (NIR) which as early as last year was over US$2 billion is now down to just US$1.1 billion.

The Jamaican dollar continues to slide precipitously. Again last year it stood at around J$86.30 to US$1. Today it trades at around J$ 93.40 to US$1, a fall of J$7 since January of this year. Both our fiscal and trade deficits are at nightmare proportions. Mr President, we are not nearing the fiscal cliff it is clear to see we are now facing the abyss. Earlier this month, Bloomberg questioned our ability to meet our international bond obligations and issued a grim prognostication on Jamaica.

This administration prides itself as being the champions of the poor and set to continue being so as poverty in Jamaica continues to rise with no clear panacea or strategy to get many Jamaicans out of the poverty trap.

Mr President that is Jamaica‟s financial position which has no doubt contributed to the decay of our social fabric.

The Minister of National Security has no answer to the rise in crime. As crime in Jamaica spirals out of control, the government seems incapable of offering the necessary leadership.

Our education system is failing to produce engineers, scientists and the manufacturers of the future. Women continue to far outpace men as university graduates.

Practically in every sphere we can hardly be deemed to be a progressive society and the government seems incapable of being able to make it so.

As we wait with bated breath for the IMF to be magnanimous, it appears that our very future is dependent on the largesse of a nebulous IMF deal, with the Government still unable to tell the nation what sums we are likely to get from the multilateral agency. The former Minister of Finance, Audley Shaw has made it clear that we can access no more than US$400 million but yet the present Minister of Finance, Dr. Phillips has been unable to refute this number. Mr. President why are Jamaicans being kept in the dark? The truth is that our country is now at a standstill and I join my colleague Senator Montague and so many others in the private sector in calling on the Government to take the people into its confidence and level with us about the negotiations with the IMF. It is after all the people who will ultimately determine whether the negotiated positions succeed or fail.

The financial analyst Dennis Chung in his column in the Jamaica Observer‟s Caribbean Business Report dated, November 23, 2012 penned an article entitled, “Why is Jamaica back in recession?” The article was informative and thought provoking and in part read:
“The reason why we have not been able to solve the fiscal crisis is because increased fiscal revenues primarily depend on growing the economy, which we have not been able to do. It is for this reason I say that even though the IMF agreement is necessary because we have made it so, it still will not solve the underlying challenge and create economic independence; which as Norman Manley said, should have been the mission of the generation after him. To solve the problem, we need to change the equation in the balance of payments and focus on creating a trade surplus. This is why solving energy, food imports and law and order are critical to achieving a viable economy going forward. Failing to do this will only continue our frustrated attempts to grapple with economic stability and the fiscal accounts and we will never get rid of our economic masters.”

As we look to our neighbours in the Caribbean our situation looks even more calamitous. Even Haiti, once considered the sick man of the Caribbean has been projecting better growth rates than Jamaica. We have stood by and seen St Lucia, Barbados and Trinidad& Tobago outperform usand leave us in their trail. This is particularly galling as we were once considered the jewel of the Caribbean.

The Caribbean itself is experiencing many difficulties chief among these is an inability to manage its economies effectively.

The Prime Minister of St Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony, another of the Damascus Generation, recently proclaimed: “The spectre of evolving into failed societies is no longer a subject of imagination. How our societies crawl out of this vicious vortex of persistent low growth, crippling debt, huge fiscal deficits and high unemployment is the single most important question facing us at this time.” Dr Anthony notes with alarm the number of Caribbean nations that now have to suckle on the teat of the IMF because there is a paucity of effective leadership and an absence of a coherent economic strategy to get us out of this mess. Other small nations such as Singapore, Mauritius and…. have mapped out a strategy and grown their economies. Why can‟t Jamaica?

Mr President, it is patently clear that this government has been unable to exhibit fiscal management and clear definitive leadership. Approaching its first full year back in power, the country continues to slide inexorably backward instead of propelling forward. Yet when the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness points this out, the Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Chairman for life Robert Pickersgill condemn him as being unpatriotic. A word which harkens back to the seventies.

By pointing out the obvious lack luster performance of the country under the current administration, the Prime Minister is saying that Andrew Holness is threatening the IMF deal and revelling in the failure of the country. Now who is being naïve??? It is because The Leader of the Opposition is a patriot and stands as a vanguard for a new generation that he makes clear of the position Jamaica finds itself in. He distinguishes himself from many of us who can only analyze our own failures. The Damascus generation. Well the solution? A generational change of leadership, from the Damascus generation, to the vibrancy and clarity of sober and analytical youth. A movement from them, the Damascus generation, to the Generation of Andrew Holness. For who can deny that the Damascus generation has failed this Jamaica land we love. This general change is the seismic shift that Mr Patterson spoke about.

As for the philosophy of the Jamaica Labour Party,the philosophy of our founder Alexander Bustamante the philosophy that guides Andrew Holness and is fundamental to his very political being. The same philosophy that guides all of us on this side; I cannot better but quotethe Most Honourable Edward Seaga at the All-Island Conference of the Jamaica Labour Party in 2001 – “We set out not to destroy wealth, but to create it; not to pull down the strong who succeed, but to pull up the weak who are trying; not to accept ignorance as a way of life, but to abolish it; not tolerate injustice to man, for every man must have equal
rights and justice”

Senator Tom Tavares-Finson
November 2012

 

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