to put (troops) on duty in a fort, post, station, etc .(source dictionary.com)
A garrison in the Jamaican sense fulfill all of the characteristic components stipulated in these definitions,in Kingston and Saint Andrew, as also Saint Catherine, these zones of political exclusion litter the landscape, and as it would for an opposing army breeching a garrison as stipulated above, the consequence of such actions willful or unwitting will almost result in death. The difference between Jamaican Garrisons and the fortifications mentioned in the definition is that the garrisons in Jamaica do not need walls, however the lines of demarkation are fiercely guarded by well armed punks with high-powered weapons, and a seemingly unending supply of ammunition supplied by their benefactors. The leader of the political Opposition famously said her constituency has no walls, in her mind the absence of a wall means it isn’t a garrison! We’ll get back to that.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A GARRISON IN THE JAMAICAN SENSE?
The year 1980 saw one of the greatest period of political upheaval in Jamaica’s history, over 800 people were reportedly killed as a result of political violence, these numbers attributed to any other country would be characterized as civil war in proportion, not so in Jamaica, killing is a way of life, it is accepted , promoted in music, glorified in the media and on political campaign stumps. Killing and maiming is a celebrated way of showing one’s girth and clout in the streets, this violence begets more violence in order to sustain itself, the result up to the end of 2009 by police statistics is over 1600 murdered in a country of under 2.8 million people. So what is a Garrison in the Jamaican sense ? Well after Jamaica was unceremoniously cut from the apron strings of England her colonial master, our people were asked to govern themselves after hundreds of years of colonial domination, the country received no reparations for the assault and abuse , Jamaica like other former colonies was simply cast aside to fend for itself. Scarce resources like housing, and jobs became a bargaining chip for politicians to dole out to those who showed allegiance to their political party depending on which party is in power, in other word a pseudo colonial dependency , just on a different scale.
This manipulation of scarce resources for political gain created enmity between the factions aligned to the two political parties ,the (PNP)People’s National Party the brain child of National Hero Norman Washington Manley whose son Michael Manley as Prime Minister was to lead Jamaica through its roughest political period, and the (JLP) the brain child of his cousin Alexander Bustamante, also one of Jamaica’s national heroes.
Norman Manley a Queens Counsel british trained lawyer and Bustamante a street savvy Trade Unionists are seen as the founding fathers of the country after Independence, many older Jamaicans developed a love and undying allegiance to both men depending on their beliefs many would die for them, as that generation passed a more militant generation of politicians emerged in the persons of Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, the political rhetoric was ramped up and became more bellicose, this hardened the positions of both camps, and their followers became more violent, the lines of demarcation became more stark, and as before many would die for them and many has killed for them. It became commonplace for public funds to be used by those in office to take care of those who did the grunge work to put them in power, this created a vicious system where people saw their very survival, their very ability to be able to afford food as tied to their party getting in power and staying there. Needless to say those on the opposing side are quite prepared to do what it takes to expel those in power and install their benefactors. Politicians of both parties were more than happy to deliver the means for the people to kill others who were opposed to their brand of politics, as a result the streets were flooded with guns and entire areas became no go for anyone even suspected of being a supporter of the other side. An innocent exercise as the wearing of the wrong color can get one riddled with bullets.
Criminal thugs who deliver votes to the political representatives by means of intimidation, arson, rape, and murder became a part of the culture ,they are accepted celebrated and revered, refered to as community leaders, and even Dons, when in truth these men were little more than murdering punks who preyed on the innocent and the defenseless. they received Government contracts even though they knew nothing about construction or in most cases had no training in the discipline for which they received the contracts, this has become a cesspool of corruption and an immense drain on the scarce resources of the country. Jamaica is in debt to the tune of Billions of American dollars, yet the average person on the streets has no way of measuring how those monies they, their children and their children’s children will have to pay back has positively impacted their lives. As we speak the Contractor General Greg Christie is fighting a losing battle in getting both parties to enact legislation giving teeth to the office of Contractors General , which would enable him to effectively investigate, issue subpoena and arrest transgressors in the awarding of public contracts. They steadfastly refuse to give him and future CG’s that power, the fact is they are the ones who are benefitting from these nefarious and disgusting acts of thievery that is bankrupting the country and are not about to grant anyone the power to arrest them or quote”stop dem food”.
As time progressed the thugs who run the communities on a day to basis realized they really did not need the politicians for anything more than political cover from law enforcement, this resulted in a dangerous flip in the balance of power between the don and the politician, the tail was effectively wagging the dog. The Jamaican film Shottas
parodies the situation perfectly, the proliferation of illegal drugs , marijuana and cocaine changed the dynamics in the 1980’s and 90’s many community enforcers became rotten rich men who needed no handouts from politicians and as such did not have to listen to them. they controlled the politicians, handed out treats to community members, whilst at the same time exerting tight control over the people living within these communities,the control included rape of their children boys and girls, many people sent their children from their communities and reported them missing to the police in order to save them from vicious sexual abuse at the hands of community enforcers. The power created an aura and a mystique of invincibility than caused one Don to over-reach, which may have culminated in the untimely departure of a Prime Minister from Office. He found out too late that his ability to protect an enforcer did not extend beyond Jamaica’s shores.
Being a Garrison member of Parliament has several perks, some of which means never having to worry about relinquishing power, constantly feeding at the public trough. receiving un-earned national honors, constantly being showered with adulation and praise, and all that politician has to do is pretend to care and offer platitudes to members of the constituency. There is no one that this characterization fits more than the leader of the opposition Portia Simpson Miller, she insists there are no walls in the constituency of south-west St Andrew she has represented for over 35 years, from majestic Gardens to Whitfield Town, to the bottom of Maxfield avenue, west along Spanish Town Road the rot and decay is palpable, I am told the constituency was a pristine place pre-Portia, however the brand of politics she brought to that area has turned the area into a ghost town that remains so to this day, it has however kept her in office, notice I omitted the word “elected” .She and her husband has also been bestowed with the high honor of “Most Honorable”. Only in Jamaica.
This brings us to the Prime Minister’s symbolic gesture to Miller, a letter asking her to walk the garrisons with him, a first step that would show that there is no need to kill each other in the name of politics.
Miller hesitated, I presumed untill someone must have coined a response for her, in response here’s what she told the Prime Minister, Quote”a mere walk through the communities would not achieve the desired outcomes ,while I am not opposed to participating in the tour with the prime minister, such an initiative should be supported by a programme of social transformation.”
Hah preconditions ! Simpson Miller has been in representational politics from I was a child, she has risen to the top of the food chain to being Prime Minister the highest elected office in the land. Even though she attained the Office the same way Holness did , by default she was in office for two years. She has been a part of several PNP administrations , the last lasted for 181/2 years. Throughout all of this she never saw fit even when she had the ultimate power as Prime Minister of the country to effect change, Miller was unable to show the necessary leadership that would affect social transformation.
Andrew Holness has been in office for all of 3 weeks, yet Portia Simpson Miller wants him to ensure social transformation before she can agree to a simple and symbolic walk of unity.
Portia Simpson Miller has represented the south St Andrew constituency since Andrew Holness was 4 years old, today the people in that constituency who may have survived the killings and poverty that is the norm there are worse off than they were 35 years ago before the arrival of hurricane Portia. Miller has had the leadership reins of the country and we have seen nothing to point to that would cause us to believe she understand the challenges of the twenty-first century or has the requisite skills to navigate the complicated waters of international diplomacy necessary to secure funding, and developement for our people.
Social transformation is important, it was important when Miller entered the political game, it is important today, but it certainly will not be achieved overnight, neither will launching a so-called initiative change the circumstance of people needing intervention in their communities. A leader must be able to attend to several things at the same time, a symbolic walk through the garrisons and a social intervention programme are not mutually exclusive, they can be accomplished simultaneously, (ride and whistle). This leads us to the conclusion that Portia Simpson Miller talks the talk but when the time comes for her to walk the talk she is nowhere to be found. It is imperative that the Jamaican people and more so those who are encapsulated within those zones of exclusions understand that their future is, as it has always been, in their hands and their hands alone. Neither Sister P nor Prince Andrew has the solution to their problems, people living there for over 50 years have seen Andrew Holness come into this world and attain the office of Prime Minister at the tender age of 39 and their circumstance remains the same , it is time for them to shrug off the bondage of allegiance they have to both parties and decidedly carve a path for themselves and their children.
As I have stated before, Garrisons are the same as slavery, those caught within the psychological walls of those communities are deprived of the everyday amenities others take for granted. clean drinking water, affordable housing, education,health-care, clean air, proper police and fire services, these are some of the most basic things that most people take for granted but are absent from most garrison communities, in Jamaica garrison communities and the police have a needless acrimonious relationship that is built on distrust of each other, a distrust fomented and fed by the very politicians who represent the garrisons.
Poverty is not hereditary, it is not genetic, people from the rural parts of the country has proven that, left alone to be all they can be Jamaicans from all parts of the country have escaped poverty , and have risen to the halls of power and the zenith of success in Education and Business, cows do not feed and wait for the grass to grow under their feet so they can eat again, they keep moving, no one should allow geographical boundaries set by others who do not live within those said boundaries to dictate how they live their lives. Untill people educate themselves and make politicians like Simpson Miller persona non grata (not welcome) in their communities they will continue to be beholden to the dictates of those invisible walls. And yes Portia your constituency has walls you are just unable to see them.
Andrew Holness if he is serious must understand that the change he seek will not come from the likes of Simpson Miller ,the old guard,they were schooled in the old ways , they are a part of the problem ,not the solution , if progress is to be made the train must be rolled around them,begin with a massive program of mobilization to a national awakening, love of God pride in country and duty to our fellow-man , if you can inspire the nation you will have a chance to make difference,do not wait on Portia, or you wait in vain , Portia is the Garrison, the garrison is Portia.
have your say.