The reasons behind what, to some people, may be a sudden decision are:
(1) fatigue and staleness;
(2) corruption issues surrounding his government;
(3) pressure from inside his party to freshen the face of the JLP leadership going into the next general elections;
(4) the political( in his constituency and nationally, and on both sides of the political divide) and the diplomatic fallout from his handling of the Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke matter;
(5) the weakening of support for him in the Jamaican business community; and
(6) the best interests of Jamaica.
Now, while one might hold the view that Mr. Golding is stepping down, not because he wants to, but because of pressure, and while there may be some validity to that view, the fact is that he is stepping down, and he’s doing so though not obligated constitutionally to do so.
Rather than doing stepping down, he could’ve allowed his ego( and he has one, for sure) to get the better of him, and in the process bring further dislocation and trauma to his government, his party and his country. After all, he wouldn’t be the first Caribbean leader to have done so, as we look at our past and our present and see that our region has far exceeded its ‘quota’ of narcissistic leaders.
But Mr. Golding didn’t only understand the pressure, he also recognized the angles from which it was coming and the implications; and he put everything and everyone in perspective, then he made the right decision.
And, as I’m informed, the pressure from within his party was not exerted on him formally or at any Executive Meeting, or at any party general meeting. Nor was the decision for him to stand down taken by official vote at any such meeting.
Instead, it was from high-level party colleagues( one-on-one and in small, informal groups) and from key operatives in his constituency, as well as from national polls that weren’t favourable to him, and from the business community, that it mainly came.
And those high-level party colleagues, looking out for their own legacies and for the future of the their party, and their country, demonstrated the fortitude( a rare asset these days)to respectfully and resolutely tell their leader and prime minister that he needed to move on, giving him the opportunity for a soft landing.
An opportunity which Mr. Golding wisely took.
So the party’s annual conference next month will simply formalize the process. Mr. Golding will be sent off with bells and whistles, while great appreciation will be expressed for his yeoman service to party and country, and he will become the elder statesman of the JLP.
In addition, persons and groups outside the JLP who wanted him to move on will respect him for having done so.
And his legacy will be enhanced.
In my opinion, notwithstanding the possibility that geopolitics could’ve played a key part in his demise, and I don’t for a moment under-estimate its possible influence in the matter, the pressure from inside Jamaica and Mr. Golding’s response to it demonstrated that Jamaica is heading in the right direction.
The people spoke: his high-level party colleagues, including Cabinet members, and operatives, the social and economic partner groups, and the Jamaican populace generally.
And bear in mind, all of this is happening at a time when there is no election due in Jamaica until September,2012.
So, you see, there doesn’t have to be an election for a prime minister to be removed. And in removing him, no Branch Meeting, Executive Meeting or Annual Party Conference needs to formally decide on it or even debate it, and no voice needs to be raised in anger, no violence acted out, or no law broken.
And the irony of this is that we’re seeing this being played out in a country which has been notorious for its violence, much of it politically driven!
This Bruce Golding story is a story about democracy at work. It tells us Caribbean people that democracy is a day-to-day thing, not a once-in-every-five-year thing.
It also tells us that in order to preserve democracy, we must be always vigilant, and take a stand, let our position be known, and apply the pressure whenever we, the people, believe that we need to.
It tells us that we, the people, can change leaders and governments any day we choose to do so. All within the law.
And if a leader who has outlasted his welcome does as Mr. Golding has done, allowing himself to get a soft landing, then that’s great. However, when such a leader decides to be ornery and recalcitrant, the people can and must pressure him out the hard way.
That is how democracy really works.
JLP supporters, as well as the economic and social partners, and the general population of Jamaica have sent a message to their counterparts across the region; the ministerial and other high-level colleagues of Mr. Golding have done likewise for high-level party and government officials from Belize and the Bahamas in the north to Surinam and Guyana in the south; and Mr. Golding himself has raised the bar for Caribbean leaders.
Sad to say, too many of our leaders are hungry for power and in some cases afraid of the consequences of losing it. Too many of them are stale and bankrupt of ideas and vision; too many of them gather around them entourages of mediocrity and ineptness, made up of nebbishes, opportunists, sycophants and chameleons; too many of them know how to run and win an election(fair, foul, googly or knuckleball) and when they get in, they demonstrate either an inability or an unwillingness to govern efficiently.
Too many of them are doing extreme damage, and lack the graciousness and the altruism to step down and to move on, as they prop themselves up on a platform of corruption, unscrupulousness, patronage, dependency, tribalism and fear which they seek to embed in the ethos of our societies.
Here in St. Kitts & Nevis, we have a leader who, by comparison, would make Bruce Golding look like the best prime minister who ever lived.
Let’s compare some of his ‘sins’ with those of Mr. Golding.
He could arguably be the most fiscally, financially and administratively undisciplined and reckless prime minister in the history of CARICOM, having plunged our Federation into a crisis probably worse than that of Greece.
Interestingly, something happened two evenings ago which I thought had tremendous symbolic significance. Parliament was debating a bill purported to improve the efficiency of our criminal justice system when the lights went out, turning the Parliamentary Chamber into a dark place.
We know that despite the Prime Minister’s undertaking seven years ago that he would personally fix the electricity system, the problem has continued, and has even gotten worse. But during the many power outages, the generator at Government Headquarters would always kick in and save the day.
However, that didn’t happen on Tuesday, because the generator isn’t working. People say that it has needed a part for some time.
Imagine that! Debating a bill relating to efficiency, and Parliament is plunged into darkness because of inefficiency.
And I know that the Government is broke. I know that it’s facing debt arrears of nearly $200 million. Not just debt….debt arrears! But so broke that it can’t buy a part for a generator at Government Headquarters?
Parliament in darkness. And can’t buy a generator part. Symbolic beyond words!
Meanwhile, current keeps going off in St.Kitts. If people start to taking to the streets on this and other issues, nobody should be surprised. It’s beyond unbearable. Beyond incompetence.
So among our Prime Minister’s sins, he has failed to provide us with reliable and affordable utilities and infrastructure; he has lied to the country repeatedly; he has disrespected our Parliament and our Constitution; he has disrespected his colleagues serially; he has ruthlessly refused to enact Integrity in Public Life law; corruption, patronage and unscrupulousness have threatened to become the norm, and values and law and order have deteriorated precipitously; he has reversed the process of land empowerment for the people of this country, and Kittitians’ and Nevisians’ ‘inalienable’ right to access their country’s beaches has been taken away from them by him; he has presided over a dispensation of joblessness, ‘brokes-ness’, fear and strife; and he has turned off people in his party, in the social and economic partner groups, and in the general population.
And what are his high-level party colleagues doing? If they don’t take steps to move him, whether by soft landing or crash landing, then they too will be swallowed up in the rising wave of discontent, and regarded as spineless weaklings, guilty by association, andcondemned to the same ignominious legacy as he.
And I say this, respectfully, despite the public comments recently made by Mr. Sam Condor. More needs to be done by persons at that level of government and party.
What are the rank and file party supporters doing, other than seething quietly, murmuring and mumbling while their lives get flushed down the drain?
What about the social and economic partner groups, and the general populace? What are they doing?
The truth is, our Prime Minister has done far, far more than Mr. Golding has done to deserve termination. And all the people have to do is accept this fact( most would easily agree), then apply and maintain the pressure, and he will have to go.
The only question to be answered at that point would be whether he chooses a soft landing or a crash landing.
And the same will apply to some of his counterparts in other Caribbean countries.
That is what we can, and must, take from the Bruce Golding story.