Jamaica, Karl Samuda and the ‘till-death-do-us-part’ Politician

8 months ago Ricardo Hylton 2

I checked a few times to make sure because I was shocked when I saw that Karl Samuda was only 75 years old. Yes, I know I said “only.” Because Samuda represents an itch in the Jamaican psyche; he is an illustration and the epitome of a problem that has eaten us alive for decades: the itch of the persistent, permanent politician; the I’m never going-away politician; the-till-death-do-us-part politician.

Till Death Do Us Part 

At 75 years old, most people focus on keeping the blight off their tomato plants. They see the advance of time and worry and reflect how it could have gone so quickly. It was only yesterday that you were leaving school and planning to conquer the world. They huddle their grandkids on their knees for old stories about ‘how it was better in my day.’ They snicker through missing teeth, travel to Tibet, admire the Steppes.

Not the Jamaican politician, however. Not the knife-sharpening men in black suits and golden watches, dining around their fine tables, ready to carve up the unwilling turkey. Welcome to Jamaica where politicians get involved in politics, pull out their beach chair, a jug of fruit punch, and settle in for the long, long, long haul. They never ever leave!

I remember Karl Samuda being in the news when I was in primary school. The same applies to Omar Davies and Portia Simpson. The same applies to Bruce Golding and Mike Henry; Eric Pickersgill, Douglas Vaz and Errol Anderson; Pearnel Charles and Edmund Bartlett. Derrick Smith. When will they go and tend to their grandchildren and allow some new blood to flow through the Jamaican arteries?

In the majority of these cases, they were MPs before I was even born. Do they have one achievement of note? Have they done one thing in over 30 years that moved the Jamaican people forward? Absolutely not!

But I tell you what they have done. They have gotten wealthy. They ride around in tax payer funded, ‘state cars’ grinning like men of little substance who have won the lottery. And they have! They have cheered, aided and abetted the devastating violent conflict eating at the belly of the Jamaican bodice since independence through their “wink wink” garrison politics.

These are not men of innovation. They have started no tech company or farmed their way to the people’s bellies. They have initiated no policies to relieve the gut wrenching poverty or embolden small businesses. They haven’t inspired. They are merely recipients of the taxes the people they treat with utter contempt pay. Nothing gets me as hot under the collar as this blatant thievery does!

Why yuh Doin’ It?

Politics is supposed to be about ideas and creeds. It should be about competing visions for how a society should be organised. Though not perfect parallels, the Labour Party in Britain and the Democrats in America believe in an interventionist state to protect the civil liberties and the vulnerable whilst the Republicans in America and the Conservatives in Britain lean right, protecting the interest of the wealthy, are anti-tax and generally don’t want the government to provide relief for society’s most helpless.

These are anathemas to the invisible aliens but at least these are doctrines. These are beliefs. These are guiding principles.

In Jamaica, the Labour Party and the PNP, technically, have beliefs that should guide how they would like to see society structured. But practically, I have yet to see this manifest itself. Most Jamaicans can see no difference in their politics besides the dull orange and faded green flags they wave around like common nincompoops.

There are no credible policies to increase the tax base. There are no credible policies to increase social mobility, situating the ghetto bound youth on a path to greatness. There are no policies to build innovation. There is no compassion or social conscience. What are we going to excel at in the 21st century (and no, Usain Bolt and athletics don’t count). What are we going to do now the bauxite is gone? What are we going to do besides hold out our hands to the IMF and beg tourists to come? Is that the best we can do, Jamaica?

Are we going to build tech hubs that can service North America, given our proximity? Are we going to seriously invest in high tech farming? Are we going to give incentives to small businesses, so that they employ more people and build the pillars of our local communities? How are we going to innovate?

Why are these people politicians? Why choose this field of “toil” if not for self-sacrifice to the nation? Career politicians are amongst the worst inventions since our independence. They have no experience of the world and work. Recruited out of the University of the West Indies, they have been trained in the ways of pilfering and deception.

It is clear to the invisible aliens that for the Jamaican office-bearer, politics is seen as the path of least resistance to riches. That’s it! We cannot be convinced otherwise (unless of course things change).

On Karl Samuda

Karl Samuda is currently in hot water (not for the first times over his long and shameful career) over the Mombasa grass affair with a leading anti-corruption group now calling for his resignation from the cabinet of Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Last week, Samuda announced in Parliament that he had paid J$546,000 for the 15 acres of dairy-feeding grass that the Jamaica Dairy Development Board planted on his farm in Knollis, St Catherine.

It follows allegations from the Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture Dr Dayton Campbell that last year Samuda used his official position to get personal benefit and that he fired the chairman of the board Hugh Graham because he did not follow instructions to grant a licence to Wisynco to import milk powder.

No surprises here. There are enough of these Jamaican corruption cases to fill the Grand Canyon. The question is this: will the people continue to take it? Will they continue to be duped by these till-death-do-us-part politicians?

You Get What You Accept

So what about the constituents of Karl Samuda? Why do you keep voting for him? Does the fact that he passes out a few toilet seats and dollars via his “pork barrel” politics suffice and satiate you?

If we truly want better communities with better facilities, the people need to vote out these relics. If we truly want better access to education and jobs, then the dinosaurs in the Jamaican parliament need to be fossilized and returned to the palaeontologists. The Karl Samudas and Mike Henrys of Jamaican politics really need to be voted out. The change resides in us Jamaica. Now let’s go and actualize it.