Sunday Brew – March 28

Dr Chang should manage Jamaica’s COVID-19 efforts

The prime minister still has time to get things right, as far as Jamaica’s novel coronavirus fight is concerned, because, let’s face it…this disease will be around for much longer than most of us.

Oh yes, vaccines can reduce the spread, and a pill now awaiting approval in the United States might even serve in a manner in which Panadol, Cetamol or Advil are used to fight the cold and flu. But coronavirus seems like it’s here to stay. So let us all be prepared to host the unwelcome visitor for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and more.

The new measures announced by Prime Minister Holness a week ago will not make sense unless there is enforcement, so shutting down the country over three weekends amounts to wasting time if law enforcement officials do not step forward and do what they must do, moreso after the enactment of legislation in Parliament last week to allow for tougher fines for breaches.

But Jamaica needs more than that at a time like this. There needs to be one individual in charge, a sort of political czar, whose responsibility it will be to oversee all aspects of the coronavirus and its implications for Jamaica. That man ought to be Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang.

So call him Minister of Pandemic Control if you like…Dr Chang should be temporarily relieved of his national security portfolio and allowed to be the political figure charged to steer Jamaica’s ship into calmer seas.

Matthew Samuda, a bright young man of politics, can stand on his own at national security and should be given the whole hog.

Naturally, Dr Chang’s experience in the field of medicine would project him as the man already qualified to fit into that test tube. But it would not stop there. It is he to whom all matters related to COVID-19 would be addressed, including negotiations with external partners and marketers.

One of the things that has been lacking from Jamaica’s COVID-19 management is the direct involvement of medical personnel on the ground – those at institutions where all the ‘bangarang’ is taking place, who often defer to medical personnel at the level of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, who are not in the nitty-gritty of COVID-19 happenings and so are not well informed. In other words, the true picture of what is happening at public institutions is still not being adequately conveyed.

With his style, Dr Chang has the personality and the reach to get and understand the true picture, which would allow him and those whom he leads to launch exact methods of attacking the challenges that still exist.

Now is not the time to continue playing around with this dreaded virus that has wreaked havoc all over. I have lost friends and a relative to the disease, and many close to me have felt its fury.

Let us take a new approach by going the serious route of having the second most senior member of the Cabinet taking charge of all matters related to COVID-19. We may not be able to conquer it, but this beast can be tamed.

What has happened to true role models?

Growing up in rural Jamaica, exclusively, for the first 10 years of my life was the kind of launch pad that any child needed to propel him up the ladder of society.

Wealth and the luxuries of life were things that you would only dream of, but there was happiness, and with it, respect for what the society had to offer, which forced you to go back to the geographical area upon the realisation of young adulthood.

There were always role models…people you would look up to in every sphere of life. Every boy in my time growing up showed respect for the police. A soldier in uniform would earn even more.

There were the doctors, nurses, teachers, and lawyers who stood out. Dr Martin for many years was Mr Annotto Bay Hospital, from the 1970s until things shifted focus in 1996 when Dr Ray Fraser went there to take charge years after Dr Martin’s death; nurse Linton was impeccable, although she was the only woman who forced me to hide from my house from seven in the morning until 11:30 at night, just to avoid getting an injection. Nurse Linton was smart, though, and insistent. She just would not give up if she had a job to do. My hiding from her for over 16 hours to avoid a stick did not work…she turned up past midnight, pulled the sheet aside in the midst of grogginess, and stuck the needle where it mattered.

Teacher Victor Russell, headmaster of my primary school, and his wife, Ruby, the vice-principal, were serious, but caring and well-loved and respected.

There were not as many legal issues then, but we all respected lawyers and judges.

One of the lawyers we used to admire was Mr McCalla, whom I later learnt was the husband of now retired Chief Justice Zaila McCalla, whose presence alone made you want to become a lawyer. He had a structure in court, was always well dressed as he entered his office near the Bank of Nova Scotia at Highgate, he had an afro, which for some of us has now gone out of style, and he used to drive some ‘criss’ cars from Kingston every day.

In later years, Judge Orr arrived in St Mary and proceeded to set things right, although the parish was never among the top crime producers. Everybody feared and respected Judge Orr, and even in later years when he became a member of the managing committee of the St Mary Cricket Association and sat beside me at meetings, I was still in awe. It was during those cricket meetings that I realise how human that judge was.

Nowadays, who do we respect in the society? You guessed it…with Anancy now retired, it’s Vybz Kartel, Tommy Lee Sparta, Ninja Man, and Tesha Miller.

Maybe Usain Bolt still has some relevance, but bet your life that most of the shout-outs would be reserved for those unruly deejays who only encourage crime and violence on this land through their lyrics.

Oh, will we ever go back to those days when we look up to people who can teach positive things to others?

Check out those St Ann pastors?

The action taken by the police to arrest that pastor in St Ann who, in a silly rant tore into Prime Minister Holness, is justified.

Here again, another man of the cloth has found himself entangled in conduct unbecoming of what the real message should be.

The prime minister of a country ought to be respected, and not have to be threatened with remarks that may be construed as a breach of his safety. The broader picture, though, is that every Jamaican citizen has the right to be protected under the law, and not to be made to feel unsafe by people who wield considerable influence on others.

I don’t know what God the gentleman subscribes to, but no superior being would be pleased to know that one of his earthly disciples or messengers got caught up in such an unusual act of suggesting that the leader of a country should, effectively, be handed over to the undertakers.

Only a few weeks ago, the police also came under pressure from a St Ann pastor, a woman at that, who clearly breached COVID-19 regulations and expected authorities to ignore guidelines clearly set out by health officials. Come on, what’s happening in St Ann? Has something gone wrong with the garden parish’s water system that at least two church leaders have gone astray?

You don’t want to have to carry out a wholescale enquiry in respect of the Church in Jamaica, and the right of some to preach, because that could open a can of worms and place the entire business of free speech and ‘free preach’ at risk. But there has to be a steadiness, and people under the guise of religion and spirituality cannot just get up and advocate death for anyone. No individual has such awesome power.

This latest pastor has got himself into a pickle hotter than those fierce peppers of Mexico City. Maybe we can pray for him and hope that he sees the light afterwards. But it all depends on his inner self, and how repentant he will be, henceforth. If he continues to defend his action, then dog (including the four-legged immigrants in Canada), puss, rat, and bat nyam him supper.

Wishing Bruce Golding well 

Retired Prime Minister O Bruce Golding is not at his best again, but, from all indications, he should be up and running in short order.

Of course, some foolish people are going to say that he was hospitalised because he took the COVID-19 vaccine and publicly suggested that others should follow him in doing so.

It is not the first time that Golding is being hospitalised, though the only time you want to see someone you admire go to the hospital is when he does so to say ‘howdy’ to medical staff. Though retired as this island’s chief servant, Golding continues to contribute to the development of the nation. He is one of the men that Prime Minister Holness should listen to more, because he makes a lot of sense and understands the economy. It remains a pity to me that he had to leave office in 2011, for he promised a lot and I know that had he got more time this country could have been better off.

I also rate Golding as the second best political orator, after Michael Manley, to have become prime minister. He is such a brilliant individual when it comes to public speaking, and often leaves me in awe.

He turned up at a function at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel one day when he was prime minister and apparently was not briefed about the subject on which he was to speak. After a little inquiry from two of us standing close to each other at the event, for no longer than a minute, we were surprised that Golding went to the podium and spoke on the issues, eloquently, as if he had studied them for decades.

The other individual and I kept looking at each other in awe. It was an example of true Bruce Golding brilliance.

I hope he gets well soon.

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