Mr Patterson's use of the word 'gal' was neither derogatory nor disrespectful, but...
Ken Chaplin
Tuesday, September 30, 2003


Ken Chaplin

THE talk of the town last week was Prime Minister P J Patterson's claim as an accomplishment of his government that "more man have gal than anything else". He did so at the private session of the People's National Party conference at the National Arena. The word "gal" can be used complimentarily or derogatorily, depending on the context in which it is used. It seemed to me that the context in which Mr Patterson used the word was neither derogatory nor disrespectful.

The most objective criticism I have heard on the streets and in plazas is that it was the wrong place and time for Mr Patterson to make what he later described as a "lighthearted" comment, when there are so many critical issues to talk about.

I believe that many years ago such a comment would probably have gone unnoticed, but with hard times stalking so many, few are in a mood for lightheartedness from the prime minister.

I believe his comment would have been more acceptable if he had got serious and added, in keeping with his values and attitude programme, that it would better for more men to keep one gal and make sure they support their children. Of course, some of the attacks on Mr Patterson were politically inspired.

PATTERSON... won't be remembered or respected for the good things he has done

Mr Patterson also discussed some of the real achievements of his government, which, in many respects, were true. He also wondered why he never got the respect where respect is due for all the things he had done for his country. No one can deny that he has done many good things. However, there was a time before the 1997 general elections when he was well respected throughout the country.

Accompanying Mr Patterson around the country as press secretary, I usually walked or sat among the people at meetings and heard a great deal of respect quietly given by people, irrespective of their colour, to Mr Patterson.

SIMPSON MILLER... now the leading aspirant for PNP presidency

Over the past five years or so, his government has stunned the people in many respects, including imposing the most horrendous increase in taxation this country has ever seen. This was, to a large extent, necessitated by the waste of public funds to win an election.

There were also the staggering price increases eroding the standard of living of both the middle and working classes. Then there was scandal after scandal, corrupt practice after corrupt practice, injustice and human rights violations meted out to people on an unprecedented scale by the state. The government has a unenviable record as far as equitable distribution of jobs is concerned. Political tribalism flourished during his administration, although in his first speech in his first term he vowed to end political garrisons, which I viewed at the time as a tall order. He also promised transparency in governance, but this too fell short .

At the same time, many misdeeds were blamed on Mr Patterson as prime minister, although he was not directly involved and, in many cases, only had knowledge after the fact. Of course, as leader he had to take the blame. That is why a prime minister has to keep a tight rein on his ministers and do not sit back, expecting them to always do the right things. He promised to discipline ministers whose performance was not up to standard, but this did not happen .

There were at least two decisions by him which were morally questionable. One was the appointment of Dr Carlton Davis, cabinet secretary, to investigate the number of consultants in government, most of whom work in the Prime Minister's Office.

Now, I always considered Dr Davis an honourable man. However, as cabinet secretary Dr Davis has close working relations with Mr Patterson and many of his consultants, as well as some of those in other ministries.

Similarly, Dr Kenneth Rattray, as legal adviser to the Cabinet, should not have been appointed to examine the damming report of the investigation into Operation Pride by the Angus Committee, though his integrity is also beyond question.

Both Dr Davis and Dr Rattray could be considered as in-house officials, when completely independent people should have been appointed. All these things did not earn Mr Patterson respect from many people. Many who criticised him were of his own colour. "I voted PNP but the prime minister has disappointed me," a black service station pump operator told me last week.

Unfortunately, Mr Patterson is not going to be remembered or respected for the good things he has done, but for the misdeeds of his government. He can regain some of the respect if he governs wisely before he steps down.

Failure of intellectuals

Portia Simpson Miller, having received the most votes at the election of the four vice-presidents at the PNP conference, is the leading aspirant for leadership of the party when Mr Patterson steps down in about two years. Just before the election, Mr Patterson advised those lining up to contest the leadership position in the party to follow his example and not promote themselves. He was speaking the truth.

Nonetheless, it may be recalled that Mr Patterson's lieutenants conducted a vicious campaign on his behalf in the contest for the presidency of the party between himself and Mrs Simpson Miller after Michael Manley stepped down. I suggest that she goes out there and does her thing as best she can and do not depend entirely on her campaigners.

Mrs Simpson Miller became a member of the party when she was a grass roots teenager. She has grown up with the party and worked diligently as a loyal member, taking part in every struggle of the party to serve the people, to be among its leaders today.

The tradition of the party, that only middle-class intellectuals are capable of leading, is apparently changing because the two intellectuals after Norman Manley, an intellectual giant, namely Michael Manley and P J Patterson, have led the country into protracted economic crises as prime ministers. It will be most difficult for Mrs Simpson Miller to perform below their level .