Daniel Thwaites | Hype, Skype, and a likkle force ripe
So if you want to understand the latest uproar in Parliament and the gathering furore about Delano Seiveright's travel bills, you have to visit a little road in Cornwall Mountain, Westmoreland Central. That's where, mysteriously, roadworks began.
Wykeham McNeill, member of parliament for the neighbouring constituency, Westmoreland Western, also sits as chairman for the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee. Lurking in the background was a question that had arisen in an earlier sitting of the committee when a list of all government consultants, which had been previously requested, was presented. The list did not include Delano Seiveright. Upon further inquiry, it was revealed that he was not a consultant, but part of the civil-service Establishment.
Now Minister Bartlett is a guy I like who I believe holds down the tourism portfolio pretty well. That generally positive disposition is coming from far back, when he used to come and visit Mona Prep when I was a likkle bwoy there, and he's always been the gentleman since.
What I'm saying is, although I don't know Seiveright more than to say "howdy" to, weh drop offah head drop pon shoulder.
So you might imagine my dismay when I opened up the Friday paper to see Seiveright's feistiness directed at McNeill that the Gleaner had published as an article. My plans to write about Miss Jamaica and Miss America jettisoning the bikini portion of the competition flew out the window at the speed with which Seiveright swipes the Government's credit card.
Because his response wasn't that of a civil servant responding to a questioning parliamentary committee chairman, but that of a party activist snapping in retort to an opposition member who dared to ask him about his fat travel expenses. That's the hype.
Civil servants are enjoined to avoid overt political activity, and for good reason. So when Seiveright is hyping up against McNeill, one has to wonder.
So that takes us back to the lonely likkle road up in Cornwall Mountain. It emerged that RADA, which you will no doubt recall was announced by Minister Ruddy Spencer as the grand dispenser of benefits, was responsible for the fixing. It then emerged that the same road (what a special piece of road, eh?) was slated to be fixed under another programme being administered by TPDCO. Yes!
By now you're brow is furrowing as you ask yourself: "Why is the Tourism Product Development Company fixing a road in the backabush of Cornwall Mountain?" Ahhhhhhh.
The word is that TPDCO is soon to be renamed G2PDCO to acknowledge that it is being overrun with G2K activists.
But let's not lose the thread. Y'see, Seiveright and the others down at G2PDCO are not the sharks. Most of those are more like the remora fish that depend on the bigger beasts for sustenance. And it's the sharks that we have to question.
In particular, where is the permanent secretary in all this? What's the role of Cabinet as these decisions go through them? Who, after all, is the tourism director? Is that Mr Seiveright? Or is that the job he ought to have now that he claims credit for every additional tourist coming here? What of all the other vast machinery of communications embedded in the international JTB offices, those assigned to the minister, and those in the ministry?
When those answers emerge, someone could be kind enough to Skype them to me. Which reminds me!
At another level, this has to be one of the funniest and most ridiculous instances of "todeh fi mi, tomorrow fi yuh". It was so recently that Mr Holness was advising Mrs Simpson Miller that she should make better use of Skype instead of travelling to see other heads of state. The suggestion, even beyond its ridiculousness, came across as if Portia, the prime minister of Jamaica, shoulda frighten fi plane.
Plus, the criticism was levelled at a time when the lady was resuscitating the nation's credibility post-Dudus and post-Audley-and-IMF-shenanigans, and going out on to the worldwide market and carrying back hamperfuls of goodies for the country. Just like my friend Eddy Bartlett, who has profited mightily from Wykeham McNeill's work, at least Mr Holness can now cut many ribbons and name numerous highways based on some of Portia's travel. It's all good.
Still, this, I guess, is what happens when you politicise travel.
Karma, they say, is a witch. Dead babies under Fenton; dead babies under Tufton. Murder rate too high under Bunting; murder rate increased under Montague and now Chang. Arnaldo run up a likkle phone bill; Audley run up a BIG and ASTRONOMICAL phone bill.
So Seiveright, the one-time scourge of Fenton Ferguson in St Thomas East, and the one-time flayer and chief denouncer of journalists, is now explaining why his travel budget is bigger than Audley's phone bill.
Which brings me to my favorite piece of the puzzle: the force-ripe part. There may be someone out there who thinks the $9 mil is an okay travel spend for Minister Bartlett's bag handler, but that's hardly the point. Seiveright's response to McNeill is inappropriate and, forgive the colloquialism, outa ordah. Worse, his nebulous role as activist-civil servant is a Trojan horse in our governmental system that can subvert and undermine it. And that's a more general point about the whole G2PDCO development.
I have little doubt that in time Seiveright, as a voluble activist, will find his way on to a parliamentary bench. But until then, him haffi gwaan tek time ripen. McNeill has been elected to sit where he is and it's his job to ask probing questions.
At this point, Seiveright is being paid by the public purse to travel expensively in a different role, has been elected by one man only (mi fren, the minister), and needs to accept that he's not above and beyond answering to the people's representatives.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.