Sun | Feb 17, 2019

Daniel Thwaites | Stormy Ramharrack

Published:Sunday | February 10, 2019 | 12:29 AM

You might say these are stormy times in the politics!

People love to criticise Donald Trump because he evidently had a weakness for the odd girlfriend or two, and sometimes that has required an off-the-books separation agreement. So it looks as if he paid Stormy Daniels to be quiet about the things she knows. It may have been done with campaign contributions, which isn’t kosher. But at least it was done with campaign funds!

Now come to Jamaica.

We read Dr Paul Ashley’s speculation in The Gleaner that Yolande Ramharrack’s ample separation package may well have been to keep her quiet about things that SHE knows. But this time it was done at the taxpayers’ expense!

Who are we to look on and judge Mr Trump now? America nuh wikkider dan we!

All the same, let’s not detain ourselves with too many controversial contemporary comparisons, however alike or dissimilar.

It was actually some ancient Julian occurrences that came to mind as Prime Minister Andrew Holness flopped and floundered for more than an hour while facing Julian Robinson’s relentless and withering attack.

Mind you, the “attack” actually consisted of some basic questions about the plush arrangements when Stormy Ramharrack was separated from her post and the slightly ridiculous attempt to play ‘hide-and-seek’ behind a non-disclosure agreement. This, after the public had been told she had “resigned”, which was after the auditor general had documented the highly suspicious circumstances of her hiring, and even worse, subsequent conduct in the post, requiring immediate dismissal.

So watching my prime minister, I thought of the old aphorism about Caesar’s wife, that she must be above suspicion. That saying stems from an incident that occurred when Julius Caesar’s second wife, Pompeia, was hosting one of the Wakanda Wheatley parties of their day.

At this festival, a young man, who wasn’t permitted to attend, made his way in with the intention of seducing Pompeia, the Yolande of their day. Julius immediately divorced her, explaining that “dem ting deh cannat ah gwaan when mi ah de Big Man ... yuh cannat mek mi ah look soh fool-fool” (that’s a direct quote from the Latin).

MYSTERY AT THE HEART OF THIS PUZZLE

Seriously, though, there’s a mystery at the heart of this puzzle. Why has PM Holness taken the burning tyre of this PetroNyam scandal and securely fastened it around his own neck?

He’s a smart guy, so why has he put himself right in the middle of the very warranted and deserved mauling and stabbings flowing out of this cesspit of corruption and mismanagement?

This is most evident in his refusal to name a new energy minister. If you think of it in cricketing terms – and Robinson is a cricketing man – you would say Holness was defending the wicket, armed only with his jockstrap and some knee-pads, while the pacers kept coming at the middle stump.

Most of all, it runs counter to the PM’s thus-far-successful strategy of only delivering good news, ignoring the difficult stuff or pushing it downward to his ministers, and generally gliding above the fray and mire. It just doesn’t make much sense.

Anyhow, though my work here is as an opinion columnist, I don’t think it necessary to advance an opinion so much as to just set out some data points. Your own opinion will present itself to you:

The former HR manager was summarily dismissed, triggering extended litigation.

The new HR manager was brought in, without the required qualifications, at twice the pay.

The probation period was effectively waived.

The auditor general documented clear breaches by the new HR manager, including hiring her unqualified brother.

The public was told she had resigned.

She has been paid $32 million for 21 months of work.

The prime minister, also now the new energy minister, has signed off on this, along with his new board, and presumably, the finance ministry.

The proffered justification is to avoid extended litigation.

REHIRE YOLANDE RIGHT AWAY

A few other Julian incidents come to mind. Having regard to the ashen faces behind the PM while he stumbled, one is mindful that it was some 60-odd conspirators who felled Julius back in the day with 23 stabs.

Actually, I was thinking about how valiantly Julius had turned up for Cleopatra, even though by then he was wed to Calpurnia. Contrary to our mythologising nowadays, Cleopatra isn’t recorded as being particularly beautiful, but it is speculated that she had that special ‘sup’m sup’m’ that made her irresistible to powerful men.

She was certainly very skilful, and an excellent negotiator, too, outclassing all her rivals to ascend to the throne as HR manager of Egypt.

There are so many present-day lessons to draw from all this history. So much could be said. The most important lesson, so far as I’m concerned, is that it’s not necessarily the prettiest bird that gets the worm. Skills matter.

But then again, we were instructed about this by Squidley Ranks and Roundhead, who memorably taught us in that outrageous but undervalued classic, Ugly Gyal, that “pretty gyal naw nuh man control”.

The way I see it, PM Holness needs to rehire Yolande right away. Jamaica is in need of good negotiators at this time, and we simply can’t afford to sit idly by when we come across phenomenal negotiating talent.

I envision her absorbed into the foreign affairs ministry to handle the business of expropriating the shares from Venezuela more smoothly than it’s been going. And that would be the perfectly round ending to the Wakanda PetroNyam extravaganza. Or as they’re saying nowadays, “Jamaica ah nuh real place!” (and that’s a direct quote from the Latin).

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.