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Cablegate: Jamaica: Election Violence and Political Party

VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKG #0637/01 1221748
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021748Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINGSTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4689
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L KINGSTON 000637

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CAR (RBUDDEN)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL SOCI ECON ENRG KCOR JM XL
SUBJECT: JAMAICA: ELECTION VIOLENCE AND POLITICAL PARTY
LEADERSHIP: WHO REALLY MADE A MISTAKE?

REF: A. KINGSTON 635
B. 06 KINGSTON 2021

Classified By: Charge Edward Wehrli for Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a recent meeting with the Commissioner of
Elections Danville Walker, the Commissioner noted that he
believes the risk of political violence during elections is
low. He also revealed his belief that Prime Minister Portia
Simpson Miller (PSM) did not call elections earlier in order
to heal rifts within the People's National Party (PNP)
following a contentious party convention that resulted in her
elevation to party leadership. Finally, he reported his
belief that elections were originally scheduled for November
2006, but were canceled when Jamaican Labour Party (JLP)
leader Bruce Golding revealed details of the Trafigura
scandal. That revelation, Walker believes, may have eroded
the JLP's opportunity to regain power. End Summary.

Political Violence - Another Perspective
----------------------------------------

2. (C) There has been much speculation in the media and among
political observers that election violence will erupt this
year. Surprisingly, Walker discounts this possibility.
While he acknowledges that the division in constituencies
between the JLP and PNP "...is the closest (it's been) in
history," he believes that Jamaican culture - and political
parties - have fundamentally changed since the "bad old days."

3. (C) Walker noted that political parties used to be arms of
unions dating back to the 1940s (pre-independence).
According to Walker, unions were the bases for political
parties and political parties evolved to function as arms of
unions. Today, none of the leadership in either party has
any attachment to a union. In fact, the last leader with a
direct union connection was P. J. Patterson - and he served
as a union lawyer. Walker noted that when Patterson retired
from the PNP in the spring of 2006, most of the old party
stalwarts from the same period retired with him. While
unions have engaged in violence in the past for political
parties, Walker observed that unions gained nothing from it
and have largely abandoned violent protests.

4. (C) Walker does acknowledge that the "dons" had replaced
the unions in political party affiliation beginning in the
1970s; however, he noted that today the "dons" are solely
interested in profit. They will help get the vote out for
their party, but he also wisely observed that the dons don't
need politicians anymore. In fact, he said that the result
of violence is a loss of profit for the dons, as shops and
businesses all over the island will close in response.
Consequently, they will be unable to collect their protection
money. Most importantly, Walker believes that politicians no
longer have "the stomach" for violence and that they learned
an important lesson from inciting their supporters in the
past: they (politicians) can't control the outcome.

5. (C) Walker points to the rise of the dons in the political
party system and their subsequent solidification of their
criminal enterprises outside political party control as prime
evidence used by party leadership to stay as far removed from
violence as possible. Walker believes that today's political
parties are well-aware of the "Frankenstein" yesterday's
leaders created and are desperate to try and separate
themselves from that monster. When asked about recent police
action in Tivoli Gardens, Walker noted that in the days of
Edward Seaga (former JLP leader), Seaga would have marched
into Tivoli Gardens and "bunkered down" with his constituents
for three or four days while encouraging the shoot-out to
continue, stating that "Eddy (Seaga) didn't take any shit
from anybody." Today, JLP leader Bruce Golding respectfully
requested an inquiry into police action.

6. (C) Tivoli Gardens, while always viewed as a bellwether
for political violence may, according to Walker, be
misleading. The police are strongly believed to support the
PNP while Tivoli Gardens is a JLP stronghold and the
constituency represented by Golding. Despite Tivoli Gardens'
long history of violence, Walker contends that any action is
in all likelihood a wash for both political parties. While
the JLP points to police action as an example of government
abuse of power, PNP supporters look at violence and remember
the days of Seaga - when he "bunkered down" with the armed
thugs - as an example of JLP abuses and a reminder of the
rise of extra-judicial killings under Seaga when he was Prime
Minister.

7. (C) Walker pointed out that most of the violence today is
a result of intra-party fighting - PNP vs PNP and JLP vs JLP
armed thugs warring within their own party-controlled
constituencies. The fighting, he argues, is not about party
control, ideology, or anything similar, it is simply about
divvying up profits.

8. (C) Finally, Walker argues that despite public belief that
the police are aligned with the PNP, he firmly believes that
the police are trying to do as good a job as possible. More
importantly, they want to change public perception. He
acknowledges that police are political, but also observes
that the Police Commissioner has been very responsive to
concerns about individual police officers. Walker reported
that the Commissioner has put police officers on leave or
transferred them to other constituencies if he believed they
were becoming too involved in local politics.

Why Weren't There Early Elections? PSM Would Have Lost
--------------------------------------------- ----------

9. (C) One of the biggest mysteries since PSM's elevation to
Prime Minister is why she didn't call elections shortly after
her elevation to Prime Minister when her poll numbers were
high. Walker emphatically argued that PSM didn't call
elections because she would have lost. He noted, "Popularity
doesn't translate into victory in Jamaica." PSM, he argued,
had put "internal" PNP machinery in place to win the
leadership of the party, but that internal machinery is not
designed to win national campaigns. Walker pointed out that
the internal party fight for control was contentious, and PSM
had to do "serious work" to win over rank-and-file supporters
of now Minister of National Security Peter Phillips as well
as the other contenders for leadership. "In Jamaica, media
campaigns don't work. The voter must see, hear, and touch
the candidate." PSM needed time to travel to the island to
meet PNP supporters and heal the wounds of the internal party
fight if she wanted to win a national campaign. Island-wide
traveling to "meet and greet" PNP members is not inexpensive
and all the PNP "moneymen" retired along with P. J. Patterson
leaving PSM "cash poor."

The PNP Scandal That May Cost the JLP Election Victory
--------------------------------------------- ---------

10. (C) Walker revealed that he believed elections were
originally scheduled for November 2006. In August 2006, the
Prime Minister's Office contacted him to ask about the amount
of time the Electoral Office would need to prepare for
elections. "When I told them we needed 90 days to 'ramp-up'
the Prime Minister was very upset." (NOTE: As reported ref
A, 18,900 people must be hired and trained for a Jamaican
election. END NOTE). Nonetheless, the Commission began
hiring and training people for an election Walker believed
would occur in early November. Then, the Trafigura scandal
was revealed by Golding (ref B). Unfortunately for Golding
and the JLP, he revealed it prior to elections being called.
Walker firmly believes that Trafigura derailed the November
election and that had Golding waited, it "would have blown
PNP out of the water." He said there was a clear pattern
among PNP supporters following the revelation: denial,
disbelief, and, finally, outrage. He stated that if Golding
had timed the revelation, the outrage would have hit as
voters were going to the polls.

COMMENT:
--------

11. (C) Danville Walker was educated as an accountant in the
United States and worked for several years as a CPA. While
there, he married and had two children. In the early 1990s,
he returned to Jamaica to give his children "the wonderful
childhood I had growing up in Jamaica." He reported to
poloff that he has developed deep concerns about the future
of Jamaica in the last several years. "If my children had
asked to move back to the United States in the mid-1990s, I
would have done everything I could to persuade them
otherwise. Now, I think I would help them." He spoke freely
about the crumbling infrastructure, the poor quality of
schools for children of the working poor, and the rise of
crime and corruption. He also took politicians from both
political parties to task for doing nothing more than
"sitting in the same chairs of their Colonial masters." He
hopes that this election will mark the beginning of a change
for Jamaica: towards better governance. His lack of a clear
political allegiance makes his comments more credible. On
the one hand, he discussed Seaga's abuse of power, while on
the other hand stating that "If Portia loses the election,
perhaps Jamaica will finally rid itself of 'messianic'
leaders."

12. (C) Walker did report that the Election Office is ready
to go whenever elections are finally called. Due to the fact
that they hired all needed employees in the Fall of 2006 in
anticipation of a November election, all workers have been
trained. The minimum amount of time between announcing an
election and actually voting is 16 days (ref A). If Walker's
assessment of PNP reaction is correct, PSM may very well call
an election as soon possible: in case Golding does have
another scandal to reveal, a quick election would likely
catch PNP supporters in the "disbelief" stage of reaction.
What is certain is that Golding is not going to make the same
mistake again. He has remained tight-lipped about any other
scandal and will surely not reveal anything until after an
election date is set.
Wehrli

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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