The current atmosphere, both in Jamaica and elsewhere, encourages me to think that we have to continuously fight against the negative, the dark, and the downright destructive. The struggle is real!
Everald Warmington is a Member of Parliament for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and Minister Without Portfolio responsible for Works in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (in the Office of the Prime Minister). He is, unfortunately, well known for his “no filter” approach in his political statements and actions. That is a polite way of putting it. He often creates discord when there is none. Many of his utterances in the past have been ill-advised, inappropriate – and, to be honest, coarse and disrespectful to others.
The latest performance by Mr. Warmington, at a party meeting over the weekend (this is where the more extreme comments are usually made, before a crowd of cheering, jeering party faithful) was to castigate Opposition Leader Mark Golding – for his whiteness and for the place of birth of his parents, who lived in Jamaica for most of their lives and contributed greatly to the island’s development.
“So don’t talk say my leader born yah and you attack [Edward] Seaga and you don’t attack this leader. If he wants to be prime minister go back a England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but him nah beat Michael Andrew Holness, I don’t talk about colour and race, but they started it, so let me finish it.”
“Dem sey Seaga born up deh so, but wey fi dem leader come from? Backra master…”
“Backra master” is a Jamaican patois expression for a white person in a high-up position, and by extension, a slave master. I believe the term is used elsewhere in the Caribbean, too.
Mr. Warmington was referring to a People’s National Party campaign back in 1976, featuring a song called “My Leader Born Yah” (my leader was born here) and referring to then PNP leader Michael Manley. It was a dig at then JLP leader Edward Seaga, who was born in the US. Now, Mr. Warmington is attempting to turn the tables to make a political point, raising the issue of race and nationality. Please note: Mark Golding was, in fact, born in Jamaica – so the reference here is to his English parents.
One radio journalist, Tyrone Reid, has compared Mr. Warmington’s outburst with a comment made recently – in Parliament – by a right-wing French politician, who reportedly said something about “back to Africa” when a black Member of Parliament stood up to speak. The politician was angrily shouted down by his colleagues, who protested so loudly that the parliamentary session was suspended for a few minutes. He was also banned from Parliament for two weeks and half his pay will be deducted for the next two months.
I wonder if this would happen in Jamaica, or would it just be laughed off?
Or is it that, when they are on the political “hustings” at party meetings on weekends, Jamaican politicians are allowed to get away with almost anything that is said in the heat of the moment?
I am puzzled as to why there has been silence from Mr. Warmington’s colleagues – and from the leader of his party, Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Does this mean that they condone his widely reported remarks? Or do they merely tolerate them with a shrug and a smile: “Oh well, Mr. Warmington is always a bit controversial…” There is nothing amusing at all about his comments.
The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) is not amused. Here is their press release today:
Racial comments have no place in Jamaica’s politics now or in the past – PSOJ
Kingston, Jamaica – November 9, 2022: The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) calls on political representatives to be responsible in their discourse with their supporters and the general public.
The PSOJ is disappointed with recent racially divisive comments made by Minister Everald Warmington. These comments have no place in the Jamaican context now or in the past as it is totally inconsistent with our motto “out of of many one people.”
Our Political Code of Conduct says party officials (including platform speakers) should not make statements which “are malicious in reference to opposing candidates, their families and Party officials”.
These utterances by Minister Warmington directly contradict the Political Code of Conduct signed by all our political representatives. Our political leaders have a moral responsibility to ensure that we adhere to the code of conduct and most importantly provide a good example by setting the tone for a decent, inclusive and harmonious society.
We cannot expect to positively address our social issues if our leaders display poor judgement in their tone and statements towards each other. Distasteful and divisive statements from either side of the political fence cannot be condoned or supported. It is our collective duty to hold each other accountable for our conduct which no doubt can influence anti-social behaviours in society.
We are encouraging both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to take the higher ground in the interest of managing the tone of the communication of their political operatives in line with our agreed political code of conduct.
We must stand by our motto, “Out of Many One People.” This is who we are, and as political leaders must be echoed and embraced.