Warmington is a national disgrace
Everald Warmington of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) defeated Dennis Jones of the People’s National Party (PNP) in the 2007 general election in Jamaica to win the parliamentary seat for the South West St Catherine constituency. However, in February 2011, it became public knowledge that Warmington had been a United States citizen at the time of his 2007 nomination, meaning that he was constitutionally ineligible to sit in Parliament at that time, a situation that also involved other politicians from both sides of the divide. He subsequently submitted his letter of resignation on March 8, 2011.
That same day, which also happened to be International Women’s Day, Warmington was interviewed live on TVJ’s Prime Time News by Milton Walker, hanging up the phone on him twice when asked if it was ethical of him to remain a member of parliament while possessing dual citizenship. About an hour later, he was again interviewed by telephone, this time on CVM TV’s prime-time news programme, News Watch. During the interview, Dwayne Berbick, the male anchor, asked him if he thought that it was unethical to be in the House for as long he was before submitting his letter of resignation. Mr Warmington objected vociferously to the word ‘unethical’ being used. Then came the following exchange with the female anchor, Kerlyn Brown:
Brown: Sir, the nation is listening, you were saying “not unethical”, so what other word would you use?
Warmington: Excuse me?
Brown: The nation is listening, sir, and you were angry that we actually said ‘unethical’.
Warmington: “Go to hell!” (Terminates call)
Brown: The nation has heard you, Sir.
The Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and the International Federation of Journalists blasted Warmington, as did The Press Association of Jamaica and the Media Association Jamaica, which called on then Prime Minister Bruce Golding and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller to “remind MPs and public servants of their duty to the nation to provide responses to reasonable questions posed by the media”. Several civil-society groups, including the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, and Families Against State Terrorism also voiced concern. Warmington never did apologise for his outburst, and went on to win the by-election the following month, and it was business as usual.
It is now 2015, and Warmington is at it again. While arriving at a recent meeting at JLP headquarters at Belmont Road, he had objected to his photograph being taken, and used his notebook to hit a female Gleaner intern's camera. He then embarked on an expletive-laden tirade directed at another journalist. He later apologised to the intern.
But less than a week later, he was back to his old nasty self, again on the grounds of the JLP headquarters. He has apparently now taken a liking to ornithology, as he repeatedly flipped the bird to journalists from the aviary that is his right hand. He did so twice while in his SUV, as well as after alighting from the vehicle, his stance unequivocally defiant. I was rather taken aback when I first saw the photograph, not just because of the gesture, but also because of the sheer length of his middle finger, which almost appears to have been surgically enhanced.
When someone becomes a public figure, certain issues come with the territory, including criticism, unwanted public attention, photographs taken without permission, and media hounding, among others. But ascension to a position of authority and leadership demands that a good example is set for those who are being led. Being a leader, after all, implies that people are expected to follow you.
So it is disingenuous of us to complain about the culture of indiscipline plaguing our country, especially among our youth, and tolerate the crass, crude, vulgar, boorish and disrespectful behaviour of persons such as Warmington. For example, verbally assaulting and swearing at women and becoming physically aggressive with them sets a very poor example for our young men.
Which brings me to his party. The above-mentioned actions have taken place under two different leaders, neither of whom have publicly reprimanded him, sending a message to us, that any type of disrespectful behaviour from representatives of their party is okay. General secretary for the party, Horace Chang, actually had the nerve to suggest that Warmington was showing the Labour Party 'V' for victory sign. When Damion Crawford uttered the term ‘dutty Labourite’, many within the JLP were offended, but Everald Warmington has worked hard to earn the title.
The media are responsible for informing us, members of the public. The questions asked by the media are asked on our behalf, so an assault on the media is an assault on us. Mr Warmington’s behaviour, the handling of it by his party, and the acceptance of his rudeness by his supporters clearly demonstrate much of what is wrong with Jamaica: indiscipline, rudeness, aggression, misogyny, lack of accountability, lack of respect and an ‘a nuh nuttn’ mentality.
Our tolerance of him, allowing him to remain in representational politics as long as he has, is a poor reflection on us. As long as persons like him remain in positions of leadership in Jamaica, our country’s prognosis for meaningful progress remains gloomy. This type of conduct must be rejected.