Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Editorial: Dwayne Vaz’s flaccid apology

Published:Tuesday | December 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Attempting to extricate himself from folly by assuming the stupidity of others, young Dwayne Vaz has succeeded in twisting his knickers and is in danger of choking himself to a prone political future. The Central Westmoreland member of parliament can best save himself by asserting manhood in a different way: with an unqualified apology. Which is what sensible people in the People's National Party (PNP) should have, and can still, advise him to do.

Mr Vaz is, of course, not an untypical Jamaican young man. He is steeped in the island's dancehall culture and likes music of the entertainer known as Vybz Kartel, who is in jail for murder and much of whose music venerates slaughter, mayhem and gang warfare. Indeed, as Mr Vaz admitted, his "fondness" for Kartel has extended to having the deejay's music played "on occasions" at political meetings, as was the case at a PNP rally in Mount Salem last Thursday night.

But there is the difference between Mr Vaz and the average young man. As an elected member of Jamaica's Parliament - a position for which he voluntarily threw his hat in the ring and which his party and constituents obviously believed he could manage - he carries a burden of expectation: that his behaviour will be mature and that his actions are such that others can emulate.

And given Jamaica's recent political history of murderous election campaigns, among the things he is not expected to do is behave in a manner that might incite violence. Which is why what Mr Vaz did last Thursday night was so egregious.

Referring to the constituency office of a political colleague that was apparently the subject of arson, Mr Vaz evoked one of Kartel's songs of violence, which opens up to the rounding up of a vengeful army ahead of gun assault on opponents who may have been under the assumption that their skins were too tough to bleed.

Having been called out on his incitement, Mr Vaz drew on the worn politician fallback: claim that what he did was "misconstrued" and taken out of context.

"My repeating the words of the song was only in reference to loading our supporters into vehicles to go to mass meetings as we normally do," he said in his purported apology. "... So, I want to make it abundantly clear that there was no intent on my part with regard to anything to do with violence, or encouraging violence, or for any form of retaliation."

SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER

Perhaps we should give Mr Vaz the benefit of the doubt. Except that, first, nothing in his reported remarks provided a context other than retaliatory incitement, and second, apart from the opening lines with Kartel's call for a rounding up of the troops, the rest of the lyrics are about the execution of mayhem.

Even if Mr Vaz did not mean, or expect, a literal incitement to violence and retaliation against Jamaica Labour Party supporters, he ought to have known better. And we expected better. But worse is his insult to people's intelligence with the attempt at vacuous spin with reference to loading supporters in buses to attend meetings. He and his advisers should have been capable of concocting something more credible than that.

If Mr Vaz wants us to believe that what happened was an aberration, for which he is truly sorry, he should apologise anew without equivocation.