Wed | Dec 12, 2018

UPDATED: Editorial | Expecting more from Ruddy Spencer

Published:Saturday | March 31, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Just like a puff of wind, Rudyard Spencer's crass and partisan remarks about the trough opening up at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) have been forgotten.

At first, the country was led to believe that the minister's statement was taken out of context. But there he was, stirred by partisan fervour, anxious to offer spoils to the faithful base, as politicians are wont to do. He told supporters attending a party meeting in Bellefield, Manchester, that they can now expect benefits from RADA because one of their own is in charge.

The minister said this: "We have a system where we will now have our own chairman of RADA and things have been happening and things can happen at RADA ... where we never have a parish manager for RADA, you now have a Labourite being the chairman of RADA ... you can't say that you are getting no attention, you can't say nothing is happening, because in fairness, you have your own manager to report whatever problems you have and expect him to solve those problems."

He was unmistakably referring to RADA Chairman Michael Stern, former member of parliament for Clarendon North West, who lost his bid to be re-elected in 2011 and was appointed to head the RADA board in August 2017. And it is reasonable to conclude that the minister was seeking to put partisan gain ahead of RADA's mandate to assist farmers of all stripes in their development.

Controversy has been swirling around Spencer since he made those comments. The corruption watchdog, National Integrity Action, called on Mr Spencer to apologise to the nation's farmers and also urged Prime Minister Andrew Holness to disavow the sentiments expressed by Spencer.

One of the most strident critiques of Spencer's speech came from his opposition counterpart, Dr Fenton Ferguson, who labelled the remarks disgraceful and called on the administration to end the politicisation of the agricultural sector.

Confronted by the media about Spencer's remarks, Prime Minister Andrew Holness' choice of words sounded like a rebuke of his minister, as he acknowledged that the statement was wrong and added that he expected a retraction and an apology from the minister.




So far, Mr Spencer has only made a retraction or apology to one media house, but we would have expected, and we believe it was the intent of the prime minister, that Mr Spencer would have issued a public statement to all media.
This episode serves to remind us that partisan politics remains stubbornly entrenched in the Jamaican psyche. It has deep and tangled roots. So much so that the electorate does not appear to be turned off by posturing of this nature. Instead, they seem to embrace the idea, "Our time come."

People of goodwill, regardless of their political stripe, would have had a difficult time swallowing portions of Spencer's speech. We stand with the people of goodwill.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of today's editorial did not note that Mr Spencer provided an apology, albeit through a talk programme aired by one media entity.)