Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Gordon Robinson | PNP lacks leadership

Published:Sunday | June 2, 2019 | 12:23 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Krystal Tomlinson
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Yet another issue I’ve manfully (oh, all right, personfully) tried to avoid, (clearly without success) is Krystal Tomlinson’s putrid, puerile comparison of Andrew Holness’ track record to that of Adolph Hitler.

The author of that literary atrocity, a political neophyte for whom I previously held high hopes, compounded her ghastly comparison by standing firm for days, spinning her character assassination like a gig, before bowing to public outrage by publishing a rambling, confusing attempt to deflect and misdirect and attempting to pass it off as an apology. It was no such thing. She fooled Loop News, whose headline screamed ‘Tomlinson bows to pressure; apologises for comparing Holness to Hitler’.

I’m sorry for the things I’ve done.

I know that I’m the foolish one.

Now that I see who’s to blame

I’m so ashamed, I’m sorry.

But she didn’t apologise. Following the example set by her leader after his shameful two-finger salute in Parliament, she published: “I would like to put on record my unequivocal apology for any offence that may have been taken to the tweet and for conjuring up any painful images of the result of the Hitler regime, which concluded with devastating genocide, second only to what my family endured during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was not my intent.”

Apparently, offence “may have been taken”. Only in that event was she prepared to apologise. It’s the popular political “apology if” also known as a conditional apology. She also apologises for “conjuring up images”, NOT for insulting Jamaica’s prime minister in the most personal and hateful way. She just couldn’t resist mentioning buzzword event “trans-Atlantic slave trade”, which didn’t feature in her original tweet. Why? Is she seeking sympathy for making a complete ass of herself?

I’m so sorry for the things I’ve said.

Just like a child, I lost my head.

I should have known, from the start,

I’d break your heart. I’m sorry.

In what was widely mischaracterised as an apology, she had the effrontery to write: “In my experience as a student of political science and communications, I accept that comparative analyses lose their effect when the audience is too disturbed by the reference to consider the possible merits of an argument.”

I don’t know where to begin.

Firstly, the words “experience” and “student” in the same sentence create an irretrievable oxymoron. Channeling her leader’s statement of regret after his vulgar parliamentary gesture, she blames the audience for not being bright enough to ignore their own “disturbance” which, if they could summon the intellect to do so, would allow them to see the merit of her “argument”. What merit? What “argument”? Stating that Holness’ track record reminded her of Hitler isn’t argument. It isn’t even opinion properly-so-called. It’s a purported statement of fact.

Others may have opinions (I certainly do) along the lines of how on God’s green (or orange) earth this could be a genuine statement of fact (was she REALLY reminded?) instead of a convenient, insincere controversy-generating mechanism used by a compulsive attention-seeker.

Please be kind and I know you’ll find

It’s so easy to forgive.

Darling wait for it’s not too late.

Give our love a chance to live.

I’ve tried to avoid commenting on the issue for the simple reason that I’m an unrepentant, unequivocal supporter of freedom of opinion. But every freedom comes with responsibilities and limits. For opinion to be “free”, it must be based on FACT. If not – if it’s promulgated other than as honest belief in the opinion (again based on fact) – it’s not opinion. It’s propaganda.

UTTER NONSENSE

Even taking into account Twitter’s character limits (an illusion, really, as the facility of “threads” eliminates the obstacle), Miss Tomlinson was clear as to the “factual” basis of her opinion.

It was: “Holness’ track record suggests that he is a prime minister who has scant regard for the court, the constitution, and the separation of powers doctrine.”

This is complete and utter nonsense. This is opinion used as the basis for opinion. Andrew Holness has experienced two adverse constitutional decisions by the court, but that’s a product of a more actively energised constitutional court and the recent (2011) promulgation of a new Charter of Rights that reshaped Jamaican constitutional law. On each occasion, NOTHING in the PM’s record suggests that he hasn’t regarded the court’s ruling. NOTHING in his record suggests that he tried to influence the court or obstruct access to court for persons wishing to contest any government decision.

Arthur Williams, the architect of the first adverse constitutional ruling, was appointed by THIS government as Jamaica’s representative to the Inter-American Bank and then high commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago. Christopher Tufton, a behind-the-scenes adversary in the same lawsuit and gratuitous beneficiary of the ruling, was found a winnable constituency by Andrew Holness when he was a man without a political home and then appointed health minister.

With regard to his “actions that bring results” faux pas, for which he was harshly criticised, including by me, he soon retracted and did the right thing. This, despite the fact that the constitutional issue wasn’t a settled one and his attorney general stated publicly that he did nothing wrong. So where the framfrig is this PM’s “scant regard” for court, constitution, or separation of powers? There may be grounds for opining he doesn’t understand separation of powers, which I’d expect after decades of Westminster governance conflating executive and legislative action. But “scant regard” isn’t a realistic option. It’s just plain silly. Or worse.

I know the heartaches you’ve been through.

I know for I’ve had heartaches too.

There’s nothing more I can do

but say to you “I’m sorry”

The Platters were one of the most successful vocal groups of early rock and roll. Their distinctive, seminal sound was a bridge between pre-rock Tin Pan Alley tradition and the transformative new music. Like The Drifters, they survived many personnel changes, with the most successful combination comprising lead tenor Tony Williams (probably the best lead singer of all time), David Lynch, Paul Robi, Herb Reed, and Zola Taylor (eventually “married” the tragic Frankie Lymon in a dubious Mexican ceremony not realising she was the second of three “wives”).

After they split, Paul Robi formed his own group. So two groups (Tony Williams led another) toured as ‘The Platters’. Legal wrangling over rights to the name went on into the 21st century.

The Old Ball and Chain and I enjoyed the privilege of seeing Williams’ and Robi’s groups live. We saw Paul Robi’s group at ‘Cinema 2’ in a line-up of acts also featuring Bobby Day (of Rocking Robin fame). Later on, we took my mother to see the “real” Platters (led by Tony Williams) at the Pegasus. Tony was still magnificent. His voice cut through the room like a knife.

The group had 40 charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (1955-1967), including four number-one hits. I’m Sorry , released February 1957, reached number 11 on USA national charts. At least one of the co-writers is unknown, but to no one’s surprise, long-time Manager Buck Ram claimed credit.

I FAULT PETER PHILLIPS

Opposition activists have plenty policy and governance matters available upon which to criticise this government and this PM. I do it all the time. But stooping to this sort of low personal attack is unworthy of the young lady in question’s talent and potential. Her stubborn and obfuscatory behaviour after coming under public opprobrium bordered on the unforgiveable. She still seems unaware that she’s done anything wrong.

I’ve noticed more than a hint of panicked desperation creeping (well, slithering really) into PNP political discourse, especially (and regrettably) coming from the younger, inexperienced Comrades. First, we suffered Damion’s misogynistic and narcissistic displays on the East Portland campaign trail. Now, our sensibilities are victimised by Krystal’s abuse (or, maybe, ignorance) of history.

Contrast the visible effort made by Peter Bunting to exude civility and principle while making the most trenchant criticisms. Also note the calm, measured tone and reasoned, fact-based content of Lisa Hanna’s recent Sectoral Debate presentation, which Karl Samuda described as “excellent”. They are behaving like mature leaders, so bear leadership responsibilities.

The lunatic fringe-type propaganda from younger Comrades could be blamed on individual protagonists, but I fault Peter Phillips and his advisers. Female members of the PNP hierarchy lined up behind Damion to support him in his campaign AFTER his repulsive “no further than Mrs Vaz” barb. Those who gave interviews ignored their feminist beliefs and spun the demeaning attack on a female JLP candidate until we were giddy. Peter Phillips appeared on the platform and doubled down!

This is lack of direction and mentorship. This is lack of leadership. This is a masochistic recipe for election suicide. Peter, Lisa, and Peter: Step in together and take control, NOW!

Peace and love!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.