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Opposition demand Thwaites withdraw 'leggo beast' slur against wayward youth

Published:Monday | August 24, 2015 | 8:00 AMGary Spaulding

Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness has vowed to renounce what he describes as the bad habit of name-calling that is marring the political process.

Holness said he would launch an assault on the apathy and distrust lingering on the local political landscape, even as he rapped Education Minister Ronald Thwaites for last week labeling wayward students as 'leggo beasts'.

Holness, a former education minister, charged that chronic name-calling of Jamaicans has become a worrying trend among members of the People's National Party (PNP) Government.

Speaking with The Gleaner, following a caucus of opposition caretakers over the weekend, Holness cited Peter Bunting's recent reference to the 'john crow politics' being practised by the JLP as he decried the "denigration and belittling tendencies" of Government members.

Declaring that this must cease, he demanded that Thwaites withdraw the 'leggo beast' label and said he would be insisting that his team avoid name-calling during the election season.

Thwaites', addressing the Jamaica Teachers' Association annual conference in Montego Bay, St James, received thunderous applause as he declared that parents must not send 'leggo beast' children to school and expect teachers to provide behaviour modification.

Opposition Spokesperson on Education and Youth Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has also chastised the education minister for his use of the term 'leggo beasts', and for pitting himself and the JTA against parents.

CONDEMNATION

"Labelling troubled children 'leggo beasts' does not contribute to the need for a collaborative and transformational approach to the building of a good education system," Johnson Smith said in calling for Thwaites to withdraw the comment.

"It speaks to a further condemnation of children with anti-social behaviour from difficult circumstances, to being ostracised, and adds to the cycle of negative behaviour and experiences they suffer."

Almost four years ago, then Finance Minister Audley Shaw was compelled to apologise after accusing then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller of "jumping around like a leggo beast".

The statement had drawn criticism from Bunting, then People's National Party's general secretary, who labelled it disrespectful.

gary.spaulding@gleanerm.com