Embattled Henry backtracks - Chamber boss says vilification was not her intent
Gloria Henry, the embattled president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), is backing away from a controversial statement she made during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum, telling senior members of the second city's Chinese business community that it was never her intent to vilify them.
During the forum, Henry, in expressing unhappiness with the lack of participation by the Chinese (the new arrivals to Jamaica) business community, which has not been contributing to the building of the social fabric of Montego Bay, warned that unless they change their attitude, they could be censured through the boycotting of their businesses.
The comment created a firestorm both locally and internationally, with even one of Henry's own board members, prominent attorney-at-law Nathan Robb, declaring in a letter to The Gleaner that he was distancing himself from the comment.
However, following a meeting with senior members of the Chinese community and the leadership of the MBCCI on Monday, the chamber released a statement yesterday, quoting Henry as saying it was never her intention to vilify anyone.
"At the meeting, Ms Henry said it was never her intention to give rise to any belief that Chinese nationals were being singled out for vilification, but was intended to highlight an initiative currently before the Chamber regarding the clean-up of downtown Montego Bay and considering the strong presence of Chinese-owned businesses, in that area of the City, it was agreed that for any initiative to bear fruit, the Chinese business community would have to be engaged," the MBCCI statement outlined.
"She noted that in the past, dialogue with members of this community have borne less than desirable results and more efficient lines of communication would have to be established."
The release also stated that Henry told the Chinese present at the meeting that her request for support was not financial but more about getting the new Chinese to participate in the clean-up initiative.
"She noted that some members of the Chinese business community were offended by the statements attributed to her, and reassured that it was never her intention to offend," the MBCCI release continued. "She pointed out that her reference to requiring support from the Chinese business operators was not in reference to financial terms but, rather in compliance with the 'Clean-up initiative'.
She also indicated that her suggestion of censorship was the "naming and shaming" of businesses non-compliant with the National Solid Waste Management Act and it should be applied to all businesses.
The MBCCI said the meeting with the Chinese brought about significant positives, foremost of which, is the reinvigorated relationship between the MBCCI and key stalwarts within the Chinese business community.