Mon | Jan 21, 2019

PM stooped to hecklers' level

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2015 | 12:00 AM


If I were Jamaica's prime minister, my response to the New York hecklers would have been different.

When we accepted the invitation to give the keynote address at the 6th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in New York, my advisers would have anticipated the likelihood of protests and heckling and prepared me well. I recognise that heckling is protected by the First Amendment and I don't have the automatic right to be free from all heckling.

Here is the transcript of my response to the gay-rights protesters in New York:

"I have listened to you and I humbly ask that you now give me an opportunity to speak. Ladies and gentlemen, I must remind you of my response during the leadership debate in December 2011, when I was asked whether I would hire a homosexual. At that time, I said that in selecting my team, I would not be concerned about the goings on in their bedrooms. Today, I stand before you as someone who has not changed on that score.

"I have always believed in the dignity of ALL human beings. We all deserve respect and human rights. I am inviting you to sit with me, work with me, and let us talk so we can achieve more for those who are vulnerable.

"Shouting at each other will only delay the work that needs to be done on behalf of all in the gay community. I respect your rights to protest and I ask you to take this a step further with me so, together, we can do much more to stem violence and discrimination being faced by gays in Jamaica.

Thank you!"

You see, Mr Editor, as the prime minister, there has to be a level of 'statesmanship' - diplomacy and decorum in speech, behaviour and body language. I will not allow the uncouth behaviour of others to make me look less than polished, respectful and respectable in this, the highest elected office in our beautiful Jamaica. In New York, I chose to respond without asperity and float this experience like a lady.