Tue | Jul 16, 2019

'Watch your words'...Political Ombudsman condemns Hitler references

Published:Wednesday | June 26, 2019 | 12:22 PM
Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown - File photo

Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown is charging political actors to be mindful of their utterances so as to avoid creating harm.

Parchment Brown stressed that civil discourse on matters of public interest must not include name calling or harmful references.

She made the remarks in a statement this morning in which she condemned a social media post made by President of the People’s National Party Youth Organization, Krystal Tomlinson.

In March, Tomlinson, in a post on her Twitter account, criticised the government’s handling of the country’s affairs and liken Prime Minister Andrew Holness to German Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.

She subsequently deleted the tweet and apologised, but this did not stop widespread condemnation.

The governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) reacted strongly to Tomlinson’s tweet.

Parchment Brown says Tomlinson’s original tweet and JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang’s reference to Hitler was unwarranted and unhelpful, noting that they both breached the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct.

The code, inter alia, states that party officials should not make statements which are inflammatory or likely to incite others to confrontation or violence; constitute slander or libel; and are malicious in reference to opposing candidates, their families and party officials.

“ I call on officials of our political organizations to act with restraint and wisdom to protect persons, such as the Prime Minister in the case of the original reference, political parties, our institutions, all office holders, their supporters and the public from harm.”

Full Statement 

Over the last several weeks, Jamaicans have expressed various opinions on a tweet posted by the President of the People’s National Party Youth Organization, Ms. Krystal Tomlinson, which referenced actions by Jamaica’s Prime Minister as reminding her of Hitler.

Ms. Tomlinson issued an apology within hours, however, it did not find favour with the Jamaica Labour Party and Generation 2000, who wrote letters of complaint to the Political Ombudsman.

In the case of the Jamaica Labour Party, the letter also questioned whether it was not Ms. Tomlinson and her party who were in line with Hitler’s words “I use emotion…”

In a series of discussions with the Political Ombudsman involving the PNP’s General Secretary, Mr. Julian Robinson, Ms. Krystal Tomlinson and the JLP’s General Secretary, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, the seriousness of the charge and counter charge was highlighted.

Ms. Tomlinson reaffirmed her apology and her speedy action in removing the original tweet. 

She expressed the view that there should be equitable treatment regarding the use of “Hitler”; that it be condemned and that all political actors commit to never using such a reference.

Dr. Chang spoke of the extreme distress caused by the remarks/tweet and the risk to the hard fought consensus on the practice of politics and protection from government abuse that both parties have accomplished following the era of political conflict/violence and fear.

The Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct at Standard #4 Public Utterances states:

Party officials (including platform speakers) should not make statements which:
Are inflammatory or likely to incite others to confrontation or violence;
Constitute slander or libel;
Are malicious in reference to opposing candidates, their families and party officials.

The Political Ombudsman condemns Ms. Tomlinson’s original tweet which breached the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct, and the response of Dr. Chang whose reference to the despised Nazi, was unwarranted and unhelpful in an apparent ‘tit for tat’ which also breached the Code.

I call on officials of our political organizations to act with restraint and wisdom to protect persons, such as the Prime Minister in the case of the original reference, political parties, our institutions, all office holders, their supporters and the public from harm.

The references to the most despised leader of the 20th century were unnecessary and unhelpful and have fomented harm in the public space. 

Civil discourse on matters of public interest must not include name calling or harmful references.

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