Gov't rejects attack on J'can men
Tufton offended by Zimbabwe president's reported comments
Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
A diplomatic stand-off between Jamaica and Zimbabwe seems to be bubbling following recent comments attributed to the president of the African country, Robert Mugabe, who has been quoted as labelling Jamaican men "drunkards and perennially hooked on marijuana".
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade A.J. Nicholson said yesterday his office would be seeking to verify the statements, after which Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller would respond.
But going one step further, Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Dr Christopher Tufton described the statement as unfortunate and said if it were found to have been made by Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president would have a responsibility to shed light on his comments, as well as provide an apology.
"I think that he should be called on to provide an explanation as to what he meant. It's inappropriate and, frankly speaking, rude. He should apologise to the Jamaican people," Tufton declared.
"It certainly is in poor taste and does not generate confidence in the relationship. It is inappropriate and it threatens to undermine the relationship that Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe have had with Jamaica and the people of Jamaica over many years," Tufton told The Gleaner.
Tufton went on to add that the comments generate questions as to whether Mugabe should retain membership in the Order of Jamaica, which was conferred on him during a state visit to the island back in 1996.
"If he thinks that way about Jamaica, then what I would certainly say is, why did he accept that award that was offered to him? Now that he has that impression of Jamaica, then perhaps he should consider returning the award and I have no difficulty with that. He has insulted the Jamaican people.
"Clearly, he does not place much value on the relationship that we have," Tufton said, while adding that the diplomatic channels must be utilised to call for the Zimbabwean president to clarify his statement.
Yesterday, Nicholson told The Gleaner that the Government "strongly rejects the suggestions contained in the news item", while adding that Jamaica is a nation characterised by adherence to democratic principles and the rule of law.
"Jamaican men and women from all walks of life have made valuable contributions to national development and have made their mark on the world stage, be it in the field of politics, diplomacy, medicine, science and technology, or sports and culture, among many others," he said.
"We take immense pride in the acknowledged contribution that Jamaica has made to the liberation of southern Africa and are gratified that nations such as South Africa and Zimbabwe enjoy the right to choose their own destiny," Nicholson said.
In the online article posted on Friday on a Zimbabwean radio station, Mugabe, who was speaking during a distinguished lecture at a university function, reportedly urged Zimbabweans never to follow in the footsteps of Jamaicans whose influence on the country is all too pervasive.
"In Jamaica, they have freedom to smoke (men are always drunk) and universities are full of women.
"The men want to sing and do not go to colleges (some are dreadlocked). Let us not go there," the African president was quoted as saying.