Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
DESCRIBING PRAISES being heaped on deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as Damascus-like, Government Senator K.D. Knight, last Friday, chided members of the Opposition who spoke in the Senate during a tribute to the fallen solider.
Knight argued that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which now forms the Opposition, had never endorsed Jamaica's relationship with Chávez.
The JLP had called for a national demonstration in 2005 on the day Chávez and regional heads of government visited the island for a signing of the PetroCaribe agreement.
At that time, the People's National Party (PNP), which formed the Government, charged that the move was intended to embarrass the country and Chávez.
And in 2006, then JLP leader Bruce Golding warned the Government about supporting Venezuela in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
"I think it will affect our relationship with America. How? I can't tell, but it won't be good. There are some critical issues coming up before the Security Council, and I think that the Government has to think about the long-term interests of Jamaica," said Golding.
He added: "I worry that our vote has been forced through PetroCaribe."
CHáVEZ EULOGISED IN THE HOUSE
Last Friday, JLP members Tom Tavares Finson, Dr Christopher Tufton, Robert Montague and Marlene Malahoo Forte rose in the Senate to eulogise Chávez as a great leader of Venezuela and a friend of Jamaica.
They echoed the views of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, Audley Shaw and Dr Ken Baugh who spoke feelingly about Chávez when the lower house paid tribute to him last Tuesday.
But Knight, a veteran politician, was not to allow the JLP to change its stance without pointing this out even as he described Chávez as a leader who not only transformed lives but also thoughts.
"I sat in this chamber designated as the lower house, and I am flabbergasted that there could be such a change because as I sat in the lower house then, and I heard how wrong Jamaica was to have this association with Chávez," Knight said in the Senate.
He added: "Chávez was pictured as almost a mad man. And now when I stand here, and I hear the tributes coming from that side that painted that picture, I say, this was a great man."
According to Knight, "By deeds and by words he (Chávez) was able to convert those who spoke so feelingly against him because they did not understand his mission."
Tufton, when he spoke last Friday, had glowing words for Chávez's leadership, especially in advancing the cause of the poor and marginalised.
"President Chávez has certainly left a mark, and our best recognition of him is to take those qualities that are targeted at improving the lot of those who are deprived and vulnerable and trying to improve their lot. I think if we did that, that would be the best tribute we could pay to him,' Tufton said.
Similarly, Malahoo Forte said Chávez's concern and care for the governments and people of the Caribbean transcended the ideological perspective of the particular government, whether left or right of centre.
Montague, who in his capacity as chairman of the JLP, travelled as part of a delegation led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to Chávez's funeral in Venezuela, said the late president was a "friend of Jamaica and could even be described as a Jamaican".