Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Ocho Rios, St Ann:
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites made it clear it was education first and foremost, as he addressed the Jamaica Teachers' Association's (JTA) 49th annual conference at Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, St Ann, yesterday.
The minister acknowledged a difficult past few months between the teachers' union and his ministry, during which, he admitted, he might have said sharp words that hurt feelings.
"I've come to make peace and say I am sorry," said Thwaites. "It is not a time for throwing words at each other."
He added, later in his presentation: "If we fall to quarrelling, how can we expect children to do otherwise?"
Thwaites asked for "a respectful working relationship" between his ministry and the JTA going forward.
But when called upon to move the vote of thanks at the end of the session, President-Elect Doran Dixon deviated, saying he was going "to make a few comments because I feel pressured into doing so".
In his comments, Dixon said, among other things, that as an employee of the Ministry of Education, it was the duty of his employer to seek to treat with his welfare issues in an honest and open way.
As he continued, newly installed President Dr Mark Nicely intervened.
Nicely said: "Excuse me please, Mr P.E. (President-Elect), with respect, I think we are at the point of vote of thanks."
Responded Dixon: "I'm doing the vote of thanks, Mr President."
Said Nicely: "Well, I'm going to ask you to restrict your vote of thanks to a vote of thanks."
However, Dixon continued on his original course before giving the vote of thanks in a terse manner.
Dixon said: "At the insistence of the president, I want to thank the ministry team for having visited with us this morning, and I want to thank you, my colleagues, for having participated in this process."
Later, some teachers spoke openly of the incident, saying they had been offended by Dixon's behaviour.
"When he said he was going to make a few comments, I thought he was going to say 'sorry', as the minister did, so we could move on. But this was embarrassing," one teacher told The Gleaner.
Weeks before being voted in as president-elect, Dixon came under fire for likening the minister to a mongrel dog.