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Editorial: Mealy-mouthed attempt at extrication

Published:Thursday | September 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Gloria Henry has to do better than that. It is not enough for her to hide behind the skirt of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) while indirect, mealy-mouthed remarks are paraded in appeasement. If she is going to apologise, she should do so clearly and fully, in her own voice and in the first person.

At the same time, Davon Crump should know that indecent silence notwithstanding, his role in the anti-Chinese xenophobic posturing by elements in the MBCCI is not forgotten. He, too, owes Jamaica an apology.

Ms Henry is the MBCCI's president, who last week shocked most Jamaicans with a threat of a business boycott against her city's supposedly 'other' Chinese, those of relatively recent vintage, who she accused of not "giving back" to the community. In other words, and to take Ms Henry's argument to its logical conclusion, these businesses and their owners are guilty of not being social-welfare agencies.

She said: "We will encourage our members not to do business with them if they are not willing to be part of the development of the community."

Mr Crump, a former president of the BCCI, added: "... I totally endorse this stance. We have to take a stand and boycott these players if they don't conform to do the things that are necessary to give back to the community."

In the face of criticism, Mr Crump has kept quiet, hoping, apparently, that the storm will pass. Ms Henry has wiggled and waffled, mostly incoherently. Then, on the basis of a meeting with members of the Chinese community, she had MBCCI issue an exculpatory statement, which did little to extricate her from the mess.

The MBBCI president now claims that rather than vilification of the Chinese, her aim was to highlight a clean-up of the Montego Bay commercial district, in which she wanted Chinese-owned businesses to participate.




The MBCCI statement said: "She noted that in the past, dialogue with members of the (Chinese) community has borne less-than-desirable results and more efficient lines of communication would have to be established." So, it seems that her first shot at a more efficient and effective community was the threat of censure and boycott, albeit, according to the MBCCI, "it was never her intention to offend".

Further, the chamber reported, it was Ms Henry's argument that her highlighting of the failures of Chinese businesses to give back "was not in reference to financial terms, but rather in compliance with the clean-up initiative". Compliance, in this context, is a strange word. It suggests acquiescence, or yielding - in this case to Ms Henry's directive. A failure in this respect could result in the recalcitrants being censured, a word originally employed by Ms Henry.

We are glad if, as the MBCCI claims, the meeting caused a "reinvigorated relationship between the MBCCI and key stalwarts within the Chinese business community". Are these old or new Chinese?

Ms Henry would be assured of a better chance of closure and healing with a frank, unambiguous apology. The issue is whether she, and Mr Crump, have the courage for that.