Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Carolyn Cooper | ‘Massa’ Mark’s time soon come?

Published:Sunday | March 26, 2023 | 1:09 AM

Prime Minister Andrew Holness made an emotional public declaration last October. He was practically in tears. It was at the end of his speech at the handing over ceremony for the Roseneath Park housing development in St Catherine. He was no longer reading his script. He was speaking from his heart:

“There must never be any political compromise about the rule of law. For decades, we have been winking and being duplicitous and equivocal about the enforcement of the rule of law. And that is why we are where we are today. My job, as your prime minister – I’ve passed the stage of trying to, you know, or needing to win political popularity and favour. Doesn’t matter to me anymore. I have to start to think about legacy.”

The prime minister did not say he had passed the stage of wanting to win elections. That’s not the same as not needing to win “political popularity and favour”. It seems as if Holness was asserting that his job as prime minister was to enforce the rule of law. For him, principle must take precedence over narrow political ambition. That affirmation would be the basis of his legacy.

‘DEM NAH BEAT ANDREW HOLNESS’

Some of Holness’s fellow parliamentarians appear to have misunderstood the prime minister’s profession of faith in the rule of law. They, apparently, thought he no longer cared about winning elections. So they got jumpy. The following month, Member of Parliament Everald Warmington asked a provocative question at a political meeting: “Weh Mark Golding mother and father come from? . . . If he wants to be prime minister, guh back a England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but dem nah beat Andrew Michael Holness.”

According to the Forebears website, the name Warmington comes from the Germanic word “Wyrm”. It’s pronounced ‘worm’. But that is far from what it means. A wyrm is actually a venomous serpent. I wouldn’t dare suggest that Everald Warmington is living up to his family name. But he did make a rather toxic statement about the pedigree of Mark Golding, leader of the Opposition, and his father John: “I don’t talk about colour and race, but they started it, so let me finish it. Dem seh Seaga born up deh so, but weh fi dem leader come from? Backra master.”

Much of the debate about Warmington’s attack on Mark Golding highlighted the issue of “colour and race”. But what about the proclamation that, “dem nah beat Andrew Michael Holness”? On what basis could Warmington make such a claim? Suppose the majority of voters decided to select the People’s National Party (PNP) at the next general elections! The PNP would beat Holness. And there’s nothing Warmington could do about it.

CLARKE DRAWS RACE CARD

On the matter of “colour and race”, Warmington does not seem to know that not every white Jamaican is a descendant of the exploitative planter class. John Golding’s roots were not in Jamaica. His grandparents on his father’s side were Jews from Lithuania, which was ruled by Russia. They fled in the 1890s to escape persecution. Relatives who stayed behind were exterminated in the Holocaust. John’s grandparents on his mother’s side left the UK in the early 1800s in impoverished circumstances to make a better life in Australia.

John Golding did not come to Jamaica to become a backra master ruling us. He came to serve as an orthopaedic surgeon. Six months after he arrived in 1953 to teach at The University College of the West Indies, a polio epidemic struck. About 1,500 people caught the crippling virus. Golding set up a programme to help them recover.

In 1957, there was a disastrous train crash at Kendal. It was then the world’s second-worst rail accident. About 200 people died and more than 700 survivors suffered massive injuries. John Golding helped many of them to heal. Mark’s grandfather on his mother’s side was Dr Logan Levy from St James. He was once head of the Sav-la-Mar Hospital.

Last week, Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service, echoed Warmington’s derogatory description of Mark Golding. Clarke referred to him as “Massa” Mark. Unlike Warmington who was speaking at a political meeting, Clarke was in Parliament reading from a script. He recklessly and deliberately drew the race card. Like Warmington, Clarke was insinuating that Golding was not fit to become prime minister because of his supposed “backra master” origins.

HEALING OF THE NATION

Warmington probably didn’t study West Indian history in high school or at the former College of Arts, Science and Technology. Clarke probably did. In any case, as a Rhodes Scholar, Clarke should be bright enough to teach himself Jamaican history. But, as Mutabaruka announced so wickedly in 2015 on one of his “Stepping Razor” radio programmes on IRIE FM, some Rhodes scholars do not honour their own culture:

“Cecil Rhodes killed thousands of Africans. The place is now called Zimbabwe. It was once called Rhodesia after Cecil Rhodes who killed thousands of people, like King Leopold in the Congo. But Black people are very proud to get the Cecil Rhodes scholarship. We love when we are honoured by our slave masters.”

Mark Golding is trying his best to do in politics what his father and grandfather did in medicine: healing of the nation. Instead of desperately trying to undermine Golding on fraudulent grounds, out-of-order Jamaica Labour Party parliamentarians should confront their fear of losing the next general elections. They should listen to the cautionary words of Andrew Holness: “There must never be any political compromise about the rule of law.”

- Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a teacher of English language and literature and a specialist on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com