Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Campbell under fire for race gaffe

Published:Thursday | January 27, 2022 | 12:11 AM
Dayton Campbell, general secretary of the PNP.
Dayton Campbell, general secretary of the PNP.

People’s National Party (PNP) General Secretary Dayton Campbell has been hauled over the coals for an offensive racial remark aimed at Robert Montague, the chairman of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Businessman and public commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang condemned the reference as inflammatory, adding that he was surprised at Campbell’s gaffe because Mark Golding, the opposition leader and PNP president, is a white man in a vastly black nation.

“Why would you even go there? Why would you bring up the race issue when nobody has touched it?” Chang told The Gleaner.

Campbell, who has been criticised for past gaffes, went off message in a press conference on Tuesday that sought to slam the Government’s management of crime as well as its failure to agitate against the hiking of bank user fees.

“So like Bobby Montague is the leader of the black section of the Labour Party,” said Campbell, apparently comparing Montague to the Chinese-descended National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who retained his portfolio despite growing unpopularity.

Attempts to contact Campbell for clarity on his comments were unsuccessful as calls to his mobile were unanswered on Tuesday.

Montague was recently shifted in a Cabinet reshuffle to work in the Office of the Prime Minister after scandals in the transport ministry he headed drew public scrutiny.

Describing the statement as “utter foolishness”, Chang said that Campbell’s penchant for making the wrong headlines has shrouded the PNP in negativity.

“It begs the question, if Golding, who is a white man, leads the PNP, who is then the leader for the ‘black section’ of the PNP?” Chang quipped.

“Let sleeping dogs lie, especially when nobody is troubling your dog.”

Race and colour have been the subject of debate in political circles for decades, providing fodder for banter and messaging in the cut and thrust of campaigns.

Golding is not the first non-black leader of a major political party, with Michael Manley, Edward Seaga, and Norman Manley all of divergent ethnicity.

Golding recently received flak for calling Montague “a likkle bwoy” – a barb that resonated as classist, or having racial overtones, because of slave-economy stereotypes that persist in postcolonial society.

G2K, the young professionals’ arm of the JLP, said the PNP “has slipped down a slippery slope of common decency”.

“While Dr Campbell’s comments are a falsehood that we will not dignify with a response, we are now forced to consider whether the broader PNP shares this view,” said Ryan Strachan, G2K president, referencing utterances stretching back more than two years ago.