KINGSTON — Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has described as “disrespectful and misguided” controversial comments made by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe about Jamaican men.
Report by The Gleaner
But opposition leader Andrew Holness says Jamaica’s head of government has not gone far enough. In fact, Holness wants the government of Jamaica to demand an apology from the Zimbabwean leader.
A week after Mugabe’s comments triggered intense public debate, Simpson Miller hit back saying his remarks were untrue.
Mugabe had last week Wednesday labelled Jamaican men as underachievers who get high on ganja, drunk on alcohol, refuse to go to college and spend time twisting their hair.
Simpson Miller said Mugabe’s statement was disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of Jamaican men who were excellent fathers, professionals and outstanding citizens. In a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister, Simpson Miller said Mugabe’s remarks, “regardless of whether they were spoken ‘in jest’ were grossly unfortunate, misguided and untrue”.
A newspaper article indicated that the president of Zimbabwe was thought to have been speaking in jest. It took eight days, since the president’s controversial remarks, for Jamaica House to confirm through “exhaustive checks” by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade that Mugabe made the uncomplimentary comments about Jamaican men at the launch of a 2012 Research and Intellectual Institute Expo in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.
Said Simpson Miller: “We are confident that the remarks of President Mugabe do not represent the sentiments of the people of Zimbabwe, other African countries and the rest of the world.”
She added: “Our confidence is predicated on the fact that there are many outstanding and globally accepted examples of the character and contribution of Jamaican men who have set the benchmark as exceptional achievers.”
However, Holness suggested that the prime minister’s statement on the issue was inadequate.
“We should send an official letter of protest and ask for an apology in expressing our disgust and dissatisfaction at the statement,” the opposition leader insisted.
He argued that Mugabe’s utterances could have international implications, noting that people who read his comments in the Zimbabwean Press could form a particular view about Jamaicans.
“We have Brand Jamaica to protect and that statement is certainly not helping Brand Jamaica,” Holness stressed.
He said at the time Mugabe’s comments were made, there was no clarification to suggest they were made in jest.
“If it were said in jest and there is an acknowledgement that the comments created, ‘to use a euphemism, discomfort’ for Jamaicans or were untrue, then it should not be a difficult for Mr Mugabe to apologise. Indeed, the apology should be automatic.”
Holness said the prime minister should also consider reviewing the membership in the Order of Jamaica given to Mugabe.