The walk-out by the JLP Parliamentarians led by the Prime Minister last week, as the PNP’s Leader of the Opposition was making his contribution to the Budget Debate, was fraught with ironies. What transpired is more suited to an alternate universe and not to this one. It would have been more understandable had it been the other way around – with the Opposition Leader walking out with his members and not those in the majority who currently hold the reigns of power. For the Prime Minister, a husband, to have taken issue with comments made by Mr. Golding about his wife, who is the current Speaker of the House, would have been understandable, if only in his role as a spouse, but not in his role as Prime Minister of Jamaica land we love.

The Prime Minister’s reaction goes to the very heart of the matter about how improper it appears for a married couple to hold such influential positions when the position of Speaker is one that should exemplify an aura of objectivity in the handling of affairs while the House is in session. The walk-out led by the Prime Minister reminds me of when the American Actor, Mr. Will Smith, on the most consequential night of his carrier, walked upon stage and slapped the master of ceremonies, Mr. Chris Rock, for comments made by the latter about the former’s wife who was sitting in the audience on that fateful night of the Hollywood Academy Awards in March, 2022.

Mr. Golding, whether one agrees with his political position or not, was well within his right to level criticism at the government as that is his job – first as a parliamentarian who had the floor, and then as Leader of the Opposition, to question the appointment of the Prime Minister’s wife to her role as Speaker of the House, especially since her appointment was based on public policy and not on a private marital basis, or was it? I do not mean to be sarcastic or to be factious, as I know neither the Prime Minister nor his wife to make a fair and valid assessment of their characters. But in the realm of politics, where nepotism, real or imagined, is anathema, not just in Jamaica but around the world, one would have thought that people in public life would, at the very least, have been mindful of appearances.

Personally, when I was courting my wife I always made it a point to head on home during the dawn of night so as not to, as a religious man, give the impression that I slept over. And, what if I did and “nutt’n neva gwaan”, how was I going to convince John Public otherwise? And, what was most important to me at the time was my fiancée’s good name. Why? Because I learned that the alleged stain on one’s chastity tends to stick harder to women than it does to men. In fact, us men, to the contrary, are praised for sowing our “wild oats”. Of such is our male dominated society. But, I digress.

The walk-out led by the Prime Minister, effectively, stifled freedom of speech which is a right cherished by all freedom loving peoples in democracies around the world, when there was no longer a quorum which was needed for the continuation of the house proceedings. Did Mr. Golding question Madame Speaker’s chastity? No. Did he “tell her about her mada”? No. Did he accuse her of malfeasance? No, by no means, no. Mi thinks that the Prime Minister was made of sterner stuff, given that the game of representational and adversarial politics requires people with thick skins in order to enter the field of play.

The Prime Minister’s behaviour begs the question that if he and those he led during last week’s walk-out, at Gordon House, could have allowed such a matter to “rile him up” and to get him so “hot under the collar”, then, what, pray tell, would his response have been in respect to an issue which carried more gravitas? Political victimization? Violence? The Leader of the Opposition raised concerns about Madame Speaker’s ability to carry out her role objectively and even handedly, and nothing more, from all reports received on this unfortunate matter.

Let us say that a parliamentarian from across the aisle had made similar comments about her husband, the Prime Minister, in his official capacity, would she have, in her official capacity, been able to mentally and emotionally distance herself from what was transpiring before her, and then maintain order and allow free speech to reign, so long as it comported with reason, and so long as it did not run afoul of the law with libelous overtones? I believe that by leading the walk-out that the Prime Minister might have made a case for his wife’s integrity, but, conversely, he certainly supplied the Opposition Leader with the ammunition he needed with respect to the argument that he was trying to make.

Someone once wrote, to paraphrase him, that although it was legal for him to do certain things that it was not always expedient for him to do them. Not knowing “the ins” and “the outs” of the house rules which govern our Jamaican parliament, the fact that the Prime Minister’s wife was allowed to assume the position, without any lawsuits being filed, or without the matter having created a firestorm of gossip in society suggests that it was allowable. That being said, did anyone give any thought as to how such an appointment might have seemed to the public? Did it matter? Apparently not. Was Mr. Golding speaking for himself, or were his remarks a distillation of what was being discussed in the wider community – especially among those who he happens to represent? This affair was most unfortunate.

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