“He that complies against his will; is of his own opinion still.”
Samuel Butler (1612-1680)
Topical issues in Jamaica over the last week or so include a ruling by the Political Ombudsman, Bishop Herro Blair, for the People’s National Party (PNP) candidate, Abe Dabdoub, to apologize to the Prime Minister Designate, Hon. Andrew Holness, for allegedly referring to him (Holness) as a “Loader Man”; and a call from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for former West Indies Captain, Chris Gayle, to apologize for public comments he uttered earlier this year, which were deemed to be ‘unflattering’ to the Board.
In the interest of clarity and for those who are unfamiliar with the story; Daboud’s comments were made on a PNP platform, as the obvious campaign for General Elections (constitutionally due by September 2012) heats up. The comments also came against the background of the recent announcement by the Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding, that he would not be offering himself for re-election as the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader at the party’s upcoming annual conference in November and that he would resign as prime minister as soon as his successor was elected at the conference. Subsequently, Holness received the full backing of the majority of the JLP’s parliamentary representatives and, with no other nominations for party leader, was a ‘shoe-in’ to become the next JLP leader and prime minister of Jamaica.
On the other hand, the calls for Gayle to apologize to the WICB are allegedly to pave the way for his selection back into the team.
Samuel Butler is accredited with uttering the phrase “He that complies against his will; is of his own opinion still”; and although he died more than 300 years ago, I believe his comment is still relevant.
The Cricket Fiasco
Let us look at the Gayle situation first. On the one hand, there is the argument that anyone who is prepared to ‘disrespect’ his boss publicly, must also be prepared to face the consequence of losing his job. Fairly simple. On the other hand, there is the argument for freedom of speech and public perception (albeit without empirical evidence) that the WICB has lost its connection with the fans and that its decisions – without recourse – are not in the interest of the players and the good of the game.
Let me hasten to state that I am not an avid fan of cricket; although I do enjoy watching a good limited overs match [one day] and, of course, the exciting 20/20 version of the game. I also am not entirely familiar with the politics of West Indies cricket – for instance – I am not aware of exactly who appoints the members of the WICB; and find it odd that though so many persons seem to be disgruntled by their actions – no one seems to be able to remove them.
That having been said, my concern is with the principle of the request for the apology. Gayle seems to have uttered the sentiments of many – including past and present players, as well as the general public. Did he lie – as in were any of his comments erroneous or libelous? Did he, and does he still, believe that what he said was true? Is he sorry for making the comments?
No one has challenged Gayle’s comments and I have not heard of any lawsuits – filed or pending. He has also repeatedly refused to apologize, which suggests his conviction in his comments. So, it would appear that the answer to all my questions is a resounding “NO”! What then would be the basis of an apology?
Clive Lloyd, himself a former West Indies captain, is reported just this week to have said that Gayle should do the ‘right’ thing and apologize so that he can be reinstated in the team. Alternately, former fast bowler, the legendary Mikey Holding, is also reported to have said that “the WICB should state exactly what it is that they want Gayle to apologize for”.
The WICB has since issued a statement saying categorically that they have reviewed the correspondence between the Board and Gayle and that he must apologize before being considered for reinstatement.
My question is simple: if Gayle apologizes simply to “get back di work”, although he still believes in what he said – what would be the value of that apology? “Something stinks in [the West Indies] and it isn’t fish.”
The Political Saga
Secondly, the political ombudsman told Dabdoub to apologize to Holness for calling him a ‘loader man’. Bishop Blair’s position was that the statement was ‘uncomplimentary’ to Holness and represented a violation of the political code of conduct agreed to by both the JLP and PNP. Dabdoub refused on the bases that a loader man is an honest form of employment; the analogy was in line with prime minister Golding’s reference (to himself) that he was “the driver” and that his intent was not to be disrespectful to Holness. To break the impasse; Blair wrote to the Most. Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, former prime minister and president of the PNP, requesting her intervention to have Dabdoub comply with his ruling. The PNP’s subsequent response backed Dabdoub citing the same grounds for refusal. Bishop Blair (seemingly) accepted the party’s position and declared subsequently that the matter was settled.
Why bother to write about it?
For those who are less familiar with the Jamaican transportation environment, although there is public transportation provided by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), especially in the metropolitan areas; there is still the need for and the use of ‘route’ transportation. These include, taxis (regular motorcars), 15 seater minivans, and coasters (usually seating about 30). The minivans and coasters usually have conductors, but what is common to all three modes (obviously aside from the drivers) are the loader men.
Blair’s contention is that (sometimes) the loader men are allegedly involved in harassing passengers; as well as some levels of extortion [where the drivers/owners of the vehicles are expected to “pay” unofficial dues for plying the routes — in such instances they would apparently act as collection agents]. Against this background, he deemed the comment to be defamatory.
But, here’s my twist: irrespective of Dabdoub’s intent (directly or otherwise), he may well have been paying Holness a significant compliment. Many passengers, women especially, will tell you that they do not travel in any vehicle that the loader men advise them not to take. The loader men are the ones who provide the drivers with time to rest during trips, while the vehicle is being loaded. Even the conductors get time to go and buy their lunches and other refreshments. The loader men know where most of the people are heading (as in the communities). The women trust that they will place them in vehicles that will take them safely home and in which the drivers can also be trusted. Yes, truth be told, the loader men are an essential ingredient in the transportation diet.
However, be that as it may, there is a hierarchy: the driver, then the conductor and then the loader man. If prime minister Golding was the (self-declared) ‘driver’, then – for all intents and purposes – the Hon. Audley Shaw, Minister of Finance, as the senior minister, by virtue of his ministerial portfolio, would be the ‘conductor’. The alleged statement was something to the effect of: ‘the driver leave the work and the conductor does not want the job; so they gave it to the loader man’ (obviously not in that vernacular).
Frankly, I hold no brief for Dabdoub, but – in the context in which it was delivered – I see nothing wrong with the statement.
My simple question (again) is: if Dabdoub believed his comments to be appropriate and with no intention of ill-will; what would be the value of that apology?
Bishop Blair did well to drop the matter, because he was beginning to draw the ire of the people — well, some people, at least… “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Walk good, ’til next time…