Opposition Leader Mark Golding has been facing increasing criticisms over remarks he made on Twitter that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had no “legal basis” to impose a $100,000 fine on Government ministers who were seen mask-less at a recent album launch for dancehall artiste, Shenseea.
“Yesterday (Thursday) the PM said he will ‘fine’ the five ministers $100k ($100,000) for their DRMA violations. His ‘fine’ has no legal basis. But for the PEOPLE, their fines and jail time were REAL. This is not something to laugh and joke about. #PutPeopleFirst Mark,” tweeted Golding on Friday.
However, the People’s National Party (PNP) president has been blasted as being hypocritical for his stance, as he was also seen mask-less in several photographs at an event last weekend that was hosted by the party for students returning from war-torn Ukraine.
The Golding critics are also arguing that South East St Ann Member of Parliament (MP), Lisa Hanna, was among attendees from the Opposition at the album launch, who were seen posing in a photograph without a mask, a matter that Golding is yet to publicly address.
But several Twitter users have come out in Golding’s defence, contending that what the prime minister did by imposing fines was not appropriate, given the fact that thousands of Jamaicans were fined hefty sums for breaching the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA).
Several COVID-19 protocols that were enacted under the DRMA were withdrawn on Thursday, which Holness announcing the withdrawal of the DRMA during his contribution to the 2022-2923 Budget Debate in Parliament on Thursday.
He used the presentation to address the outrage that had ensued relative to the several Government ministers, including Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, who were spotted at Tuesday night’s album launch for Shenseea without their masks.
In addition to Tufton, Finance Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke; Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Floyd Green; and National Security Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Horace Chang, were also seen without masks at the launch event.
As outrage spewed hours before Holness’ address in Parliament and before Golding’s comment on the purported fines being imposed, West Rural St Andrew Member of Parliament (MP), Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, tackled those criticising her Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) colleagues.
“Where was the outrage from my fellow citizens? Last week Mark hosted a mask-less get together! Where was the outrage? Unno have too much strength for labourites,” the MP, who is also State Minister in the Health and Wellness Ministry, tweeted.
It must be noted, however, that both Golding, at his event, and the Government ministers at the album launch, were seen in some of the photographs wearing their masks.
For his part, Tufton has indicated in at least two media interviews, that COVID-19 protocols were followed at the album launch, and that he and his colleagues took off their masks for the purposes of photographs.
Turning to the PNP’s function for the returning Ukraine students, some of those seen in photographs and videos were wearing their masks.
On Thursday in Parliament, Holness made no attempt to play ‘tit-for-tat’ with the mask-wearing issue embroiling his ministers.
Instead, he joked that the politicians who were seen mask-less were “star-struck and forgot their senses”.
On that premise, he asked Culture, Entertainment, Sport and Gender Minister, Olivia Grange, who had also attended the event but had worn a mask even while being photographed, to collect a fine of $100,000 from each of the ‘offending’ ministers. The overall sum of money is to be given to a charity or used to pay for the defence of anyone charged under the DRMA, stated Holness.
Fast forward to Friday when Golding made his tweet in which he claimed that the prime minister had no authority to impose the fines. He also hinted that the actions of Holness could be viewed as being biased because the “jail time” of those found guilty in the island’s courts for not wearing masks as prescribed under the DRMA was “real”.
In response, the criticisms of the Opposition leader’s tweet came fast and furious.
Kevin O’Brien Chang
Businessman and political commentator, Kevin O’Brien Chang, described Golding’s tweet as “unbelievable”.
O’Brien Chang wrote: “This may be the most unbelievable tweet I have ever seen on Jamaica twitter. It is truly beyond comprehension.”
In a follow-up tweet on his own page, O’Brien Chang said political tribalism and intellectual dishonesty, among other things, were holding back Jamaica.
He cited several examples, including the present issue at hand with persons hammering the Government ministers over there removal of masks, while the same level of criticisms or outrage were not levelled at Golding, who was seen mask-less in selected photographs and videos at the event with the students who returned from Ukraine .
O’Brien Chang elaborated in his tweet that, “Holding our country back:
“Integrity Commission says Bunting, Montague derelict in duty re criminals getting guns
“Mark Golding & ~20 students cram up in photo, no masks.
“5 JLP ministers in photo with Shensea, no masks.
“Am I the crazy one here?” asked the political commentator.
Another Twitter user asked of the PNP president: “Mr Golding, was this picture with the group that you’re in taken before COVID-19 start(ed), shouldn’t you be charged for not wearing a mask?.
@dr_greg_newman questioned: “Markie G, yuh confuse or Wah? What example you did set last week when yuh house the… student them? Yuh did wear mask? Next question; yuh never si Lisa Hanna ah Shensea party too? Yuh is a big ole hypocrite.”
Twitter user @SDanion pointed to Golding’s island-wide PNP tour last year, where at times he was seen mask-less and physical distancing was absent among PNP supporters.
“You have lost all credibility on this matter. Your island-wide tour with no mask or social distance; your Ukraine gathering; your campaign meetings here & there. We see you trying to take the mote out of thy bro eye while the beam in yours,” argued @SDanion.
Retweeting Golding’s tweet by sharing a photograph with the Opposition leader and a PNP blogger both mask-less at the event for the students who returned from Ukraine, attorney Donahue Martin wrote: “Sir, have several seats. Is this you?”
A Twitter presentation of Mark Golding minus his mask at a People’s National Party (PNP) reception for students who recently returned from war-torn Ukraine.
Also joining the criticism of Golding’s comments was Twitter user, @demorecardo.
“Hey, remember they (the Government ministers) are all vaccinated, and if you’re fully vaccinated you can share indoor space without mask and even better, outdoors. Find something else that makes sense to put your energy in,” the individual said.
@KekeAphrodite stated: “Please. What fine should you and the Ukraine students who were braffing and partying away the other night be charged? You have zero credibility. Stop making noise and go and work on banding together what is left of your party.”
There were other individuals who pushed back against the bashing of the Opposition leader, by agreeing with his stance.
“Mark is saying ordinary people fined and go to jail while Parliament people get away,” @matrix52847726 tweeted.
@Naomiyells agreed with Golding’s arguments, adding that, “Nothing funny about it. When since #Anju is prosecutor, judge and jury. Insinuating that they pay their ‘fine’ is an insult to every Jamaican; both those who followed the rules and those who suffered the consequences of not doing so.”
Blogger Emma Lewis responded to her tweet by stating, “I agree 100 (per cent)”.
For Twitter user Horace McDonald, he wanted persons to indicate where in the Jamaican law stated that “the PM is judge of any court.
“Please state where in the DRMA (one) can find that power,” he asked.
Argued @lenawhyte: “Having disbanded DMRA infringement by ppl (people) who knew this was coming & shud know better is joked abt (about).
“Ppl of less means have lost their liberty, jobs, pension, but these are of no importance to our leaders? Sad tale. We might yet rue this broad brush approach,” she declared.
Others contended that the action by the prime minister to impose the fines was an insult to the Jamaican people, while other persons questioned whether the monies will be paid by the ministers.
“Minimum wage earners were fined $200,000, but MP’s fine is $100,000. I won’t hold my breath that one of those five ministers will pay, better yet, let’s see some receipts,” tweeted @Siobhantneb.
@Keshanwa proposed that, “The Government needs to vacate all the sentences of the people who breached the DRMA and send them home. Why should the poor suffer while the 1% with power make a mockery of the system? SMH.”