Newsmaker: Meadows’ ‘choppa’, Warmie’s ‘my money’ send then packing Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

This week’s overall development as Newsmaker of the Week is the overall political fallout that has resulted from the controversial comments made by firebrand governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member Everald Warmington and People’s National Party (PNP) member, Dennis Meadows, which saw them both unceremoniously separated from their main political capacities, Warmington from the Cabinet, and Meadows as the PNP’s provisional candidate for North Trelawny.

Meadows was the first to be stripped of his position on Thursday, a day after he apologised for giving support to ‘choppas’, the popular local term for lotto scammers.

Hours later, Prime Minister Andrew Holness revealed in a statement that following a meeting with Warmington, a usually feisty politician, he (Holness) received Warmington’s resignation as Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

Speaking on radio the same evening, Holness said the  particular meeting to which Warmington was summoned that resulted in the resignation being tendered, required that move by him by Westminster convention, to avoid having the matter being taken to another stage.  

Warmington, who was captured in a video saying he would withhold public funds from a PNP councillor, had apologised a day earlier for what he said was misinterpretation of his “my money” comments. 

Both videos showing the politicians uttering their respective alarming commentaries on the Local Government Election campaign or post-polling trail were widely circulated on Wednesday. 

For Meadows, his ‘choppa’ comments were made on the final leg of the recently concluded local election campaign trail, and were made in response to the supposed “deluge” of funds that claimed had being “corruptly” spent by his political opponents.

“Let me tell you straight up, and I can speak openly, I have no problem with a man if him want chop, because dem chop us during slavery, so nutten nuh wrong if we chop dem back!” declared Meadows to cheers from PNP supporters at a recent political party meeting. 

The former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) senator who switched to the PNP, then encouraged people who are “chopping” that “when yuh bingo and yuh score, use the money wisely; set up yuhself, open a business, mek sure mommy look good, mek sure yuh babymother look good, but don’t tek the money and use Hennessy wash car.” 

Later on Wednesday, Meadows said he was “unequivocally” withdrawing the comments, arguing that he does not support such activities. 

“I pledge to exercise greater responsibility moving forward,” said Meadows in response to the mounting outrage.

The PNP also distanced itself from the remarks from its then political representative, and Generation 2000 (G2K), the JLP’s young professional arm, called on Golding to remove Meadows as the PNP’s candidate in North Trelawny, while urging the police to investigate the purported endorsement of scamming, which is illegal. 

At the same time of those developments, a video began circulating with Warmington reportedly threatening to withhold state funds from PNP councillors in his capacities as Member of Parliament (MP) for South West St Catherine and also the de facto works minister.

The statements were reportedly made after Lloyd Grant, the JLP incumbent for the Old Harbour South Division, was unseated by the PNP’s Dr Kurt Waul in the Local Government Election.

While addressing JLP supporters, Warmington said: “A me in charge yah suh. I am the minister of works and the Member of Parliament. Nuh PNP councillor gwine spend my money.” 

The controversial politician also vowed to support Grant with funds to do work in the division.

The comments from Warmington were not surprising to some Jamaicans.

The lawmaker, throughout his extensive career in politics, has regularly and crudely lambasted opponents and even some of his colleagues, along with members of the media and the police force.

But what was surprising was Warmington’s apology for the utterances he made, and an explanation of sorts for the suggested misinterpretation of the remarks. 

“It was never my intention to imply that a duly elected Councillor should be denied rightful funding for (a) municipal division,” said Warmington in his apology that was issued by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

“Regarding the use of the term ‘my money’, I want to make it clear that I do not consider state funds allocated to constituencies as personal assets. These funds, allocated by the Central Government and directed in part by MPs, belong to the Jamaican taxpayers.

“My reference to ‘my money’ was intended to describe these allocations that I, in my role as MP, help (to) oversee. It should also be noted that as MP, I do spend my personal resources on constituency matters,” Warmington stated. But despite the apologies from both Meadows and Warmington, the public cries for their respective party leaders to take action against them grew louder.

Joining those calls were civil society groups such as National Integrity Action (NIA) and Jamaicans For Justice, as well as private sector groups like the influential Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC).

For its part, the PSOJ said it has “repeatedly called for an improvement in the conduct of our country’s leaders, and for the leadership of the respective political parties to hold their members accountable. 

“Yet despite these calls, the unacceptable pattern persists, eroding the public’s trust and respect in our political institutions and leaders,” said the group as it condemned both Meadows and Warmington for their respective statements.

At the same time, the PNP demanded that Holness “immediately oust offensive MP Everald Warmington from the Cabinet,” arguing that his “recent threat to withhold state funds from PNP councillors is a new low in his history of gutter politics and tribalism.” 

On Thursday, hours after Golding announced Meadows’ removal as a PNP caretaker-candidate, Holness said he met with Warmington.

“At the end of the meeting, I received his resignation from the Cabinet,” Holness said in a statement.

The statement concluded that, “I thanked him for his service in that capacity, and Minister Warmington expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve.” 

The removal of both politicians from their respective major roles in national politics was welcomed by political commentators and civil society groups. 

In fact, political commentator Lloyd B Smith said a new precedent has been set after both political parties acted against their respective offensive member. 

“Because Mr Golding has already thrown down the gauntlet, the prime minister has now followed suit,” Smith, a former PNP parliamentarian, opined in a radio interview last week.

“So clearly, it will not be a case where these intemperate remarks, or you know sometimes even bordering on criminality,… can continue, and the people of Jamaica should be happy for this,” Smith suggested.

“This shows a growing maturity in our democratic process, which must be encouraged, and we look forward to it being consistent and not just a one-off thing just because we are in an election mode,” he added.

On social media, Jamaicans also weighed into the developments last week concerning the two local politicians.

There were mixed perspectives in relation to the resignation of Warmington. 

“Good, happy radiance (riddance) for a Member of Parliament whose mouth is always foul and Andrew (Holness) always have to be behind him making apologies. Enough is enough! You are an adult,” a woman commented on Facebook. 

“Good riddance. He (Warmington) has no respect for himself, his family, his office, nor the country in general.  Leaders must have self-control and tact. I don’t know how his colleagues felt good being associated with him. He’s been a disgrace to this country for far too long,” another woman opined. 

However, a man claimed that, “Although mi nuh like Warmington, he did not speak any lies, because a so we operate politics out here. Any party weh form Govament (Government) always look out for them side and a so me feel it should go.” 

Surprisingly, a woman agreed with the expressed position. 

“The people a Old Harbour love Warmington! A the media always a trouble him mek him go off. Nuh matter what unuh do, Warmington will be here and unuh can’t get rid a me MP,” she said. 

In relation to Meadows, some Facebook users were appalled by his remarks, and expressed their satisfaction with Golding stripping him of representing the party in the next general election.

“You did the right thing Comrade Leader Mark Golding. Win, lose or draw North Trelawny seat, we have to stand on principles and integrity,” a woman wrote.

Said another: “Those comments by Dennis (Meadows) are downright offensive to law-abiding Americans who are targeted. Shame on him!” 

A man said that, “The PNP does not entertain chopping, Mr Meadows. Please find another party that entertains that, sir.”