Current Affairs

Current Affairs



PNP cries foul over ad

Ombudsman rules against political flags
DAVID PAULIN, Observer writer
Saturday, September 14, 2002


The People's National Party (PNP) cried foul yesterday over a newspaper advertisement seeking to gain political capital for the Opposition from a widely condemned "coffin" incident in Four Paths, Clarendon, involving some PNP supporters.

"Weeping Mothers of Jamaica", a previously unheard of group, published the ad in yesterday's Weekend Observer. The ad juxtaposes the September 4 Four Paths' incident against photos of Prime Minister P J Patterson and PNP member of parliament Portia Simpson Miller.

The televised incident involved cheering PNP supporters hefting aloft a green casket bearing the words "Pampers, Baby, Seaga". The incident struck a chord of revulsion among Jamaicans because Carla Seaga, wife of Jamaica Labour Party leader Edward Seaga, is due to have her baby later this month.

The ad asks: "Is this what we want, as our next government?"

Yesterday, PNP General-Secretary Maxine Henry-Wilson quickly protested the ad, firing off a letter to Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair: "The clear inference being made is that the coffin was displayed in the full view of these two national leaders and that they presided over this event," Henry-Wilson said. "The party has already given an unequivocal apology and has complied with your ruling on the matter."

Henry-Wilson also said that the ad "maliciously carries a box with the words 'Seaga Baby Dead' which PNP officials insisted last night did not correctly represent the wording on the makeshift coffin.

"That section of the coffin actually had painted on it 'JLP Dead'," said a PNP official. "The letters JLP were covered with the words 'Seaga Baby' for the purpose of the advertisement."

Bishop Blair issued a statement saying the ad "clearly contravenes the Political Code of Conduct". He pledged to "have the matter properly investigated".

The Observer yesterday could not reach any JLP or "Weeping Mothers of Jamaica" spokespersons.

In another case, Bishop Blair ruled that party flags may be used at rallies and on private property, but are banned from public property.

In response, officials of the PNP's Region Three said its orange flags in the Corporate Area would be coming down "as soon as possible, certainly by the middle of next week... at the latest".

In addition, Blair ruled that graffiti and masks at political rallies are prohibited, and he called for parties to exercise control of their motorcades. He did not explain why masks are considered inappropriate.

Officials of various political parties said they generally agreed with the rulings.

"We don't have any problems," said Antonnette Haughton-Cardenas, president of the United People's Party (UPP).

Michael Williams, general-secretary of the National Democratic Movement/New Jamaica Alliance, said he disagreed only with the ruling prohibiting the wearing of masks.

"I can't see the harm in that, to tell the truth. I can't imagine what he could mean," he said.

"If I want to put on a mask and walk down the road, that's my business," he added.

In addition, Williams said Bishop Blair should clarify his injunction against people hanging out of vehicles in motorcades.

"What about people riding in the back of pick-up trucks?" he said. "This ought to be clarified."