|PNP apologises to Seaga
Coffin incident insensitive and indecent, says Henry-Wilson
|DAVID PAULIN, Observer writer
Saturday, September 07, 2002
THE People's National Party (PNP) yesterday apologised to Carla Seaga, wife of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader Edward Seaga for what it described as an "insensitive reference" to the Seagas and their unborn child by PNP supporters at a public meeting in Four Paths, Clarendon Wednesday night.
The incident, which struck a chord of revulsion among many Jamaicans after it was televised Thursday night, featured ecstatic PNP supporters hefting a makeshift green coffin on their shoulders. It featured a drawing of a baby and the words: "Pampers, Seaga baby, dead."
In a letter to Mrs Seaga, who is due to have her baby this month, Maxine Henry-Wilson, the PNP's general-secretary, said the incident was "totally out of keeping with accepted standards of decency, and we have expressed this to our candidates and supporters".
"It is with a sense of deep regret that I write on behalf of the People's National Party to offer our unreserved apology for any distress that you have experienced...," Henry-Wilson said.
"The People's National Party unreservedly and unequivocally apologises for an insensitive reference made to your family and unborn child by some persons who attended our meeting."
According to Henry-Wilson, the "offensive display" was done without the knowledge or approval of the party's leadership.
She also expressed best wishes to Mrs Seaga for "a safe delivery and the joy of motherhood".
Yesterday, Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair condemned the action as "gutter politics" and called on the PNP leadership to condemn it.
In a letter to Henry-Wilson, Blair requested that the PNP apologise directly to Carla Seaga and her family, "considering her present state of advanced pregnancy at this time and the undue stress this must have caused her".
Blair also said that the incident was a clear violation of the code of political conduct signed by the leaders of both major parties and called on "all parties concerned to get back on track" and make the election campaign peaceful.
Blair's letter to Henry-Wilson, though, was apparently preceded by another apology issued by the PNP over the signature of Huntley Medley, the party's communications consultant.
In that apology, the PNP pledged to exercise "greater control of supporter exuberance at the grassroots level".
Delroy Chuck, the JLP's liaison with the ombudsman, met yesterday with Bishop Blair and said he was satisfied with the "understanding (that) was reached. Everybody will be issuing statements."
Chuck told the Observer that the PNP's apology should have included a sanction against local officials involved in the incident, and that the PNP should publish its apology in local newspapers.
Bishop Blair's letter made no such demands, however.
Nevertheless, Chuck said that JLP candidates now would sign the political code of conduct. Some had withheld their signatures following the coffin incident, he said.
"We hope that both sides can pull back and commit themselves to the spirit and intent of the code" of political conduct, Chuck said.
Labour Party affiliates, the National Organisation of Women and the Women's Freedom Movement also denounced the coffin display and demanded an apology.
"Mrs Seaga is due to have her baby this month. Like any other expectant mother, she needs to have the love, support and good vibes that Jamaican people are known to give so freely," said a statement issued on behalf of both organisations by Prudence Kidd-Deans and Marjorie Vassell.