May 5, 2023
There is an exceedingly worrying reality in the Jamaican government which strikes at the heart of whether the Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, is the subject of (what the Russians call) kompromat. Kompromat is “compromising information collected and retained for use in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes”. (Oxford Dictionary).
The reason it is necessary to ask the question, “Is Prime Minister Holness compromised / Is he a subject of kompromat?” is based on his inability and / or refusal to act against Everald Warmington, a Minister without portfolio, in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, which is headed by the Prime Minister. (The Prime Minister is the portfolio minister for this Ministry, though the capacity of the Prime Minister to act would be the same regardless of who heads the Ministry).
Everald Warmington has routinely and frequently behaved disrespectfully, abusively, coarsely, and aggressively towards his parliamentary colleagues, other politicians, the police, members of the media, and citizens and has done so with utmost impunity. The most recent occurrence was on May 3, 2023. The available facts show that he was visiting the constituency of East Portland in his capacity as a Minister of Government, in response to persistent problems being faced by the constituency in relation to road conditions. There have been several protests by citizens about the road conditions and water.
A member of the Opposition People’s National Party assayed to join (what was a government tour). Warmington would have none of it and in a barrage of invectives told the gentleman that he was not welcomeadding that only “flies” and “chinks” go where they are not welcome. The display was jaw-dropping but thoroughly consistent with Warmington’s mode of behaviour.
To appreciate the gravity of the current situation, we need to consider not just the long history of Warmington’s misconduct but also the proclaimed standards of his boss, the Prime Minister and how the Prime Minister has behaved in response to these matters in the past and how he has, so far, behaved in this situation.
In his 2016 swearing-in speech, the Prime Minister made lofty commitments against the backdrop of the narrowest winning margin in electoral history in Jamaica. Prime Minister Holness stated:
“I stand here humbled by the awesome power of you, the people, and I commit to doing right by you. The people are sovereign, and their views and votes must never be taken for granted. The people of Jamaica did not vote in vain. They expect a government that works for them and by the same expectation, an Opposition that is constructive. This historic election delivered the smallest majority but also the clearest mandate: Fix Government!
With this mandate:
- There is no majority for arrogance
- There is no space for selfishness
- There is no place for pettiness
- There is no room for complacency and
- There is no margin for error”.
In his swearing-in speech, following his party’s landslide victory in the September 3, 2020, General Elections, Prime Minister Holness said:
“With such a large and convincing mandate, the greatest challenge will be to manage internal demands and behaviour of those who form the majority. There will be those who feel that the majority is basis for arrogance, gives license to do as they wish, creates opportunity to pursue their selfish ends and their personal ambition, gives room for complacency, and tolerance for errors. Those who hold such views would be sadly mistaken and soon separated”. (My emphasis).
So, in both a narrow contest and a landslide, Prime Minister Holness appears to understand, and proclaims certain standards of governance and leadership, a set of core beliefs with which no reasonable citizen would disagree.
Warmington’s pledge not to embarrass Holness
The biggest irony in the history of Warmington’s repeated despicable conduct, which is totally unbecoming of anyone in the public service but would be equally reprehensible if he behaved in that manner in his private business, is that Warmington has said he would always speak his mind but try not to embarrass the Prime Minister. There are countless instances in which Warmington has been belligerent, nasty, disrespectful, uncontrolled, and simply shameful in his conduct. Clearly Warmington is not of the view that his conduct in all these situations has embarrassed the Prime Minister. The big question is, does the PM take the same view?
Does Warmington have kompromat on Holness?
Given Holness’s standards, as proclaimed repeatedly, and the self-evident, repeated misconduct of Warmington, the fact that, to date, he has not been “separated” raises the question “Why not?” Is it that there exists kompromat? The Prime Minister has a duty to state why, despite the many violations of his proclaimed standards by Warmington he has not chosen to separate him. The reasons may have nothing to do with kompromat, but there must be a reason for the Prime Minister’s inaction and the public has a right to know where he stands in relation to Warmington’s repeated misconduct.
The question which must be asked is: Does Holness repudiate the actions of Warmington or does he embrace them? He cannot remain neutral and in the absence of repudiation, the Prime Minister is owning and embracing the conduct and, in the process, does irreparable harm to the Office of Prime Minister and the people of Jamaica. The silence of the Prime Minister means that he is okay with it or is unable to do anything about it. Sad!
Professor Canute Thompson is Professor of Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership at the School of Education, The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, and Head of the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning. He is author of two award-winning books and articles, among his collection of eight books and over a dozen journal articles, and the operator of leadershipreimagination.com website.