Thursday 23 May, 2019

Tomlinson bows to pressure; apologises for comparing Holness to Hitler

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO) President, Krystal Tomlinson.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO) President, Krystal Tomlinson.

President of the People’s National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO), Krystal Tomlinson has bowed to public pressure and apologised unreservedly for having likened Prime Minister Andrew Holness to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler in a series of Twitter posts on Wednesday.

In her opening tweet, Tomlinson said: “Holness’ track record suggests that he is a prime minister who has scant regard for the court, the constitution and the separation of powers doctrine. Reminds me of Adolph Hitler and his approach to designing a ‘New’ Germany. Just be a big man and admit you were wrong, Mr Holness.”

The tweet suggested that Tomlinson was referring, in particular, to the Constitutional Court’s striking down in April of the controversial National Identification and Registration (NIDS) law, after deeming it to be in breach of the constitutional rights of Jamaicans.

Twitter user - ‘IslandNeophyte’ - responded by warning Tomlinson that she should “delete that tweet before you are called to make a public apology to the prime minister and your country.”

Another user pointed to the fact that Tomlinson had spelled Hitler’s first name incorrectly (‘Adolph’ instead of ‘Adolf’) as a reasonable basis to conclude that she really did not know of the man’s history and what she was actually delving into in making the comparison.

While she did not directly apologise to Holness, Tomlinson expressed regret for having made the comparison.

She began her rambling apology with: “On Wednesday, May 15, I made a tweet which drew a comparison between the constitutional violations of the Andrew Holness-led team of public servants and those of Adolf Hitler.”

Tomlinson said she has "recognised that this comparison has caused great discomfiture to persons across the spectrum – from those with political interests to those who are casual observers of the governance process in this country."

She added that: “In my experience as a student of political science and communications, I accept that comparative analyses lose their effect when the audience is too disturbed by the reference to consider the possible merits of an argument.

“I would like to put on record my unequivocal apology for any offence that may have been taken to the tweet, and for conjuring up any painful images of the result of the Hitler regime, which concluded with devastating genocide, second only to what my family endured during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was not my intent.”

The PNPYO president has, however, pledged to continue to express her perceptions of Holness’ patterns of leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Government without any further reference to the Nazi leader.

Hitler, the German Chancellor, later Fuhrer, led Germany into the most deadly conflict in human history, World War Two. According to historians, an estimated 48 million people lost their lives in the war which ran from 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, until 1945 when the allied forces entered the German capital, Berlin.

Hitler committed suicide as invading troops closed in on his underground bunker.

Of those killed during the conflict, an estimated 19 million were Jews and other civilians who perished in gas chambers and concentration camps under Hitler’s regime.

For most people globally, it is an affront to be compare with Hitler, who is regarded historically as the world’s worst dictator and tyrant.

But before caving in and apologising for her huge misstep, Tomlinson had sought to justify her tweets on Wednesday, going toe-to-toe with persons who disagreed with her comparison. She argued that Hitler started by taking away people’s constitutional rights, stepped it up by deploying the military, then taking control of the public sector.

Holness has noticeably lost two major battles in Jamaica’s Constitutional Court. In 2013, when he was Opposition Leader, the court ruled that undated letters that he had used to remove Opposition Senators Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton from the Senate, were unconstitutional. Both men were reinstated. They had both supported Audley Shaw in his failed bid to oust Holness as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader.

Then, in April this year, the court struck down the NIDS.

Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers deployed on crime-fighting duties at a police facility in Westmoreland on day one of the ongoing state of emergency in three western Jamaica parishes - Westmoreland, Hanover and St James.

On the seeming notion of the prime minister ‘deploying the military’, three states of emergency (SOE) were imposed in 2018 to rein in rampant crime, in particular murders, with one in St James lasting a year. The parliamentary Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) pulled its support from the emergency measures in December, resulting in them being discontinued.

However, on April 30, a SOE was imposed in three western parishes – Westmoreland, St James and Hanover - and received Opposition support in both houses of Parliament to remain in force for three months until July 29, after the initial two-week declaration period.

Quite noticeable also, during the many hours on Wednesday when Tomlinson was on her trip from Kingston to Berlin and back, it was clearly a solo flight, as no other member of the PNP at any leadership level came out in support of her stance.

On the intrigue of the day, for example, when one Twitter user sarcastically asked “Where (are) the gas chambers,” Tomlinson responded that: “It started when Hitler convinced the government to trade constitutional rights for safety and economic prosperity.”

She added that “You know what, I’m going to have a forum on this,” adding that “people really need to know how Hitler built a fascist country, so they can identify patterns in a democracy.”

She was told by Twitter user, ‘Some Guy in Jamaica’, that it was irresponsible for her to use her platform to compare genocide of ethnic minorities and the invasion of sovereign states to a failed NIDS bill that her party (the PNP) had first pushed.

She was told by the same user that: “I don’t care about politics, but this kind of stuff from you lot (the @JamaicaPNP) is making me want anyone but the PNP in power.”

Tomlinson fired back, telling ‘Some Guy in Jamaica’ that “you’re entitled to your position and I’m entitled to mine”.

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