While Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's utterances equating Opposition Leader Andrew Holness to an "enemy of the state" has drawn the anger of his party, Holness has refused to respond to what he says are "ridiculous comments".
"My being out there building the political capital of the Jamaica Labour Party in no way takes away from the Government doing its job. We have been very responsible in doing so. We have not gone on a political platform to say we are going to be their worst nightmare. In fact, it is the present Government [when it was] the Opposition, who said that," Holness told the Jamaica Observer Press Club on Thursday.
The opposition leader was responding to criticisms about his leadership style versus that of the prime minister and her apparent displeasure about his utterances during a Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica meeting last Tuesday. At that meeting, Holness upbraided the Government for being slow on the uptake on a number of issues.
Simpson Miller, in response, told a gathering in St Ann that Holness's comments could jeopardise investments in the country and said he should say whether he is a friend of Jamaica or an enemy of the state.
But on Thursday, when Holness was asked to comment on the prime minister's statement, he said: "Listen, everybody has their style; the prime minister is entitled to her style. I was wondering why she would call me an enemy of the state. I can't respond to ridiculous comments."
On the contrary, he said the Opposition has been decidedly measured in its response to different issues.
"I have a duty to the people of this country to make sure that there is, at all times, a viable alternative to what is happening and I do that in such a way as not to affect the possible positive outcomes of current Government actions. I have been taking that stance to my own political detriment," Holness said.
"Because we have decided to go this route of being progressive and not trying to destabilise the Government, they say we don't feel the Opposition... but I can't be reckless and make statements that could destabilise the markets for political gain. Should the country return to the Jamaica Labour Party we want it in a better state than we left it. We want to see this Government do well," he added further.
Holness also said that the Government has no "credibility or moral standard to criticise" how he has led the Opposition.
But the JLP's General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, in a statement issued Friday, said the party was affronted by the term applied to their leader by Simpson Miller.
"The term 'enemy of the state' is a specific designation that refers to someone who has committed a crime against the nation. When a prime minister uses the term 'enemy of the state' it is potentially inciteful in our political context," Dr Chang said.
"The Jamaican people cannot continue to ignore and excuse the reckless statements made by the prime minister. We can only assume that the prime minister understands the severity of what she is saying and was therefore deliberate in her choice of words," Chang added.
"For some time now, it has been a strategy of PNP administrations to attack and label opposition leaders. This time Mrs Simpson Miller has gone too far. Not only is the statement inflammatory and inciteful, but it is a departure from the civil and democratic practices of our society," Dr Chang continued.
"A new trend is emerging where anyone who speaks up about social ills or the performance of the Government, whether they be priest or politicians, are targeted for threats and uncomplimentary labelling. The prime minister's statement is, in itself, a threat to the political stability of the nation and brings the office into disrepute," he added in calling for the statement to be retracted while voicing concern for the safety of Holness and his family.
In the meantime, Opposition spokesman on justice and national security, Delroy Chuck, has written to Police Commissioner Owen Ellington about the matter.
"After careful review of the presentation of the prime minister on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 in St Ann at a public town hall meeting, in which the leader of the opposition was referenced as an "enemy of the state" and after careful consideration of the phrase, the Parliamentary Opposition is of the view that such a statement is inciteful and places the leader of the opposition in harm's way," Chuck said.
"We ask that you take careful note of the statement and our concerns for the safety and security of the leader of the opposition and his family," he noted further.
-- Alicia Dunkley