'I never meant to say that'
Mark Golding apologises for calling Labourites 'damn fool'
Opposition Leader Mark Golding speaks to reporters after Sunday's meeting of his party's National Executive Council at Calabar High School in St Andrew. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Leader of the Opposition and President of the People's National Party (PNP) Mark Golding has apologised for comments he made referring to Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters as "damn fool".

Golding had made the remark at a party meeting in Nannyville, St Andrew, following Prime Minister Andrew Holness's contribution to the 2023/2024 Budget Debate in Parliament.

He also refuted claims that the PNP had a hand in the audio issues which interrupted Holness's budget presentation for over an hour.

"The Labourite dem ah seh we ah sabotage the ting, dem suh damn fool… everything happen dem seh ah we… dem paranoid," he said.

People's National Party members K D Knight (left) and David Knigh,t caretaker of Walderston Division, Manchester North East, are in a good mood following Sunday's meeting of the party's National Executive Council in St Andrew. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke had then taken Golding to task over the comment when he closed the budget debate in the House last Tuesday.

On Sunday, during a post-National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at Calabar High School in St Andrew, Golding expressed remorse and admitted that his comment was not something he should have said and he didn't mean it as it came across.

"I shouldn't have said it that way, because I was just saying to myself, imagine when the people and the public sector workers go on strike them a say a PNP a put them up to it, like them don't respect the public sector workers and the struggle that they are in. When the audio-visual equipment in Parliament [broke] down them saying we cause it, say a we sabotage the thing. I said them a damn fool.

"I shouldn't have said that. I apologise. I never meant to say that. What I meant to say is that, that is totally ridiculous… I am sorry about the 'damn fool' comment because I don't want to cause any offence to anybody, and the truth is, when you are in politics, when you are in my position, you have to try elevate the thing and set a good example for others. So to anybody who, when I use the little 'damn fool' talk, if I hurt anybody's feelings, I am sorry, I never mean that," he said.

During his spirited presentation to the comrades in the school's auditorium, Golding also brought up Clarke's reference to him as "Massa Mark" in his closing budget presentation, connoting, according to PNP supporters, that Golding is a slave master.

Golding sought to defend his deep family roots in Jamaica, noting that he has been seeing a "bogus" family tree floating around on the Internet saying his people were slave owners. "Nutten nuh guh suh," he asserted.

"Comrades, I am a born Jamaican. I grow in Jamaica, I went to school in Jamaica, I studied my law finals in Jamaica, I only ever worked in Jamaica," he said.

Golding also gave a history of his parents' work in Jamaica, noting that they were also "servants to the people".

"My father came to Jamaica from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1953 and he never left," he said, noting that Sir John Golding established the Mona Rehab Centre, which was named after him after his death in 1996. The Sir John Golding Rehab Centre is the only facility of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean for people with disabilities.

Golding noted as well that his father was Jamaica's first orthopaedic surgeon who helped to tackle the poliomyelitis epidemic which was afflicting Jamaica in the 1950s and that his input led to the establishment of the polio centre.

He also credited Sir John for building the Hope Valley Experimental School, the establishment of the Foundation for International Self-Help (FISH) Medical, Dental, and Eye Clinic, and the pain centre. He said he was also instrumental with the establishment of the National Road Safety Council.

He noted that his father, who was awarded the Order of Jamaica and the Order of Distinction, taught him the importance of service to the country. He also pointed out that his mother, who also has a history of service to the country, was one of the first three women to become civil servants through the administrative channel. She also worked at the rehab centre as a volunteer, he said.

Delving deeper into his history, the Opposition leader chronicled his grandparents' journey to Jamaica, noting that one side of his family had to leave Lithuania due to oppression and another side from Australia, though impoverished, had managed to build a successful business.

"No slave ting never inna dat scenario, so mi nuh know weh dem a come from wid dem argument deh," he said.

Golding chastised Clarke, whom he referred to as his friend, for being "kinda naive to the politics and him get himself inna problem because probably he thought he was being clever, but him mash certain corn weh people in Jamaica nuh really like, because we believe in tolerance and inclusion. We say, 'Out of many, one people'."

"We don't need to go down certain road, and if they think they are going to get political advantage from going down certain road, they are going to find that a lot of people are going to be turned off by it," he said.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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