TWO pastors have jumped to the defence of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, saying there should be space for a national leader to be emotional or even cry publicly.
This comes after three ex-policemen criticised Holness's display of emotion on Wednesday, January 5 at the National Day of Prayer, at The Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, St Catherine, held under the theme: 'Family: The Bedrock of Society'.
Retired cops Reneto Adams and Clive “Karate Georgie” Lawrence had told the Sunday Observer that the PM may have inspired criminals with his tearfulness, and Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, former commissioner of police and former chief of staff of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), said he was disinterested in Holness's display of emotion.
However, during a Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange last week, Rev Major Canute Chambers, chairman of the Jamaica Pentecostal Union Apostolic (JPUA), who was present at The Power of Faith Ministries, told the Sunday Observer that Holness's expression was timely, and reflected the current reality of the country.
“I was in the meeting itself, and I think it was a genuine show of emotion to say 'Look, we have been doing, we have been doing, but we need support. We can't do it alone.' So it's not that he was, perhaps by his emotion, expressing that we are hopeless or undermining the integrity or work of the force. Based on my perspective and what I saw, he was saying that we have done everything, but now we need the help of Jamaica,” said Chambers.
He said that Jamaica's main takeaway should be that all citizens should come together and do their part to act against criminals.
“We need to talk what we see; we need to speak up; we need to support the crime-fighting strategies, support the military, support the police. That was my take on it — not that we are hopeless. We are never hopeless. Once we are alive, we have hope. With the living there is hope, and a living dog is better than a dead lion.”
Chambers further rubbished arguments that seeing the most senior politician crying makes him come across to the nation as weak.
“That is ridiculous. That is perhaps an archaic type of thinking. The culture is that men should be tough and not cry, and all the rest of it. And we see that, that perhaps —in itself — has damaged many men. If you check society now, our men are not emotionally sound in the sense that they can express their emotions,” he said.
“If we have an argument the first thing we want to do is to kill one another, or to fight, and the rest of it. So I think that is a culture that we need to change. Persons can and should freely express their emotions. If you need to cry, then cry. If you need to laugh, then laugh. We are humans.”
Chambers added: “In gentler societies, perhaps because of how their culture is, people can laugh at some things that we would take offence to as Jamaicans. I don't find that emotions demean us or make us less of a person. In fact, it enhances our whole personality as real persons, so no challenges there.”
Rev Sam McCook, senior pastor of Hope Fellowship Church, told the Sunday Observer that something would be wrong with the prime minister if he wasn't moved by the country's crime situation.
“It must be a great burden to him that citizens are losing their lives in the way that they are losing their lives. And so, if he did not feel it emotionally we would have to question what kind of leader he is. Whether or not a display of it is appropriate is not for me to judge, but I don't think that it should be dismissed,” said McCook.
“You are going to see it based on your position. The British stiff-upper-lip kind of approach is what persons expect. I don't have a problem with it [crying] once it is an authentic expression of his position. In terms of its impact on criminals and on the crime-fighting situation, I think nobody can properly assess that.”
Adams and Lawrence both argued that Holness gave criminals a collective pat on their backs, and sent the message “You have defeated us.”
“I can't challenge their perspectives because they are law enforcement people with some experience, so I couldn't challenge that. But I do believe there is a place for a national leader to show emotional connection with the crises faced in the country, and we are in a crisis. Our backs are actually against the wall and we need solutions, so it is not an easy thing and [it is not easy] as the leader of the country,” McCook added.
He, however, said emotions should be backed up with clear action.
“I think the main argument that people would have to make is, while we appreciate the empathy and the expression, what the country is looking for is the actions that will lead to a reduction in violent crimes, and they do not need to be exclusive of each other. You can have somebody who feels, somebody who is moved emotionally, and [still] somebody who is firm in their actions. We are asking for somebody who feels and acts,” McCook told the Sunday Observer.