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St Elizabeth SW constituents respond to MP Green's fall from grace

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-Large
South Central Bureau

Sunday, September 19, 2021

SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Opinions varied, with ambivalence, regret, sympathy, and outrage being dominant themes, as constituents of former Cabinet Minister Floyd Green responded in recent days to his fall from grace.

Green, 39, resigned as minister of agriculture and fisheries and apologised to Jamaicans after a widely circulated video on social media showed him at what was said to be a birthday party with friends and political associates in seeming breach of COVID-19-related safety protocols on a no-movement day. Media reports suggest Green resigned after being instructed to do so by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

He has been temporarily replaced as agriculture and fisheries minister by Audley Show, who is taking charge of that ministry for a second time. Shaw also holds the industry, investments and commerce portfolio.

Green remains Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South Western (SW), a traditional swing seat, which he won convincingly in 2016 and again last September.

In telephone interviews with the Jamaica Observer, supporters and members of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in St Elizabeth SW, Opposition People's National Party (PNP) representatives, and others claiming no political allegiance, weren't all prepared to go on the record. But most were robust in their views.

As expected, JLP voices were sympathetic to Green, with some suggesting Holness was wrong to request the resignation of their MP, who they described as a high-quality minister.

There were suggestions that Green's “error” of judgement may have attracted “extra” punishment because of the Government's embarrassment over recent seeming inconsistencies, such as allowing cruise ship passengers to visit north coast attractions on no-movement days, even as most Jamaicans were barred from leaving their homes.

There were parallels drawn, and questions asked about apparent breaching of social distancing protocols as party supporters crowded in large numbers to see their heroes, not least of whom was Prime Minister Holness, during political motorcades in the build-up to last year's election.

“Floyd is just a scapegoat,” one JLP supporter told the Sunday Observer.

Treasure Beach hoteliers Jason Henzell and David Folby – both of whom work closely with the Member of Parliament but have no known political affiliation – regretted the loss from the Cabinet of a man described by Folby as “an exceptional human being”.

Even Green's political opponents found room for some sympathy, while they condemned what they saw as careless, inappropriate behaviour.

Opposition People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the Black River Division, Dwight Salmon, was disgusted at the opulence on show as Green and friends toasted each other at a time “when poor people in this constituency can hardly buy flour”. But he also felt that, “We all make mistakes… hopefully he will learn.”

Salmon was disinclined to overkill. “You should never kick a man when he is down,” he said.

Councillor for the Pedro Plains Division, Jeremy Palmer, took heart from what he said was the strong belief that such was Green's “great promise” as a representative of the people that, “He will rise again… it is not an irredeemable situation.”

Palmer recalled that, in the past politicians had committed much greater folly, only to “come back and go to great heights”.

According to Palmer, “ordinary grass roots people here have been deeply troubled” by the situation, but were happy with Green's “refreshing approach” in apologising for doing wrong and not seeking excuses.

“You know Floyd is the kind of man who doesn't even get angry with those who [verbally] abuse him… he listens and he smiles… what has happened here is a setback not a tragedy,” said Palmer.

Henzell hailed Green as being a hard-working, highly respected, well-loved politician, who was “on his way to being a very effective minister”, able to influence young people in particular.

“I think, in my mind, there is no question that this is an extremely unfortunate situation involving a very hard-working MP, who has acted out of character,” said Henzell.

However, long-standing PNP organiser in St Elizabeth South Western David Satchwell appeared to suggest that rather than being out of character, Green's breach of COVID-19 protocols was the outgrowth of a behavioural “trend” that had become noticeable in the constituency.

“What has happened is unfortunate, but not shocking,” claimed Satchwell. He called for political representatives to recognise their responsibility in setting good examples for their followers.

He noted that, in the past he (Satchwell) had played his part in insisting that PNP political representatives in St Elizabeth South Western should be held to account and to a high behavioural standard.

“South West St Elizabeth is one of those constituencies where Members of Parliament are expected to maintain a certain level… I am very concerned that all our elected representatives [regardless of party] should maintain a high standard [of behaviour],” he said.

Folby, an Englishman who owns and operates the Lashings Boutique Hotel and Villas in Treasure Beach, wondered if the punishment meted out to Green fitted the crime in the extraordinary circumstances brought on by COVID-19.

He spoke feelingly of how Green had helped him to get supplies to hospitals and health centres in the fight against COVID-19 and his representational work, seen at first hand.

“I call him anytime and he is always willing to help…” said Folby, who claimed he had come across strong sympathy for Green from both JLP and PNP supporters in St Elizabeth SW.

“This is a man who is real, a human being like the rest of us… yes the message [video] was wrong… it was a bad message… but this is an exceptional human being, who reaches out to everyone… younger people relate to him,” said Folby.

“We need politicians who care and he [Green] cares…” said Folby, even while conceding that there was probably no option in the current circumstances for Green but to be dropped from the Cabinet, since politics “is all about perception… you are damned if you do and damned if you don't”.

JLP activist, organiser, and aspirant for the Pedro Plains divisional seat Kaydean Senior and strong JLP supporters, fisherman Naman Parchment and farmer Junior Ebanks, argued that Green should have remained in the Cabinet because of what they said was his value as agriculture and fisheries minister. They felt Green's apology and police investigations into possible wrongdoing should have been punishment enough.

“I think the PM's action was too abrupt … he [Green] shouldn't have been asked to resign… We have seen greater shenanigans in successive governments which did not lead to resignations. We all make mistakes, none of us perfect. He [Holness] is not a perfect man either,” Ebanks said.

“Floyd is a hard-working MP and a minister trying to re-energise agriculture using up-to-date technology and trying to bring young people into agriculture… when there is a problem he is not one of those ministers delegating people to represent him… he is out there walking the fields with us,” Ebanks said.

Parchment was similarly adamant. “I don't think what he [Green] did should cause him to lose the job [Cabinet minister]. He apologised, he did not seek to pass the blame on to anyone. He took responsibility. The police are doing their investigations. That is how it should be, just like if it was any of the rest of us [breaching protocols]…” he said.

Senior, 36, who proudly speaks of having been a JLP worker since childhood, worried that the loss of Green to the agriculture portfolio is likely to adversely affect the farm sector.

“I think the penalty [Green being dropped from the Cabinet] was much too harsh. The situation should have been handled differently… we all make mistakes,” she said.

She noted that the episode had caused considerable disquiet in St Elizabeth SW. “His [Green's] work in South West can't be questioned, he has done a lot of work,” she said.

Turning upbeat, Senior insisted that all was not lost and Green would rebound, perhaps stronger than ever.

Laughingly mimicking famous quotes from crises which faced the Opposition PNP while in Government in times past, Senior dismissed Green's error as “youthful exuberance” and declared that, “He shall return.”