Thu | Dec 7, 2023

JON-J in damage control mode after former president’s outburst

Published:Thursday | August 3, 2023 | 12:06 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer

The Jamaican Organization of New Jersey (JON-J) is in damage control mode following what has been described as an intemperate outburst by the its President Emeritus, Linval James, during an official function at city hall in East Orange.

The office of the Consul General in New York has written to the organisation demanding a public apology for the remarks by James which were directed at Consul General Alsion Wilson and the Consulate.

The state president of JON-J, Owen Eccleston, told The Gleaner that the executive of the association has been meeting over the matter and will be writing to the Consul General.

“We have been in communication with the Consul General and we will be writing to her and we will be issuing a public statement,” Eccleston said.

It all began last Friday during a flag-raising ceremony in East Orange to mark Jamaica’s 61st anniversary of independence as well as the 25th anniversary of JON-J.

James was tasked with introducing to the audience the founding members of the association. Instead, he used his remarks to attack the consulate and the Consul General, accusing the consulate of neither recognising the organisation nor honouring its work.

‘Disrespectful’ and ‘tasteless’

Patrick Beckford, a founding member of the organisation in attendance, described James’ remarks as “disrespectful” and “tasteless”.

“In my opinion, his utterances were uncalled for and unnecessary and it was not the forum where such matters are aired,” said Beckford.

He characterised James’ remarks as “undiplomatic,” “uncalled for,” and not in keeping with the spirit of the event.

“I did not like the fact that he used such an occasion to say what he did,” said Beckford.

James’ outburst rose to such a level that it prompted the Consulate to write to the organisation’s leadership demanding a public apology.

The Consulate has not released the contents of the letter, but a spokesman told The Gleaner that this was being done to give the organisation an opportunity to respond in a timely manner and to issue the public apology.

“If this is not done, then we will release the full letter to the public,” the spokesman said.

The feeling within the Consulate was that the remarks by James were not just unfair but brought the work of the Consulate into disrepute.

“During the COVID pandemic, we worked with JON-J to feed over 600 people in New Jersey so that they would not go hungry,” said the spokesman.

He pointed out that JON-J was responsible for selecting the site and date for the feeding assistance programme and worked alongside the consulate’s representatives to execute the programme.

This was cited by the spokesman as just one of the many instances with which the consulate has partnered with JON-J.