Chairman of the RJR Gleaner Communications Group Joseph Matalon is standing by his endorsement of Mark Golding for the leadership of the People’s National Party (PNP).
Despite coming under heavy criticism for the endorsement, particularly as the chairman of an independent media group, Matalon in an interview with veteran journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller said he wasn’t endorsing a political party but he was throwing his support behind Golding, who he described as a “friend and colleague”.
Matalon told Jackson Miller that his endorsement was made in a personal capacity, stressing that he was a non-executive member of the board, meaning that he does not get involved in the editorial affairs of the group which could lead to the perception that the entity is politically aligned.
“I’m not a journalist, I’m a businessman. And I happen to be the non executive chairman of the RJR Gleaner group. In so far as that position is concerned, we have very robust governance system within the group,” said Matalon.
Matalon explained that had a journalist made a similar endorsement it could be perceived as damaging to the brand given that they have direct responsibility for editorial decisions, something which he as a non executive member has no part in.
According to Matalon, who said he was aware of the memes circulating online, he noted that his endorsement of Golding did not necessarily mean an endorsement of the PNP.
In fact, Matalon said the memes circulating online misrepresented his recent endorsement and propagates a narrative that is “not so at all”.
“Now, you know, one of the issues is that my statements has been taken to be an endorsement of the People’s National Party. That’s not so at all. I was making an endorsement for an individual, who I believe is a terrific leader, who has tremendous awareness and intellectual capacity, and who, I believe, would be a good candidate to lead one of the two major political parties in the country. And as I said, at the outset, irrespective of which particular political party, Mr. Golding had decided to run for the leadership, that would have been my position,” added Matalon.
While acknowledging the very tribal state of political affairs in the country, Matalon said he does not believe that the political climate should preclude him making a statement of a personal nature.
“But, you know, I don’t think that that ought to prevent me from making a statement of a personal nature, about an individual who I’ve known for 30 years. It’s as simple as that,” said Matalon.
Dionne Jackson Miller rebutted that it was not as simple as that, noting that there are circumstances in which it is difficult to separate the company persona from from the personal; citing former Prime Minister Brice Golding who sought to make the same distinction when he secured the services of the Manatt, Phelps & Phillips law firm the 2010 Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke saga.
Mr. Golding, at the time, was both president of his party i.e. the chief executive of his party, and he was also the chief executive of government – the prime minister. In those circumstances, yes, I agree with you. It’s so difficult to distinguish between the two. I don’t, in fact, have any executive function within the group,” explained Matalon in response to Jackson-Miller.
Matalon suggested that he was willing to step away from the post as a result of the melee noting that this was the reason why the board deliberated on the matter.
Deputy Chairman of the board Dr. Lawrence Nicholson explained that while the entity expressed disappointment as it relates to Matalon’s endorsement he was not reprimanded.
“Reprimanding in the sense that we would have expressed disappointment that this would have happened,” said Nicholson.
Nicholson said that a new board framework would be implemented going forward to prevent certain such instance from recurring.
However when Jackson-Miller asked the hypothetical question, “So if tomorrow, Mr. Golding were to come up to you and say, Joe, I am having another event tomorrow, can you come and speak again, what would the answer be?” Matalon responded that he would give it more thought.
Both Matalon and Nicholson went on to note that the group was committed to independence, fairness and professionalism of its editorial arms, which does not endorse political parties or candidates in any election.
“My 30 years, sitting on the board, I have never tried to influence an editorial piece,” added Matalon who further stressed the difference between the board and the editorial department.
Joesph Matalon is the Chairman of ICD Group Holdings, a Jamaican investment holding company, and the listed company RJR Gleaner Communications Group.
Matalon served as President of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) during the period 2009 to 2012, and as Chairman of the Development Bank of Jamaica between 2007 and 2016.
He has also served on several special national committees established to advise the Government of Jamaica on financial and economic matters.