Agriculture Minister Roland Bhola is not taking too kindly statements being made by a well known political activist of the ruling New National Party (NNP), Kennedy Budhlall pertaining to the alleged altercation he had with one of his Constituents on his farm land two weeks ago.
Bhola is accused of inflicting several wounds from the use of a cutlass on Rondell “Lawson” Mitchell who was allegedly stealing bananas from his agricultural land on February 23.
Appearing on a local talk show, Budhlall denounced the behaviour and action of the senior Government Minister who is also the General Secretary of the ruling party stating that he was appointed to serve in Parliament to make laws, and not to break laws.
Budhall spoke of Bhola being the most traveled Government Minister in the NNP Administration, which he said shows that Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell is using him as the face of the country and the face of the party.
He told the radio programme last Sunday it is not the right way for the Agriculture Minister who engages in farming or for that matter any other Farmer to take the law into their own hands.
He said Bhola knows “Lawson” because the man is known to be “one of his (Bhola) best customers.”
Budhlall said he understands Bhola’s frustration and that of the farmers of the country who are affected by praedial larceny.
“It is not the right way to go. We cannot go back to the laws of the jungle. We got rules, we got systems in place, and we have to go along with the laws and the systems we have in place,” he remarked.
“It doesn’t matter how many times he (Lawson) goes back (into Bhola’s land) when Mr. Bhola sees him, Mr. Bhola doh have right to go near him with no cutlass. Mr. Bhola has to call the Police because Mr. Bhola’s life was not threatened,” he said.
“Mr. Bhola was so eager to rest some planass on the man, because Bhola tired with him”, he said.
The NNP political activist believes Bhola is now setting a precedent in which Farmers will now want to take the law into their own hands as they seek revenge on persons caught in the act of praedial larceny on their farms.
He charged that every Farmer will now be hoping to catch someone stealing from them to chop them up.
Budhlall spoke of the village of Tivoli, St. Andrew’s having four politicians including himself who have had encounters with people who have trespassed against them.
He identified the others as Livingston Nelson and Terry Hillaire of the Congress party and NNP’s Bhola whom he accused of loosing their sense of sanity and taking the law in their own hands.
Bhola who phoned into the programme said Budhlall’s position does not surprise him, but is not angry with him over the position he has taken on the incident on the farm.
The senior Government Minister felt that before making his position known publicly, the NNP Political Activist should have contacted him to ascertain what had happened.
“I feel as though I am a common criminal, tried and sentenced with my hands tied behind my back, not even being given an opportunity to answer to the charges laid against me,” he told the programme.
Bhola pointed an accusing finger at his political rival in the St. Andrew’s North East Constituency, Terry Hillaire for “plastering the man body with tape all over” on the social media network.
He likened it to pushing the envelope further than it should go.
Bhola claimed that when “Lawson” left his property he only had two chop wounds on his body.
According to the Agriculture Minister, the intruder grabbed onto the blade of his cutlass which resulted in the cut inflicted onto the palm of the left hand.
“I asked (him) on three occasions to let go of the cutlass. When he didn’t, I had to pull it away from him, that is how he got a cut in the palm of his hand. It was only then that I realised he was armed with a knife in his right hand,” Bhola told the host of the programme.
However, pictures of Mitchell with what clearly appears to be plasters on various areas of his body have made their way on to social media.
Minister Bhola stated that “Lawson” was in a stooping position with his back towards him when he spotted him dehaning the bananas on the farm.
He said that when the man refused to place the knife in his bag as ordered to do, he planassed him on the left shoulder, and in the process the cutlass twisted and gave him one cut in that area.
The senior government Minister indicated that he used one of the sleeves of a shirt he had hanging in his banana shed to bandage the wound which was bleeding.
Bhola said that at the time of the incident he was weeding his tomatoes.
“If my intention was to take the law in my hand and destroy him, that is what I could have done, but I refused to approach him from behind. I refused to hit him or chop him up so I called out to him,” he said.
Bhola said his entire land is fenced with barbed wires eight inches apart and more than six feet high and to gain access to the land, a wrought iron gate has to be opened with two keys for the two padlocks placed on it.
The minister also accused THE NEW TODAY newspaper of misquoting him in a statement he gave to Cheavron Benjamin of MTV that he denied anything had happened.
However, a recording of Bhola’s statement as read by News Presenter, Wendy Chasteau on Thursday, February 25th said in part: “Agriculture Minister Roland Bhola is denying rumours that he was involved in an altercation that lead to a man being chopped while on his farm.”
During the call to the local radio station, Bhola confirmed that the Police have taken statements from both himself and Mitchell on the chopping incident.
He said: “If it means that at the end of the day the judge decides that I am wrong in my action, I will face whatever the penalty is,” he said.
“I never wanted to shed blood, I never wanted to chop the man. That was never my intention, but that’s all right. That is for the court to decide… I had no intention to shed blood with the man,” he added.
According to him, “Lawson” was influenced in going to the police by “those who felt it was an opportunity to lift their ego or their political stocks.”
Bhola has been the Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North-east since 1999.