THE loving father held his infant close to his heart as he strode towards the X-ray department at the Bustamante Hospital for Children. His concern was shared by the child's mother walking briskly beside him, her face a picture of anxiety. Everywhere we turned, there were these precious babies and children held closely by concerned parents including many fathers. Perhaps the news of the previous day had tightened their embrace.
It was ironical that here we were, at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new cardiac wing at the Bustamante Hospital for Children that would provide care for our tiniest heart patients, even as we were mourning the deaths of the two helpless siblings who had died at the hands of their own father the day before. As they say 'God does not give us more than we can bear', and so it did our hearts good to see the folks from Digicel, Sigma, Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell, the inspiring Lady Allen, Minister Fenton Ferguson and other private and public sector partners coming together for this fine project.
Sorry Lord, but I had hard thoughts for that murderous father, when I saw so many exemplary ones at the children's hospital. But of course, I had to acknowledge that his acts were as crazy as they were evil. We heard Prof Freddy Hickling in a news interview calling for 'an army of community aides' to monitor and help prevent these terrible tragedies. Since the beginning of the year, four children have died at the hands of fathers or mothers in three separate incidents. This is more than coincidence -- it is a warning that the national fallout in family life is now threatening our finest hopes for the future.
After the deaths of these innocent infants, there are many 'what ifs'. We will have to depend more on the media to help prevent a repeat of the recent tragedies. There are warning signs for domestic abuse developed by the Refuge and the Avon Foundation posted at http://www.1in4women.com/the-signs.php. The well-placed JIS radio and television programmes could draw on psychiatrists and social scientists to help us develop such messages to warn about spousal, child and elderly abuse.
Recent arrests of negligent parents should send a strong signal, but must also be accompanied by community counselling - it is a sad reality that many of our children have been brought into this world by immature teenagers, repeating a dangerous cycle.
We cannot disregard the influence of some of our lyrics and music videos which objectify women and promote a lifestyle that is well-nigh impossible for most of our population to maintain. Some of our talented stars have become victims of this madness. Commendations to the Broadcasting Commission for their campaign to promote the responsible use of cable in homes. Media should consider moving from the interesting discussion programmes to a pro-active partnership with hard-working organisations to drive a plan for a more responsible and compassionate society.
Compelling argument for CCJ
Sir Dennis Byron, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, gave a compelling argument for the court in his lecture last Tuesday, titled "The role of the CCJ — media in Caribbean judicial and economic development". Sir Dennis encouraged a partnership between the judiciary and the press towards good governance. He assured that "the CCJ is committed to transparency and openness [with] facilities to assist media in gaining access to information".
"The decisions of the court are all available on our website at www.caribbeancourtofjustice.org with a specific portal for journalists," he advised. The CCJ is indeed up on social media — I tweeted a photo of Sir Dennis giving his lecture and it was retweeted by @caribbeancourt. Dr Lethe Dunn commented after the lecture that Canadian justice representatives who had toured the CCJ had said it was one of the most progressive models they had ever seen.
Sir Dennis explained that the appointment of judges to the CCJ "is completely independent and insulated from political influence." He said that its financial viability was guaranteed in perpetuity by the creation of a trust fund.
He remarked on the prominence of Jamaica: "You have the highest visibility both regionally and internationally. You won your first Olympic Gold in London in 1948 and you have gone from strength to strength — Usain Bolt now commands the world! Your current band of world athletic leaders was developed in Jamaica by Jamaican coaches."
Further, he reminded us that UWI had its beginnings in Jamaica in 1948 and achieved its status as an independent university in 1962, setting a precedent for the severance of extra-regional links for other Caribbean institutions.
Having convinced us of our Jamaican pride in local and regional self-sufficiency, the wise CCJ president pointed out that "the one glaring and unfulfilled gap in Jamaica's independence has to do with Jamaica's highest court [which remains] the judicial committee of Her Majesty's Court in the United Kingdom".
How long has this argument been going on in Jamaica? Sir Dennis quoted a Gleaner editorial published over 100 years ago, which observed that the Privy Council is "out of step with the times" and recommended that a regional court be formed!
He rejected the cynical viewpoint that there was a problem of familiarity: "It is easier to trust those you know, who you can observe, than to trust people you don't know." The Shanique Myrie case against the state of Barbados on her right to free movement in the region is being heard by the CCJ this very week here in Jamaica.
Guyana, Belize and Barbados are already on board with the CCJ, and both of Jamaica's political administrations have had their concerns about the Court satisfactorily addressed.
Jamaican Bar Association President Ian Wilkinson, in thanking Sir Dennis, endorsed his call, challenging anyone to say what could be negative about an organisation that has gone "eight years not out".
The most convincing statistic expressed by Sir Dennis is the fact that, in the five years before the start of the CCJ, Barbadians took eight cases to the Privy Council; in the seven years since the start of the Caribbean Court, 25 cases have already been brought, many by folks who would not have been able to afford the expensive route of the UK Privy Council. It is time, Jamaica, it is time.