Editorial

Senator Morris should tell what he knows

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

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We have never known Opposition Senator Floyd Morris to be evasive, especially on matters having to do with the welfare of people with disabilities. In fact, Senator Morris, who was the first blind president of the Senate, can easily be regarded as a champion of the rights of the disabled and as such has earned the respect of Jamaicans over the years.

We therefore find it a bit puzzling that he would shy away from telling the country what has caused the five-year delay in implementing the provisions of the Disabilities Act, as they relate to providing access to Parliament, since passage of the Bill in 2014.

It gave us no pleasure in reporting last week that almost five years after the successful passage of the Disabilities Bill in Parliament, the Senate last Friday started another debate on improving the accessibility into Gordon House for individuals with disabilities.

As our report indicated, there was anger, blame, and obvious disappointment among the senators in accepting that inaction has shrouded the implementation of the Act across two administrations.

In opening the debate, Senator Morris admitted public concern that the provisions of the Bill, which were expected to improve the lives of disabled Jamaicans — starting with their accessibility to the parliament building — have been delayed for five years, but refused to state what he knew were the causes for the delay.

“I am very disappointed that having passed the Disabilities Act in 2014 we are now in 2019, five years have elapsed and we have not yet brought the Disabilities Act into effect,” the senator said.

He admitted that he knew what had impeded the implementation of the Act, but said he would prefer for the Government to make them public.

“I am calling upon the Government to make a statement to the nation as to what is the situation and what is the status, in terms of the implementation,” he said. “Bear in mind, I know what are the impeding circumstances, but I am not the person who is mandated to speak to the nation and to enforce disability issues, [but] I am giving as much support as I can to the Government because I know how important this legislation is to the disabled community.”

That, though, is not good enough, Senator Morris. Not for someone who has been so strident on the need for better facilities and infrastructure to accommodate the disabled.

As we said, the senator should tell us what went wrong, not because we want someone to blame, but to help in the process of correcting whatever shortcomings there are and to ensure that the gains made by successive administrations in providing support for the welfare and rights of individuals with disabilities are not eroded.

The Parliament has set an excellent example by passing legislation that protects the rights of persons with disabilities, promotes their individual dignity and autonomy, ensures their full and effective participation and inclusion in society, and prohibits discriminatory practices against them.

It is only right, therefore, that the Parliament abides by the law.


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