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New JFJ executive director joins lengthening exodus

‘I still support HIV/AIDS reduction programme’

Monday, July 21, 2014    

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HUMAN rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) continued to bleed profusely from a scandal over sexual grooming of children in six private homes, with the latest jolt coming from the resignation yesterday of new executive director, Kay Osborne.

Osborne, who ironically came to national prominence at the height of a scandal she triggered over grievous conditions in a state homes for girls, joined the lengthening exodus by former Chairman Susan Goffe, former Executive Director Dr Carolyn Gomes, whom she succeeded, and other unnamed personalities in the leadership.

"With due consideration of all the issues, I have taken the decision to resign as executive director of JFJ with immediate effect. I do so in accordance with the six months probationary period of my employment agreement," Osborne wrote yesterday to JFJ Chairman Lisa Lakhan-Chen.

"The board of directors having clarified that the children's home programme was a HIV/AIDS prevention intervention has led to my decision that I cannot work as executive director of a human rights advocacy organisation that does not advise me that it is implementing a programme in children's homes to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS," said Osborne.

Her resignation appeared to preempt a plan being hatched by Gomes supporters to throw out the entire board of the rights group at a special general meeting being sought for next week.

Spokesman for the group Horace Levy vowed on a radio current affairs programme that "Carolyn's 14 years can't go down the drain like that".

Gomes, who is at the centre of the scandal, as the person being blamed for the sexual health programme taken into the children's homes with explicit sexual material mentioning oral and anal sex, has been credited with the formation and development of JFJ. She stepped down earlier this year to take up the top job at the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVCC) and her position was filled by Osborne, the former general manager of Television Jamaica.

Following is the edited text of Osborne's resignation letter:

Dear Mrs Lisa Lakhan-Chen, as you know, I accepted an offer to serve Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) as executive director starting on April 2, 2014 as I believed in and felt I could help advance JFJ's expressed human rights mission and mandate.

Over the short period, I undertook and completed several projects that are consistent with the mission. Several others are at various states of implementation. The completed projects are detailed below, an attachment list of 20 important "in progress" projects.

Over the last two months there has been considerable public interest in the JFJ programme, "Healthy Sexual Growth and Development in Marginalised Youth: Rights, Responsibilities and Life Skills", which predated my joining the organisation. JFJ's statement of Friday, July 18, following a comprehensive review of the children's home programme, explicitly exonerates me from having had knowledge or responsibility for the programme and affirms that I had nothing to do with the design, development, preparation, or implementation and or approval of the content of the programme modules, nor did I have oversight of any aspect of this programme. The JFJ's statement affirms as well that the board of directors is satisfied that at no point did Dr Carolyn Gomes or anyone else either in writing or verbally indicate to me that JFJ was implementing a programme in children's homes to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the board is satisfied that I was unaware of the content of the said programme modules and no aspect of the same formed any part of my job description since I was appointed executive director.

The board of directors, having clarified that the children's home programme was a HIV/AIDS prevention intervention, has led to my decision that I cannot work as executive director of a human rights advocacy organisation that does not advise me that it is implementing a programme in children's homes to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Yet I fully support the goal of providing legitimate educational initiatives to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, I'm sure you agree that such initiatives cannot be in violation of the law, and a children's homes programme requires Government approval since the Government has loco parentis responsibilities for wards of the state.

With due consideration of all the issues, I have taken the decision to resign as executive director of JFJ with immediate effect. I do so in accordance with the six months probationary period of my employment agreement...

In light of the public interest in this matter, I've decided to publish this document that lists the major projects I've completed during my brief JFJ tenure and my recommendations on needed JFJ organisation infrastructure enhancements that will strengthen the organisation and advance the human rights interest of all citizens. The list of 20 current JFJ projects will not be published as most involve confidential matters.

I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to Jamaica through this brief association with JFJ. If you so desire, I will make myself available to clarify any outstanding issues I have been dealing with and to make the transition as smooth as possible as I would not like my successor to face a similar experiance as I have endured.

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