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JFJ denies rift

By KARYL WALKER Editor - Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 06, 2014    

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Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) chair Lisa Lakhan-Chen has denied that the human rights lobby group is imploding.

An impeccable source had told the Jamaica Observer that there is division among members of JFJ as the old guard are not happy with the new members of the organisation and its new direction.

According to the source, the situation is so bad that neither side is listening to the other. "What is needed is someone to step in and act as a mediator," the source said.

But Friday, when the Sunday Observer sought a comment from Lakhan-Chen, she downplayed the claim, insisting that there is no rift.

"We are silently doing our work and I know of no rift in the JFJ. I don't know what you are talking about," Lakhan-Chen said.

On June 17, former executive director Carolyn Gomes resigned from the JFJ board of directors in the aftermath of reports that inappropriate sexual material was imparted to children in six privately owned children's homes.

Soon after Gomes' departure, another director, Susan Evans, also tendered her resignation.

Following an Observer article on Friday which revealed parts of Gomes' resignation letter, she replied that the anal and oral sex material in the controversial Healthy Sexual Growth and Development in Marginalised Youth: Rights, Responsibilities and Life Skills manual was developed and delivered months after she stepped down as JFJ executive director.

Gomes added that it would have been the responsibility of new JFJ Executive Director Kay Osborne to bring that content to the attention of the rights group's board.

However, the JFJ board, in responding to Gomes, said that Osborne had nothing to do with the "development, implementation, preparation and/or approval of the content of the modules, nor did she have oversight of any aspect of the project".

Gomes now heads the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVCC) which JFJ said arranged the funding for the project.

"Further, this project was designed, negotiated, and contracted by Dr Carolyn Gomes with funding arranged by Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVCC). Additionally, the project began implementation in October 2013, under the direct guidance of Dr Carolyn Gomes, who was then executive director of JFJ," the group claimed.

Gomes resigned from her post with JFJ on December 20 last year to take up her new post as executive director of the CVCC. Following her resignation, Gomes was reappointed to the board of JFJ where she continued as a director until her resignation in June.

"At no point during this period did Dr Gomes, either in writing or verbally, indicate to Ms Osborne that JFJ was implementing a project of this nature. It is therefore wholly inaccurate to attribute responsibility to Ms Osborne for the content of the modules or for her to bring that content to the attention of the board of JFJ," the rights group stated in its release.

The offensive content in the manual has drawn condemnation from wide sections of society and has seen an investigation launched by the police to ascertain whether there were breaches of the Child Care and Protection Act and the Offences Against the Person Act.

In addition, Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna has sought advice from Attorney General Patrick Atkinson on what legal recourse can be sought by her ministry against JFJ.

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