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Protesters picket UWI in support of sacked professor

BY KARYL WALKER walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 22, 2014    

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A group of concerned citizens gathered in front of the main campus gate of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in support of sacked Professor Brendan Bain.

On Tuesday, the university signalled that it had lost confidence in Bain as director of the Regional Co-ordinating Unit of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network amidst howls of protest from gay lobby groups against a professional opinion he gave in a Belize Court on the risks associated with men who have sex with men.

The handful of protesters wore pieces of masking tape over their mouths with the words 'freedom of speech' and carried placards with the message 'speaking truth is not homophobia'. They decried the move by the university, saying that it was a blow to intellectual freedom.

"We are here to mourn the death of freedom of speech on the UWI campus. This affects the scientific community and researchers. We must now reduce the effects of the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender) community on our religion and take a stand. We want Professor Bain to get back his job," said Daniel Thomas, president of the Youth Christian Organisation for Purity and the Family.

Bain's colleague, Professor Shirley Richards, said that the university's action was testimony to the fact that the LGBT community was intolerant of anyone who does not agree with their lifestyle.

"This is an agenda that is intolerant of dissent. This is a moment when Jamaicans must take a stand," Richards said.

President of the Jamaica House of Prayer, Harry Walcott, warned that yesterday's protest was just the tip of the iceberg.

"We have to do something. It's the principle behind it. What they are doing is stifling freedom of speech. We are not going to stop until it is resolved in Dr Bain's favour," he said.

The Carolyn Gomes-headed Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition yesterday admitted that, while men who have sex with men are the most vulnerable group to contract HIV/AIDS, Bain should have been more responsible.

"In open societies, people may and do disapprove of homosexuality. Yet people who choose to take leadership positions in the response to HIV should not expect to express views in direct opposition to accepted science and best practice and continue to retain the confidence of the communities they are meant to benefit and of regional actors in the response to HIV. This is a conflict of interest," the group said in a release to the media.

The group also claimed that the research Bain cited in his witness statement was produced by various scientists and then published in the respected scientific journal, The Lancet, in 2012 and was not his own work.

"Professor Bain has no published research on the issue," the group claimed.

The Jamaica Forum of Lesbians All Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) denied Richards' claim that the organisation had embarked upon an agenda that had no room for dissenting views, but supported Bain's dismissal.

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