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Ramkissoon: I won't be silenced

Priest defiant in face of warnings that he 'dissed' Gov't

Sunday, September 09, 2012    

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MONSIGNOR Gregory Ramkissoon on Friday said he would not be forced into silence after receiving anonymous phone calls ordering him to retract his condemnation of the killing of a pregnant woman by a policeman in St Thomas last week, as well as his harsh criticism of the eviction of adults and children from premises in downtown Kingston last month.

"They said I should retract what I said because I was 'dissing' the Government," Ramkissoon told the Jamaica Observer.

"I'm not afraid," he said. "If I die tomorrow, it's not anything."

He said he reported the threats to the police, but they have been unable to trace the calls.

Ramkissoon, founder and head of the Mustard Seed Communities which helps thousands of the country's poor, said he received the first threatening call at approximately 11:00 pm Thursday and two others on Friday.

The outspoken Roman Catholic priest had described the killing of 27-year-old Kay-Ann Lamont as a national disgrace and a scandal.

"In this day and age, when we are celebrating 50 years of our political Independence, I call it celebrating disgrace. This is scandalous. It's a national scandal," he said.

Lamont was allegedly shot in the head in Yallahs square by Corporal Dwight Smart following a tussle which started when Smart accosted the woman over the use of indecent language. One of Lamont's sisters was also shot in the shoulder by Smart and had to be hospitalised.

Corporal Smart has since been charged with murder.

Ramkissoon had suggested that the constabulary should institute a policy that requires regular psychological evaluation of front-line police "to see if stress is getting the better of them", in an effort to stave off the occurrence of any such incident. He also suggested that the force only issue guns to police officers of "specialised" units "with specialised training" and not those who are interfacing with the public on a daily basis.

In relation to the eviction of the adults and children from property on Duke Street in downtown Kingston, Ramkissoon was equally critical.

"How could we have children thrown out in the street because they are on somebody else's land? We have allowed children to be disgraced in public with their parents," he said. "How do expect our children to respect us when we don't respect them?"

Property rights, he argued, were being placed before human rights.

"Where are our leaders in all of this? We haven't heard anything from the minister of national security, from the prime minister, from the head of the Child Development Agency. The Church has not even commented on the matter," said Ramkissoon.

On Friday, Ramkissoon made it clear that no one would succeed in having him remain quiet about the issues.

"This is madness," the priest said. "I'm not going to retract anything. So what, people can't speak again?"

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