UTech guards fired!

Beating of alleged gay student draws condemnation

Saturday, November 03, 2012

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TWO of the guards on duty during Thursday's beating of an alleged gay student at the University of Technology (UTech) were yesterday fired.


Marksman Security Limited, to which the guards were employed, did not say if any action would be taken against two other guards who were on duty at the time of the beating, which was caught on camera and placed on YouTube.


"The actions of the security officers are not in keeping with Marksman Limited's contractual arrangements and ongoing mandate to protect and secure life and property," said Robert Epstein, Guardsman's managing director, in a late afternoon statement.


Epstein, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer earlier, described the action of the guards as a major embarrassment for the company.


The security company said it co-operated with the university and other officials to resolve the matter and, based on initial reviews of the situation, the guards in question were removed from duty with immediate effect, while further investigations continued.


Marskman said it stands for the justice and safety of individuals and that its core responsibility is to protect and secure life and property. "We pride ourselves in providing quality security services, underlined by a genuine concern and respect for all who fall within our care," said the security company.


The alleged gay student was reportedly caught on campus in 'a compromising position' with another man in a bathroom when fellow students raised an alarm. One of the men escaped, while the other ran to the guard room at the entrance of the campus.


"This student was physically assaulted by on-duty security guards employed by the contracted security company, Marksman Limited, while several other students encircled the guard room attempting to get hold of the student," according to a joint statement yesterday by UTech, the UTech Students' Union, and Marksman. The student, said the statement, was protected from the mob by security officers and removed from the campus with support from the police.


"The university's administration, the university's Students' Union, and Marksman Limited strongly condemn the assault on the student by the security guards, and other individuals," said the statement.


UTech said it was conducting an in-depth investigation into the incident, and was providing counselling to those involved, while the Students' Union executive has initiated a series of discussions and sensitisation sessions to encourage appropriate behaviour to support the safety and security of the wider student body.


The National Youth Council of Jamaica, which yesterday expressed concerns about the incident, said all forms of abuse must be soundly condemned, regardless of an individual's sexual orientation.


Meanwhile, human rights group Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) said yesterday that the horrifying act of violence was yet another example of our society's willingness to accept violence as an appropriate response in too many circumstances.


The UTech administration, said the rights group, must respond to the incident in a way that makes it clear to their students and staff that such actions will not be tolerated.


"... The rights of all our people must be respected; a society ordered in the ways of peace, tolerance, and justice for all becomes a nation that would be healed of a culture of violence," said JFJ.


The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, meanwhile, said it was appalled by the violence meted out to two alleged homosexual students at the university.


"All persons, whether heterosexual or otherwise, should be circumspect in their sexual conduct. Indiscretion cannot, however, be justification for the violence which was captured on video. The fact that a security guard, trained and employed to protect the students, staff and visitors to the UTech campus, would be the perpetrator of the vicious attack is particularly reprehensible," said the coalition.


It said, too, that the behaviour of the students was an indictment on the whole society, its values and failure to inculcate in its youth any modicum of respect for life, tolerance of differences or basic self-control.


According to the coalition, the UTech incident underscored the urgency for the society to take full stock of its propensity for violence, in general, and mob violence "as the new normal for us as a people".


The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays also condemned the incident.


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