That shameful eviction in Portmore
The late Dr Neville Gallimore, minister of social security in the 1980s, often voiced the well-established principle that any civilised society is best measured by how children and the elderly are treated.
Those who were acquainted with him will testify that Dr Gallimore would have been absolutely horrified by our front page news story on Monday.
We refer of course to news that about 20 elderly folk, some disabled, were evicted from a house in Portmore, St Catherine — which served as a privately run nursing home — by bailiffs. They were left on the sidewalk alongside possessions and furnishings.
We suspect that those now in Government were also dismayed by the story, though up to the time of writing we were yet to hear from them.
Perhaps those who ordered the eviction, and those who carried it out, felt they were acting in accordance with the law and were simply doing their jobs. After all, according to our news report, a court order for the premises to be vacated had been served last year.
Nonetheless, we are forced to wonder at the mindset that allows for helpless, elderly people, including amputees and the sightless, to be pushed out of their place of shelter and left exposed to the elements.
Thankfully, good neighbours intervened after the evictors had left. They took the victims back into their shelter through a back door which had been left open. We would like to believe that door was deliberately left open.
We are at one with a neighbour who said she couldn’t just stand aside and look.
“I couldn’t leave them out here. I had to help… We can’t make them stay outside like this. It is wrong…” said she.
We feel for blind, 67-year-old amputee Mr Errol Thompson, who told our reporter after being lifted back into the house that, “This is very strange to me. I have never experienced anything like that before… They (evictors) pushed me outside…”
Our reporter tells us that the United Nations Principles for Older Persons stipulates that the elderly “should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help”.
And also that the principle, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1991 in appreciation of the contribution older people made to their societies, states that senior citizens should be able to live in environs that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities.
Beyond all that, there are puzzling questions. The manager of the nursing home is reported as saying the house was not vacated following the serving of the court order, because a suitable replacement was yet to be found.
So, did she inform the relevant agencies in Government or, for that matter, civil society, of the desperate need for help?
Surely representatives of the State could not have had knowledge and fail to act.
Indeed, what are the protocols governing situations such as this? Could there be legal recourse here?
It seems to us, though, that going forward, action — legislatively if needs be — should be taken to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.