Bad law for 'bad words'
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck (Photo: Gregory Bennett)

Dear Editor,

I think, act, and live according to the teachings of the Bible, but I also challenge even my own theological beliefs without affecting my truths. My world view on life has also taught me to think critically and rationally.

In light of this I am going to take a critical look at a recent provision contained in the Transport Authority (Amendment) Act, 2022 that Minister Delroy Chuck and his colleagues have implemented in Jamaica. And I want to make it clear to the honourable gentleman, from the outset, that, that's a bad law for "bad words".

It seems as if this is the next taxable item to balance the budget, for if that level of fine were to be levied for calumnious behaviour then the coffers would be full to overflowing.

There are issues with this law. I am not an attorney but a critical thinker. Tell me, Minister Chuck, why is this law skewed towards transport operators only? According to a Gleaner article, "Transport operators who spew expletives, or 'bad words', at an inspector of the Transport Authority (TA) in the lawful conduct of his duties could be slapped with a fine of up to $500,000 or face jail time of up to six months." But what about the dancehall music that promotes the most vulgar, slanderous, abusive, and defaming lyrics, even on the public airwaves, are they exempt?

Legislators need to be forward thinkers and use Parliament to craft legislations that are sensible and have teeth.

Another bone of contention is: What are bad words? Is the minister sure that by making this into a law he is not violating the right to freedom of speech?

I detest indecency. In my view, expletives go against good morals. It is anti-social behaviour and may even be regarded as unethical, but is it illegal? Is it justice, Minister Chuck, to impose such a hefty fine on someone who is creative in their choice of vernacular? Oh, the high cost of bad words.

That section of the Act which speaks to indecent language is not in tune with modernity, relevance, and justice as an audit of language used by people from King's House to the poor house would prove. This move comes branded with the trappings of colonialism. Are we going to make more criminals and subject people to six months in jail for language used in friendly banter and regular conversation?

Those of us who are Christians or cultured may want to give Minister Chuck a high five, but before we invoke scripture or biblical holy writings, we may do well to ponder anew the moral, ethical, sociological, religious, and legal implication of this legislation. It may very well be that legislators like these illicit bad words.

When people are treated with courtesy, politeness, and respect they are more likely to display better and correct public behaviour and seek to develop good character. This starts with education and modelling. Waldo Emerson was on point when he penned:

"Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny."

Burnett Robinson

Blpprob@aol.com

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