GG should lead the march to securing human rightsMonday, June 29, 2020
A quantitative survey of the legislative process in the post-Independence House of Representatives, reveals an inclination to abuse the invested legislative freedom and pass laws that “abrogate, infringe, and abridge [our rights]”.
Columnist Frank Phipps, in reflecting on the propensity of the Government of Jamaica to abuse the constitutional rights of its citizens, wrote: “After seeing what took place with the secret MOUs [memoranda of understanding] of 2004, we must now take a comprehensive view of human rights abuse in Jamaica after Independence, where there is now a rainbow workforce — being neither white nor black, at all levels of the society, including the overseers.” ( The Gleaner, November 3, 2019)
As early as 1963 the Government of Jamaica signalled its attitude of indifference with the marginalisation of the human rights of its citizens through the Coral Gardens riots. Succeeding governments have instituted draconian means where necessary — the Suppression of Crime Act, states of emergency, Green Bay massacre, security forces' operation into Tivoli Gardens. The Constitutional Court has overturned abuses in the Gun Court Act (1975), and we have witnessed where Bryan Sykes, as a high court judge, ruled that the monopoly licence granted to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) was illegal. ( RJR94FM News, July 31, 2012)
We also had signed and undated resignation letters of senators declared “inconsistent with the constitution, contrary to public policy, unlawful, and, accordingly, null and void”. ( Jamaica Observer, February 25, 2015)
And, most recently, the proposed national identification system (NIDS) was “declared null and void and of no legal effect”. ( Observer April 12, 2019)
With such history of abuses our nation needs a head of state whose office is above ill-repute, neutral, and functions as guardian of the constitution and the human rights of Jamaicans.
Former Minister of Justice Mark Golding said that a “National Human Rights Institution will be a valuable addition to Jamaica's human rights landscape”. ( JIS, December 10, 2014)
The discussions on constitutional reforms should ensure that a National Human Rights Institution be invested in an independent head of State. Such an office should be a part of the function of the current governor general, whose office will transition to that of president of the republic. The current governor general should therefore lead the path of justice for the people with the support of other human rights advocates by safeguarding the rights and civil liberties of Jamaicans as guaranteed in our constitution, including the elimination of abuses from agents of the State.
Dudley C McLean II
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