Equal rights and justice
Is our everlasting song.
Unity and progress
Will make our nation strong.
Stand up for your rights when you hear the bell,
Stand up for justice –
Hear the freedom bell. Remember Bustamante,
He served you well –
Stand up Jamaicans – when you hear the bell
Stand up Jamaicans – when you hear the bell.
First verse lyrics and chorus of JLP Anthem
Source: JLP Website
If you’re bored, you’re boring.
And increasingly I worry that I may just be pointing out things which are obvious to EVERYONE; which bores me, and in turn leads to a fear I may be boring you.
Take for example the recent imbroglio involving MP James Robertson, Minister of State without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister.
To recap really quickly, the MP was recently served with a summons for allegedly using abusive language after an episode which saw him driving from Kingston to the parish of St. Thomas to aide an injured constituent allegedly shot by police.
In his defense, the MP has stated that he only acted to thwart a partisanly motivated murder-attempt against this constituent perpetrated by the police. The MP is accusing the police of corruption and attempted murder arising from partisan political motives.
I applaud the Minister for this act of heroism. As a political observer what concerns me is how on earth the JLP will be able to proceed with the planned crime bills that give more power to the police in light of the fact that some police are alleged to have sought to victimize a person simply for being a JLP party member.
It is either one of two troublesome alternatives: Firstly that JLP parliamentarians don’t support and believe in Minister Robertson’s claim of police abuse of authority; in which case they should be calling for his expulsion from parliament and from the party. Or secondly that JLP parliamentarians believe their fellow parliamentarian but are unconcerned about the many more poor and poorly-connected people who will suffer and as a consequence of new police powers.
If Robertson is convicted of the charge that has now been laid against him by the police, is it really feasible to believe he will go serve that sentence and remain an MP? It would appear abundantly clear to me that this is not a feasible proposition. So then, can the JLP support and defend their colleague out of an arithmetic necessity while simultaneous seeking to give the Jamaica Constabulary Force more power to abuse citizens?
It is either that the police are trustworthy and deserve to be invested with new powers; or they are abusive liars and untrustworthy. That is the political calculus which the JLP is going to have to navigate. And frankly I don’t foresee them doing it successfully — but further I’m happy they cannot as I don’t support what they’re trying to achieve in this case . These new powers that are now being proposed are unconscionable — they are ill-conceived, and readily lend themselves to abuse and to state-sponsored murder.
It is amazing to me that the media in Jamaica haven’t asked that question about Robertson and the party’s current stance; I say this with the caveat that I don’t religiously follow Jamaican broadcast media. Nor has the print-media/press in Jamaica discussed the fact that the JLP anthem is an exhortation to stand up for justice.
How logical is it to sing Stand Up for Justice and then call for persons who haven’t been convicted tof any crime to be held for months without bail?
I-and-I am not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be one on the internet. But bail has a single central purpose, which is this — ensure that a citizen who has been merely accused of a crime turns up to trial so that guilt/innocence can be properly assessed.
Bail is not there to punish people preemptively prior to a conviction. Thus the main criterion for denying bail to an innocent citizen (that is, a citizen who is not yet convicted of any crime) should be that the citizen is a danger to themselves and/or to others.
If the current JLP government is making the argument that some people charged with a crime must be held because they are a danger to others, including witnesses that may testify against them — then that is a highly credible argument.
My question is one of execution: Is there a proposed standard of evidence that is a minimum standard to trigger the denial of bail and automatic detention for 60 days? Or is the word of a policeman enough to have someone held for 60 days without bail? Are Jamaicans going to do what the Bush Administration did in transferring people to Guantanamo Bay based on the word of competing tribes and discreditable accusers who were heavily motivated to lie?
I find it difficult to believe that the JLP would support Robertson and thereby implicitly accuse the cops making the charge against Robertson of dishonestly; but then count the word of a policeman as gospel when it applies to the poor and poorly-connected — and make no mistake, only the poor and poorly-connected will be the only ones to suffer as a result of these new restrictions. If the JLP makes this claim in the Robertson case then continues to push the denial of bail crime-bill, it will be a powerful reason for people to vote them out of office when given the opportunity.
Other important considerations, which I have been waiting to hear human rights groups in Jamaica call for, are these:
- If a man is held without bail and then is subsequently found not guilty by a jury — will the government compensate him for the two months pay he would have lost as a result of the denial of bail? Or do we throw multiple children and families into a period of instability (or greater instability) based on a policeman’s lie or sloppy police-work?
- What provisions will be made to ensure that those detained for 60 days do not suddenly and suspiciously undergo changes of conscience and confess to their crimes? In other words — what are we going to do to ensure that innocent men (that is men who have not been convicted of any crime) are not tortured into confessing to crimes by abusive jailers? Will they get regular visits from a properly incentivized state physician? Will they be allowed visits from an outside physician of their own choosing with a state subsidy to pay for it?
- How will we investigate the “suicides” that will come as a result of detaining people merely suspected of a crime. How many of those so detained will be murdered by their jailers but end up with their murders classified as a “suicide”?
I haven’t heard these issues discussed at all in the print media nor those few times I have streamed a radio station from Jamaica. It is as if these issues do not exist — and I know why they are not being discussed.
They are not being discussed because at day’s end we are not contemplating the preemptive jailing of all suspected criminals — just those who are neither rich nor politically-connected. So if a gun-man/murderer is poor but is in service to the “right” party or the “right” rich-man living on the hills — then that gun-man will be safe. But if we can find a poor and ill-educated youth and beat him up a little then soon enough we will have a hundred percent clearance rate for murder; mostly based on confessions. How wonderful a future to contemplate, eh? And we’re almost there.
Another reason these issues are not being discussed is because the poor and poorly-connected who will be affected are not really human beings. They are political footballs that can be kicked around for convenience until an election, when violence and terrorism will be unleashed to shepherd them into doing the will of the self-righteous, self-appointed demigods of Jamaican politics.