Last edited: November 30, 2004

No Country Stands Alone

The Jamaica Observer, November 30, 2004

By Ken Chaplin

The notion that one country should not interfere in the domestic affairs of another is no longer relevant. There was also a time when an international organisation would not interfere in the internal affairs of a country. Not so anymore. The Caribbean Community interfered in the domestic affairs of Haiti. United States president George W Bush interfered in the internal affairs of Cuba and Gary Cooper, when he was US ambassador to Jamaica, interfered in our domestic affairs. Many Jamaican journalists have criticised the president and government of the USA repeatedly on issues like homeland security and the Patriot Act.

Amnesty International has often interfered in the affairs of Jamaica in the name of human rights and justice. In the 1970s President Samora Machel of Mozambique disgracefully interfered in local politics in a speech at an annual conference of the People’s National Party (PNP).

In the 70s also Cuban ambassador Ulyses Estrada and some of the diplomatic staff of the embassy carried out intense political activity in support of the PNP. Prime Minister Ralph Gonzalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines electioneered for the PNP in the 2002 general elections.

Just last week Britain’s junior minister for international development, Gareth Thomas, urged Caribbean governments, including Jamaica, to remove buggery laws from their books. A similar call was also made by the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international human rights organisation.

Last week also, after evidence surfaced that the Opposition candidate was cheated out of victory in the Ukraine’s presidential election, the European Union advocated for a new election. Increasingly, as the world becomes more globalised, countries are going to interfere in the internal affairs of one another. It is an era in which no country stands alone.

Many of us might disagree with the criticism of Jamaica by HRW for its alleged mistreatment of homosexuals and the stigmatisation of HIV/AIDS victims but we have always been an open and democratic country. Therein lies part of our greatness.

However, we must conduct our affairs in such a manner so as not to cause any country or international body to criticise us, and if they do so without justification we should set the record straight.

The government charged HRW with interfering in the domestic affairs of the country and dictating to it.

Of course, any repeal of the buggery laws and recognition of gay rights would leave the government wide open to charges of supporting homosexuality, and in Jamaica nothing could be more devastating to a government. Frankly, there has been a great deal of public hostility to homosexuality in this country and the state appears unable to do anything about it.

The government was provided with a golden opportunity to slap down HRW because of its stance on the issue of human rights for many years. The organisation, which has been rather outspoken against human rights violations by agents of the state in a number of cases, should not allow its effort to be dampened by the hostile reaction of the government.

Local human rights groups must remain vigilant, fully recognising that the price of freedom and justice is eternal vigilance.

There is a large number of gays in Jamaica and the number is swelling. There have been a great deal of hostility towards homosexuals by the public. For example, sometime ago, two homosexual males were caught in the act midday under a bridge near Grove Road and Half-Way-Tree.

Men and women with sticks, iron pipes and knives chased them and they took refuge in the security guard house at the Jamaica Public Service Company’s premises nearby. One of the women remarked that “because of them it is hard for me to get a man”. I tried to pacify the crowd but was accused of “being one of them too”. The two were eventually rescued by the police.

Gays are everywhere in Jamaica. The Jamaica Constabulary Force recruits people from a society which is predominantly anti-gay, and it would be too much to expect all of those who enter the force to be sympathetic to known homosexuals.

Yet in the last two years I have heard of only one case in which the police were accused of prosecuting a homosexual. Prosecution for buggery is rare in this country although it is a serious offence. It is only when homosexuals are caught performing the act in public that they are prosecuted.

Policemen appear not to be concerned with what takes place in the bedroom unless there is a serious offence like murder. Homosexuals hardly report criminal offences against each other.

In recent years, the police have had to do a lot of work in investigating murders committed by homosexuals against homosexuals.

Homosexuals are intensely jealous of their partners and this is where the real problem is. Police files show that over the past few years many homosexuals, including prominent Jamaicans, have been killed by their jealous lovers and the police have successfully investigated many of these murders.

The current debate on homosexuality, though interesting, is an exercise in futility and no change can be expected in the status quo.

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