No Country Stands Alone
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
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
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
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
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
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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