Last edited: December 12, 2004

Charge Those Groups for Sedition

Jamaica Observer, November 25, 2004

Dear Editor,

Over the past decade we have witnessed the rise of the so-called “human rights” groups and lobbyists selecting the state and the police force as target of their venom. I am aware that some of these groups have professional activists.

Their aim includes harassing the state in return for finance from international human rights organisations. They enable international groups to dictate to sovereign governments and their people how to conduct themselves.

The report presented by the foreign organisation blasted the government and the police for condoning criminal acts and discriminatory behaviour. I condemn this group and its local accomplices for deliberately maligning the police and the state.

The report by Human Rights Watch “accused the government and the police force of turning a blind eye to the rampant abuse of homosexual males and persons living with HIV/AIDS”. The local accomplices of the international grouping are calling for an independent body to investigate these allegations.

I note with concern the tactics of using unsubstantiated charges to attack a sovereign government and people. We as Jamaicans and the police in particular condemn the continuous and illegal interference by international interest groups who have no understanding of the culture of this country.

We must not be held responsible for a culture that was imposed upon us by a colonial regime. We are also guided by our Christian principles, which we accept as good moral values.

The government and the police cannot be held responsible for either the careless liaisons by homosexuals or the cultural responses of the population towards gays. As law enforcement officers we try our utmost “to serve, to reassure and to protect”. We recognise also that the constitution of this country has its defects.

Equally, we recognise that it is the right of the Jamaican people to challenge these defects. I condemn the role of these so-called “human rights” groups to spread lies and deliberately malign and slander the police force and the government.

Enough is enough; we are calling on the Minister of Justice to examine these allegations and slap on sedition charges where necessary to both foreign and local agents of provocation.

Sergeant David White
Public Relations officer
Jamaica Police Federation

Sergeant White’s Letter Is Offensive

Jamaica Observer, November 28, 2004

Dear Editor,

The Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights and Jamaicans for Justice take grave exception to the comments and accusations made by Sergeant David White of the Police Federation in a letter published in the Jamaica Observer of Thursday, November 25, 2004.

These comments are particularly disturbing coming from a serving member of the JCF, and an official representative of the Police Federation.

The entire tone and content of Sgt White’s letter is offensive and unworthy of a senior representative of the federation, beginning with his opening paragraph when he speaks of the “rise of the so-called ‘human rights’ groups and lobbyists”.

He then accuses local human rights groups of joining with international human rights groups to “spread lies and deliberately malign the police force and government” and calls on the “minister of justice to examine these allegations and slap on sedition charges where necessary to both foreign and local agents of provocation”.

The Jamaican Constitution, which the Government as well as the members of the police force are sworn to uphold, protects freedom of expression, association and conscience, and we take very seriously the seeming recommendation by a police organisation that these freedoms be curtailed.

Sedition is conduct or language inciting people to rebellion against the constituted authority in a state, and we challenge Sgt White to identify what in the language or conduct of human rights groups he sees as incitement to rebellion against the Government.

Sgt White should also be aware of the principle that it is not for the minister to decide on the prosecution of persons, and it gives us great concern that a person in such a responsible position should believe that these decisions ought to be made by politicians.

Sgt White also accuses international groups of “continuous and illegal interference”, and we call on him to identify what are the laws that he believes are being broken by groups such as Human Rights Watch.

We would remind Sgt White, the Police Federation and the Government of Jamaica that we are signatories to many United Nations instruments and treaties which acknowledge the universality of human rights, the obligation of the Government to protect and promote these rights (both locally and internationally), and which impose reporting obligations on the situation of these rights on the Government.

Jamaica has had a proud record of upholding the universality of human rights, irrespective of national sovereignty, as in when we led the fight to isolate the sovereign South African Government because of its policy of Apartheid which infringed the human rights of the majority Black population. In that case we, quite rightly, spoke up for the rights of citizens of a sovereign state, against a sovereign government, acknowledging that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’.

Sgt White’s letter also contains many other instances of offensive language, and ridiculous statements such as “Their aim includes harassing the state in return for finance from international human rights organisations”, and his use of the term “accomplices” to describe local human rights groups.

The police force is the beneficiary of financial support from foreign governments and organisations but should not be tainted by that fact.

We urge the Police Federation, and the Government of Jamaica to respond publicly and promptly to Sgt White’s letter, disassociating themselves from this inflammatory call for the laying of sedition charges, which, it appears, is based on ignorance of local and international law, the Constitution of Jamaica and the rights of all human beings.

Failure to do so may give the dangerous impression that the Government finds these views of Sgt White to be acceptable.

Susan Goffe
Jamaicans For Justice

Lloyd Barnett (Dr)
Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights

The Sergeant Does a Disservice to Himself and Police Credibility

Jamaica Observer, November 28, 2004

Dear Editor,

We consider that Sgt David White does a disservice to himself and to the credibility of rank and file police in his letter appearing in your November 25, 2004 edition. He was expressing his apparent outrage at allegations made by Human Rights Watch in a recently-launched publication.

We remind Sgt White of advice given to him in a June 2, 2004 Observer editorial titled “No time for grandstanding, Sgt White”. The editor wrote: “We would suggest that Sgt White climb down from the dais, end the posturing and enter into a serious, measured, reasoned and practical negotiation on behalf of his constituents. The process has to be credible for it to be sustainable.”

We believe that a “serious, measured, reasoned” approach in this instance would require awaiting independent investigations of the allegations made in the document published by Human Rights Watch.

The business of policing is far too important to be lost in Sgt White’s emotive references to human rights activists as “accomplices” who ought to be charged with sedition for attacks on the Government and the people.

We hope Sgt White will not be too long diverted from the many serious challenges faced by rank and file police. For example, police performance suffers when cops are burdened by inadequate pay, long working hours, limitations of resources, the appalling state of many police stations, and the presence of corrupt and brutal elements in the police force.

The case for improved conditions of service (where resources are scarce) is likely to be enhanced if the public perceives the police force as credible.

The police deserve the quality of leadership that will bring the public, including the human rights groups, into partnership with the police force to solve crime. On the other hand, injudicious and intemperate statements seem construed to harden positions of “us” against “them”.

Jamaica’s escalating levels of crime and violence indicate the urgency of engaging in rational dialogue rather than verbal abuse when disagreements occur.

We trust Sgt White can be persuaded to represent the interests of rank and file police, not by seeking to limit democratic freedoms, but by seeking to ensure that all civilians can trust the police to respect their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Yvonne McCalla Sobers
Families Against State Terrorism

AI Urges Police to Reaffirm Commitment to Equal Protection for All

Jamaica Observer, December 2, 2004

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express Amnesty International’s grave concern at the recent accusation by the Police Federation that the legitimate work of human rights organisations constitutes “illegal activity” and amounts to an attempt to overthrow the government of Jamaica (sedition). Such comments are an attack on freedom of speech and run counter to the Jamaican Constitution.

In a letter published on November 25, Sergeant David White, the Police Federation’s public relations officer, accused international and domestic human rights groups of harassing the state. He alleged that they “spread lies and deliberately malign and slander the police force and the government”. He also stated that their activities amount to “illegal interference”, but did not specify which laws had been violated.

Sergeant White also stated in this letter that “the government and the police cannot be held responsible for the cultural response of the population towards gays”.

It is deeply concerning that these comments could be interpreted as condoning acts of violence or threats against gay men and women, and may constitute a veiled threat by the police to withhold protection to the gay community. The organisation calls upon the Jamaican police to explicitly reaffirm their commitment to provide equal protection to all sections of society regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor.

Amnesty International calls on the Police Federation to withdraw these remarks and requests that the Jamaican authorities ensure that those who defend human rights can continue their legitimate work without fear, by explicitly stating their support for such activities, guaranteeing the required protection and by ensuring that those who threaten human rights defenders are held accountable.

Piers Bannister
Amnesty International

Amnesty International Steps Into Jamaican Homophobia Row - November 29, 2004

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