Just as Jamaicans were sitting down to enjoy their Sunday lunch, two days ago, some disturbing, but unsurprising news filtered through. The Director of Public Prosecutions announced that she had recommended to the police that no charges should be proffered against former Agriculture Minister Floyd Green and colleagues, who were enjoying champagne toasts at a fashionable Kingston hotel on one of our “no movement Sundays” during COVID-19 last year. It was Jamaica’s “Partygate,” and a big row had ensued last September when a video went viral of the happy band, unmasked, not social distancing – while the rest of the population were shut in at home, prohibited from going anywhere at all – let alone to a party.
How does that Jamaican proverb go? We use it quite a lot, because it is so relevant to our society:
Donkey seh de world nuh levelJamaican proverb translated as: The donkey says the world isn’t level – i.e. balanced, fair, equitable.
The news took quite a while to sink in (and spoiled our nice, quiet Sunday), but there are legal questions, ethical questions. Whatever the legal technicalities, and the complications and contradictions of it all that are now being discussed, my overall feeling is (perhaps like many other Jamaicans) that I did not expect anything else; but I feel deeply saddened that my expectations were realized.
Here is one reaction from the Advocates Network, who feel the same way as me and the donkey.
DPP Ruling Signals Persistence of Troubling Inequalities
Kingston, Jamaica, Tuesday, February 1, 2022. The Advocates Network is deeply troubled by the perceptions of inequality and double standards following the DPP’s ruling of no charges against participants at a birthday party with Minister Floyd Green in September 2021. The video that surfaced showed public officials and others wining and dining while many Jamaicans were suffering from the strict restrictions of no-movement days imposed on the nation to curtail the spread of the COVID pandemic.
Unfortunately, the DPP’s ruling (whether legally sound or not) has confirmed the views of many Jamaicans when they first saw the video… “nutting a cum outta dat!” These views are anchored in the perception and reality of the privileged elite, who skirt the law and get away with breaches under the DRMA. The illegal behaviours are seen by many who are afraid to speak. Many also witness poor, mainly black people paying high fines and being arrested for breaches under the DRMA, as experienced by Nzinga King. More than 6 months after her complaint about police abuse, Nzinga awaits a ruling from the DPP and she will again face the Court on a charge of violating the DRMA protocol.
Speaking at the Jamaica Stock Exchange Conference on January 25, 2022, Prime Minister Holness stated that he “cannot preside over a Jamaica where existing inequalities and unequal endowments follow us into the future.” With this in mind, we urge PM Holness to immediately do the following:
- Further modify the DRMA to address the loophole that allows exemptions for public officials who use their privilege to flout the law, perpetuating a culture of entitlement, while acting outside of their duties…clearly the amended DRMA was not intended to allow public officials to party during lockdown;
- Institute the Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians as promised in 2009 under Vision 2030; and
- Debate the Constitution (Amendment) (Impeachment) Bill tabled in 2021.
In the absence of these or other similar actions, the words of the Prime Minister will be viewed by many as empty and vacuous. As Jamaica grapples with rapidly declining morality, unprincipled and unethical behaviour across all segments of our society, we need rules and laws and a system of justice with teeth. We need a society where equity and justice must not only be done, “but must also be seen to be done.”
For more information, contact:
Indi Mclymont-Lafayette – Tel (876) 852-8763
Carla Gullotta – Tel (876) 362-4771
The Advocates Network is an unincorporated, non-partisan alliance of individuals and organizations advocating for human rights and good governance to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people of Jamaica and to transform lives. Our core objective is to forge an effective, broad-based collaboration of individuals and civil society organizations to support human rights and good governance issues.