As I mentioned, Jamaica is currently recognizing – and in most cases, celebrating – its 60th anniversary of Independence. This is such a large, round number that special attention is being paid to “Jamaica 60.” What progress has been made in the past six decades since the flag of the “Coloniser” descended a flagpole in Kingston at midnight on August 5, 1962 (more about how Jamaica’s national flag was chosen here).
By the way, the word “colonising” was used by Senator Lidia Thorpe, an indigenous Australian parliamentarian recently to describe Queen Elizabeth II, as she was sworn in with a clenched fist held high. She was interrupted and told to stick to the script of her oath of allegiance, which she eventually did – albeit in a sarcastic tone of voice. She had made her point, anyway.
Back to “decolonized” Jamaica. Perhaps this large number 60 has prompted some of us to go back to basics – to take a long, hard look at ourselves, including sections of Jamaica’s civil society. Jamaicans for Justice’s (JFJ) contribution to our attempts to clarify where we stand as an independent nation – right here and now – is most timely. The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms is referred to fairly often, but many Jamaicans don’t quite grasp what it contains. Many may not know that it even exists. A critical document such as this – a pact with the Jamaican people – should not be hidden in a veil of mystery, however. It must be accessible to all Jamaicans, just as human rights are for all Jamaicans.
Here is JFJ’s press release explaining what prompted them to publish this booklet, which is available online free of cost and in hard copy form for a small contribution.
The document can be found in digital format here.
JFJ releases booklet that simplifies the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms
Saturday, August 6, 2022 – In observation of Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of independence, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) released its booklet titled ‘Know Your Rights: The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Made Simple’. The fifty-page spread details the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms to increase the understanding of citizens as to the rights entitled to them.
The booklet simplifies the foundational principles within the constitution, detailing the rights and freedoms that govern all citizens. The information ranges from a history of human rights within the country; a breakdown of the branches of government, including their roles, powers, and authority; categorizing the various rights to also outline judicial rights and due process, civil and political rights, as well as some social and economic rights.
JFJ notes the long road to freedom for the nation, the continued journey towards full sovereignty, the sacrifices of our forefathers and foremothers, and their vision towards a core commitment to human rights values. According to the Executive Director of Jamaicans for Justice, Ms. Mickel Jackson, the organisation therefore found it most fitting to release the booklet on Independence Day.
“As the country celebrates its 60th year of independence, we do have some way to go to achieve the level of understanding of the rights and responsibilities among the totality of our citizens that is required for the maintenance and improvement of our constitutional democracy,” said Mickel Jackson. She stressed further that each new generation must acquire the knowledge and character necessary for a constitutional democracy, but that this effort requires strategic interventions by the government and participation by all stakeholders.
The organisation noted that in addition to its released booklet, through a series of videos, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, and via its digital platforms, JFJ will be explaining the basic concepts of constitutionalism, with an emphasis on helping citizens to understand what a constitution is and does, and why the constitution is relevant to their lives.
While welcoming the announcement of civics being taught in school, JFJ noted that more informal approaches will also be needed to reach those in communities and out of school. The organisation therefore encourages the government, through its Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture, to engage various stakeholders to assist in community-based interventions to increase information and constitutional understanding.
“As Jamaica moves towards constitutional reform and commences defining its legislative agenda, JFJ believes it is important that every citizen, no matter their levels of formal education, should be aware of their constitutional rights and responsibilities,” said Jackson. The organisation encourages people to read the book and be informed about their rights and entitlements so that they are better equipped to demand change and state accountability if or when their rights are infringed upon.
The released booklet is a part of the organization’s overall 3-year public education ‘Justice for All’ campaign, which was launched on July 21.