by Janet Silvera – Gleaner News
MEMBERS OF the Jamaica Constabulary Force are incensed at remarks made on Tuesday by attorney-at-law and South West St Ann Member of Parliament (MP) Ernest Smith.
The MP had made stinging comments about the lawmen in Parliament, saying the force was “overrun” by gays.
Chairman of the Police Officers’ Association (POA), Superintendent Michael James, told The Gleaner yesterday that since media reports surfaced about Smith’s assertion, members of the institution have been infuriated.
According to James, the POA will meet with the leadership of the Police Federation today and a statement would be issued on the matter shortly thereafter.
He said a response would be made before the end of the week.
However, the force is not the only group angered by Smith’s statement, as the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) says his comments in Parliament were a threat to democracy.
The group yesterday called on the Jamaica Labour Party and parliamentarians to examine the statement, acknowledge the danger contained within, and have Smith account for his “wanton and reckless behaviour” in the nation’s Parliament.
Smith drew the wrath of the group when, during his contribution to the parlia-mentary debate on the sexual offences legislation, he expressed concern that “homosexuals in Jamaica have become so brazen, they’ve formed themselves into organisations”.
The government MP also statedthat homosexuals were “abusive (and) violent” and called on the minister of national security to account for why so many of them were licensed firearm holders.
Smith also called for a tightening of the anti-buggery law. (Life Imprisonment)
“Homosexuals in Jamaica have the same rights as other citizens, including those to bear arms and to employment in the security forces,” read a statement from J-FLAG yesterday.
“J-FLAG denounces Smith’s statement as being not only an amazing display of backwardness and unmitigated bigotry, but also as anti-democratic and sinister.”
Refusing to take the issue lightly, the group described Smith’s presentation as a “diatribe” and offensive on several levels.
“First, he has made a sweeping statement about thousands of Jamaicans about whom he knows very little,” said Jason McFarlane, programme manager for J-FLAG. “What evidence does he have to suggest that gays and lesbians as a group are more violent and abusive than other Jamaicans? This kind of stereotyping from a parliamentarian is inflammatory and highly irresponsible.”
The group said it was concerned that in a climate characterised by extreme violence, Smith’s statement could provide another justification for mobs to attack gays and lesbians on suspicion that they contribute to the country’s high level of crime and violence.
Exposed to hostility
In the past, persons suspected to be homosexuals have been beaten, stoned and had their homes burnt.
“Mr Smith has also exposed the security forces to the spectre of public ridicule and hostility in a society where the slightest hint of homosexuality is a trigger for suspicion and scorn,” McFarlane added. “This is stress that no member of security needs or deserves, particularly at this time.”
According to McFarlane, his organisation also fears that Smith’s unsubstantiated assertions about the number of gays in the armed forces might trigger a witch-hunt that could destabilise the security forces in general but the constabulary force in particular.
“This would be an extremely unfortunate situation, especially at a time when the police need to focus their energies on law enforcement in defence of the hundreds of victims and potential victims of crime.”