ERNEST SMITH, the member of parliament (MP) for South West St Ann, is resolute in his stance against local gay-advocate group, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).
Smith told The Gleaner yesterday that the group’s continued existence, which he argued was illegal, could lead to other persons forming similar illegal organisations, such as paedophiles and ganja smokers’ associations.
“They should be outlawed! How can you legitimise an organisation that is formed for the purpose of committing criminal offences?” Smith declared.
J-FLAG was founded in December 1998 to provide a voice and community for sex minorities. Last week, Smith, a government backbencher, called on the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to instruct the police to investigate J-FLAG, with a view to having its members criminally charged.
However, DPP Paula Llewellyn has said she was not going to comment on Smith’s request.
Protection of interests
In responding to Smith last night, J-FLAG noted that Section 23 (1) of the Jamaican Constitution states: “No person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of peaceful assembly and association, that is to say, his right peacefully to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his interests.”
The group said: “J-FLAG has been able to operate successfully under this provision in the legislation for the past 10 years. J-FLAG agitates for legal and social change and we believe that there is always provision for any group to agitate for laws to be changed.”
Since his statement in Parliament last Tuesday, Smith has been lambasted by sections of the society for making undemocratic utterances. However, the MP, who is also an attorney-at-law, was unrepentant.
“A lot of people, for their own selfish underhanded purposes, seek to misconstrue the principles of democracy,” he said.
“Democracy, with all its freedoms, is not a licence for persons to encourage criminality or otherwise conspire to corrupt public morals.”
In his presentation to Parliament last week, Smith argued that the proper sentence for buggery should be life imprisonment, as in the case of grievous sexual assault.
Smith has, however, apologised for controversial comments he made about the police force during the same presentation in Gordon House last week. At that time, he described the police force as “overrun” by homosexuals.
The Jamaica Labour Party, in a statement issued on the weekend, distanced itself from Smith’s comments and urged the police not to be “distracted by (Smith’s) unfortunate remarks”.