Another Gleaner Editorial – No accountability for MP Smith

Just a word – It is refreshing to see a balanced approach to the comments being made in regards to MP Smith’s error in Parliament recently. The newspapers as you may have noticed have been awashed with commentry, here is another one in today’s Gleaner Editorial – 23.02.09

Garth Rattray

It wasn’t until my wife exclaimed, “What!?” from an adjoining room that I began to believe my ears and eyes. A parliamentarian, a lawyer, a representative of the people and sworn defender of their rights was spouting some of the most uninformed, prejudiced, malicious and inciting drivel I have ever heard.

How can we criticise our ignorant and uneducated deejays who say that ‘Gays fi dead’ when, during a parliamentary debate on the sexual offences legislation, Ernie Smith, a highly-educated Member of Parliament (MP), openly asserted that gays were brazen, abusive and violent? He announced that he wanted the minister of national security to explain why so many of them were holders of legal firearms! He even advocated that homosexuals should be sentenced to life behind bars if they had coitus.

I began contemplating what triggered his inaccurate and hate-filled outburst when, he became intoxicated by his own magnificence and proceeded to allude to a newspaper intimation about the profligacy of homosexuality within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that went unchallenged. I was flabbergasted when he animatedly proclaimed that the Force was overrun by gays. His pontificating was obviously facilitated by his knowledge of parliamentary privilege (legal immunity from civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made related to one’s duties in the legislature). Unfortunately, he conveniently forgot that with this privilege comes great responsibility.

Why this disproportionate preoccupation with homosexuals anyway? Are they the root cause of our many serious and pressing economic and social problems? Will banishing them from society solve our woes? How come we don’t see this level of passionate anger being unleashed on murderous criminals? Rich and powerful people take all kinds of advantage (including sexual) of their underlings, destroy lives and get away with it all the time. Where’s the rant about that?

Deleterious consequences

Reckless, unfounded, unfair, inflam-matory and untrue statements from respected people (who should know better) do irreparable harm and have serious, deleterious consequences. The MP eventually apologised for some of the things that he said, but the damage was already done. Thanks to him, people will feel justified in persecuting gays and criminals now have one more reason to hate the police.

What does it say about Jamaica, when a member of our honourable house of Parliament feels free to lambaste, single out and attack a non-criminal sub-set of society and label its members as violent people – effectively painting bull’s eyes on their backs? What does it tell the world about us when a parliamentarian can unfairly target, malign and endanger the entire constabulary?

Although we can’t fathom the determinants of human sexual orientation, as a society, we should not prejudge others. Decrying the MP’s actions has nothing to do with defending homosexuality; it has everything to do with defending the human rights of all our citizens. It wrongly portrays our entire nation as backward and insular when a public official, a member of Parliament can openly and unabashedly demonstrate intolerable prejudice and commit an egregious betrayal of trust.

He should resign

I have absolutely nothing personal against Smith, but, nearly two weeks after the fact, I am curious about the paucity of official responses to his defamatory eruption. However, what surprises me most of all is that this administration simply distanced itself from his tirade and did not condemn it. And, he has been allowed to continue serving in a public office as a representative of the people without any consequences of his actions. In any other civilised democratic society, he would have had to offer his resignation.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. He may be reached at garthrattray@gmail.com or columns@gleanerjm.com.

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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