Another Condemnation on MP Smith’s Comments

Raulston Nembhard

To be a member of parliament and thus an elected official is not a position to be trivialised or taken for granted. It is a privilege that carries serious responsibilities by the one so elected. Election to the JamaicanParliament carries no less a responsibility for those who are privileged to make far-reaching decisions that will affect the lives of all Jamaicans.

It is in this regard that the recent diatribe against the homosexual community by Mr Ernest Smith, the MP for South West St Ann, is to be seen. Mr Smith is not a newcomer to Parliament, and even if he were a newcomer his rant against that community would be hardly forgivable. By his own words, Mr Smith expressed alarm at the growing influence of that community, their legitimacy to hold firearms and that the Jamaica Constabulary Force, from what he saw in a newspaper, is “overrun” by homosexuals.

As a lawyer, Mr Smith knows that these views so irresponsibly stated with reckless disregard for the facts, could not be spoken outside of the protective confines of Parliament. As a lawyer, he should have more than a visceral concern for truth and not allow his professional ethics to be sullied by what appear to be statements that he obviously has not investigated and on whose authority truth is emasculated.

He knows that the privilege he enjoys as a parliamentarian can allow him and others to speak all kinds of foolishness without any fear of being hauled before the courts. Indeed, the Parliament of Jamaica has been used and abused by parliamentarians to vent their personal hatred and impugn the reputation of individuals and institutions with which they have a personal peeve. Parliament is no longer seen as a medium for intelligent discourse about the nation’s business.

What should be robust and vigorous debate often descends into juvenile heckling and infantile bluster. It has become a place of entertainment, but the laugh really is on the people of Jamaica.

In a homophobic society as Jamaica, Mr Smith’s rant can serve to reinforce the hatred that many Jamaicans express toward this community. In fact, in some jurisdictions, his rant would be interpreted as hate speech punishable by law. But then again, Mr Smith knows that his statements in Parliament are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is time that this policy is re-examined, for no one should easily sully the reputation of any individual or institution in Jamaica and not face prosecution by the laws of the land.

Whatever one may think of homosexuals (and let me fairly disclose that I am not one and have never had any inclinations to be one), the rights of a Jamaican citizen to bear firearms, to freely assemble and form organisations should not be predicated on his or her sexual preferences.

The ability to protect oneself and property is a constitutional guarantee that should be open to any Jamaican, however “straight” or “bent” he or she may be. On sober reflection, Mr Smith may want to reconsider his position. He has given a lame apology to the police force for obvious reasons. He must now go on and do the decent thing and apologise to the homosexual community and the people of Jamaica, not only for the content of his speech but also for lowering the barof intelligent debate in the people’s Parliament. But who is holding his breath on this?

Opposition, People’s National Party condemns anti gay comments as dangerous precedence

The PNP issued a statement condemning the anti gay sentiments expressed by MP Ernest Smith last week, reported on a radio news item the opposition called the comments a dangerous precedence and diatribe, the MP’s comments could be seen as insighting violence against homosexuals given the strong anti gay sentiments in the society, the statement was reported to have said also that the member of Parliament’s utterances could expose innocent persons to grave danger and prejudice, the PNP labelled Mr. Smith’s allegations that homosexuals have a propensity to commit violent acts as unfounded and inflammatory.

They lambasted the MP saying that he lacks the evidence to state the police force is overrun by gays, it called on all political leaders to refrain from excesses of language or extreme positions that may insight violence or discriminatory conduct against any minority group in Jamaica, the opposition also said this is particularly important to the homosexual community given the deep seated cultural aversion to homosexuality in Jamaica.

The physical safety and broader human rights of these citizens should not be undermined by gratuitous political grandstanding on the issue, it notes Mr. Smith’s intransigence has now extended to a crusade calling for the outlawing of the association formed to promote the human rights of the homosexual community in Jamaica, JFLAG.

The PNP said it is calling on the government to state publicly that it rejects Mr. Smith’s series of pronouncements, coming from a government MP, his unbalanced comments can only damage Jamaica’s international reputation for respecting the human rights of all citizens.

From Schifrah……on Get it Right

Schifrah is an avid reader of our blog based on the comments made on several of our posts, here is another in response to a letter in today’s Gleaner “Too many cowards in Jamaica” and is posted below named “Get it right”
Schifrah whoever and wherever you are, you are on the ball, thanks for your participation as activism and vigilance like this we need more. Peace

The Response from Schifrah
Let me respond to this letter point by point.

1. What could be more cowardly than Mr. Smith using his “parliamentary privilege” to protect himself from libel (as pointed out by LLoyd B. Smith ) JCF of being over-run by homosexuals. Needless to say he has no evidence to back his claim but a spurious sensationalized “news” story . Mr Smith is no better than the white southern racist who had the weight of the Jim Crow laws behind him in the Southern US so he could stand in the street and shout ” Nigger” at every passing person of colour. Those Jim Crow laws were not justifiable and neither are the sodomy laws.

2. Buggery is against the law …I believe that the correct term is sodomy. This does not in essence address homosexuality which is NOT against the law.In fact the dear writer might be interested to know that for many heterosexual couples, anal sex is a normal part of sex play, as is oral sex. Are we going to lock up (lets conservatively say) even 20% of our straight and gay population for consensual sodomy…or are we going to honestly address issues of sex and sexuality in the hope of saving another generation from the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Given that in this region that heterosexual transmission accounts for over 80% of the new HIV cases I think that the dialogue is urgently needed.

3. I am a Jamaican contrary to the implication otherwise, and I live here. The “crude and nasty e-mail” forwarded to you was only “crude and nasty” in that it quoted the lyrics of Jamaican dancehall songs, in the hope that you would take the piece of lumber out your own eye before picking on a speck. Furthermore the lyrics quoted in the specific piece were misogynistic hardly homophobic.

4. What I do in my bedroom is none of your business. I don’t ask what you do in yours? Frankly I’m not interested. Our sexual orientation (yours or mine) should not be anyones business. I do know that my partner is adult and we are involved in a loving relationship. We do not harm children and we are responsible tax paying citizens who are entitled to the same rights and privileges as any other human being.

5. How is espousing tolerance, acceptance and human rights lowering ones standards? The thin veneer of moral superiority that Ms. Foote and Mr E. Smith have adopted, is simply that of individuals who need to find scapegoats to blame for the ills in the society over which they have no control. We see this being done in Rwanda, where the Hutu Government blamed the Tutsi minority for the evils in the society. This led to the massacre of over 800,000 Tutsis. The Nazis did the same in Germany…over 6 million Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals were murdered.

Instead of finding scapegoats we should be addressing the real problems in Jamaica: crime; the lack of self esteem among our young men who afraid of being called “gay” don’t do well at school, and continue to underachieve all because they must fit in to rigid gender roles; the present economic crises, the continued abuse of our children…those are the real problems.

What consenting adults John and Jim or Jane and Jill do in their bedroom at night(or day) is not a socio political or moral issue.

Homophobic Yet Homosocial (Repost)

Originally published in the Star 26.11.08 by Playwright and actor Paul
“Blakka” Ellis, this a popular piece so we decided to repost it, it’s one of those instances where someone takes a good look at ourselves without prejudice just straight facts and reasoning.

Some Jamaican brethren love to run off mouth about how dem love woman and brag ’bout dem nuh pet man. Yes, big man, start counting the number of activities that you participate in, exclusively with other ‘man friends’. Calculate the amount of time you spend with members of your own sex.

Now, compare that with your quality engagement and time spent with the opposite sex. I’ll bet all the money I lost in Cash Plus that when the situations are objectively compared, many men will find that they spend more time and energy dedicated to activities with other men than with women. Isn’t that funny? But, as I’m never tired of saying, we are a case study in contradiction. Is true, man! Many Jamaican men seem to be violently homophobic, yet passionately ‘homosocial’ at the same time. Check it, dem burn fire on men who sleep with men but di only company dat dem keep is men.

Some roughneck, macho men seem totally happy to spend 20 hours of one day socialising with a bag a man and then share the remaining four hours with a woman. And, those four hours are likely to involve maybe 15 minutes of talk, 45 minutes of sex and three hours of sleep. In fact, one man made it clear to me that, as far as he’s concerned, the main thing to do with the opposite sex was sex.

Strip poker

When asked if he talks or plays with his lady, he said he hardly talks, he mainly sends text messages. Quoting an old joke, he said the only game he plays with his girlfriend is strip poker, with the aim being for her to strip and for him to ‘poke her’. He went on to seriously assert that men, who spend a lot of time with women, are sissies. What do you think?

I think it’s kind of sad. Plenty men just don’t treat social, emotional or intellectual engagement with women as a central part of their life. It’s like they marginalise their dealings with women to the extent that any relationship with a woman that doesn’t involve sex, gets minimal time, limited space and zero value. And, the women, with whom we share conjugal relations, sometimes only get personal attention when it’s time for them to ease our sexual tension.

Potential conquest

You know, there are men, who have no genuine women friends? You realise that there are men out there, who can only see women as objects of potential conquest? And, some of those same men love and idolise other men, who they describe as their ‘God, dads and general’!

Some men work all day with men, spend evening chilling and talking with other men, then spend the weekend playing with men again. They eat and drink with men, ‘par and link’ with men, then smoke and joke with men again. That’s how I see it yah and I don’t care who vex. Some men do every single thing with other men – except sex – and the one deggeh-deggeh thing dem do with women is sex.

But, guess what happen in the process? We miss out on opportunities to learn, grow and build mutual respect with our sisters. Look nuh, I love sex, I adore women and I value the many things I can share with them. Yeah, man, that’s one of the reasons why I’m a big fan of co-education. If it does nothing else, mixed-sex schooling helps boys to learn, from early, that there are many fulfilling experiences to share with girls, including, but not limited to sex!

JFLAG refers to constitution, Writer encourages legal action

The Editor, Sir:

In responding to Member of Parliament Ernest Smith, 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.”

My comments from the above: Mr Smith, in the public interest, should seek a declaration from the courts on the legality of J-Flag and its activities. Just raising it is not good enough – he should take action!

I am, etc.,
Norman Lee

Get it Right please

Another crude attempt to smear our name

This letter to the editor in today’s Gleaner 18.02.09 seeks to attempt to smear our name, below find the letter,original post (Feb 5, 2009) and response to the previous letter alluded to and judge for yourself. The writer says too many cowards but conveniently left out the email contact this time around. Coward eh?

the Letter
“Too many cowards in Jamaica”
The Editor, Sir:
The one thing Jamaica has one too many of these days, is cowards. I applaud MP Ernest Smith for not being one and for commenting on something that I have wondered about myself for some time now. Buggery is against the law and yet we have people who have publicly, by their own admission, via their association (JFLAG), announced that they practice it. Imagine, publicly announcing that you have committed and will continue to commit crimes and you are not behind bars? Where is the law?

Crude and nasty email
Subsequent to my letter asking a radio station to keep lewd music off the airwaves, JFLAG forwarded a rather crude and nasty email to me, ostensibly from one of their bloggers. In fact, others of similar ilk who wrote to me (primarily foreigners who were apparently homosexual themselves), had nothing to offer but expletives and who sought to ‘chide’ me (I’m understating a bit) for things that I did not say.
For instance, they all did suggest that I espoused music that promoted violence against them – which I do not. I was encouraged, though, that there were many well-thinking and sane Jamaicans who responded, who were not lowering their standards at all.
I am, etc.,
M. Foote
Spanish Town

The response
See the Original post:Katy Perry Song complaint from a letter to the Gleaner
(the reposnse was also published)

from Schifrah
True! better that your daughter listen to “traditional” Jamaican lyrics that promote violence and misogyny:

example 1…Girl ah wanna push on you wit dis ting protruding, youre acting kinda shy, still i will be intruding… (Sizzla)

Example 2….Cock up yuh bumpa a likkle moreCock it up mek mi slam it like a door(Put yuh hands on di floor!!!)Yuh hear mi love it when mi talk to herSplit and spread out like manure …(Elephant Man)

Example 3. “Oh! Rub up di fat piece a somethin on my willy Long time she tell mi seh she waan mi fi filly ” (Capleton)

Um… can someone explain to me why the Kate Perry lyrics are somehow more offensive than these? Nuff said!

Letter to the Gleaner Editor – MP’s views on gays backward

I FIND IT really disgusting that a member of parliament in today’s world could make such comments about J-FLAG. He should be made to apologise to the Jamaican people for his bigoted views.

A member of parliament should speak for the Jamaican People – gay or straight, black and white – no matter what, he should not condemn anyone.

Because of outdated laws, we Jamaicans are known around the world for our violent behaviour and our intolerance. It is about time our leaders showed the world that Jamaicans are not just a proud people, but as well tolerant and peaceful

We are not just mind-blowing thugs with hate for others who are different from us. I believe there may come a time when Jamaica will be respected around the world, not just for its comedy and Bob Marley, but for its motto ‘Out of many, one people’.

I am, etc.,

J Windsor
Luton , Bedfordshire

Would Lawyer MP Ernest Smith Represent Gays?

Lloyd B Smith

The story has been told about a certain member of parliament who dreamt that he was addressing his colleagues in the House only to wake up and find out that he was! Was North West St Ann MP Ernest (Ernie) Smith dreaming when he spoke in Gordon House recently, or was he for real when he addressed the issue of homosexuality?
Needless to say that his often vituperative, sometimes thought-provoking, but for the most part outlandish utterances have created an intellectual nightmare for those of us who embrace fair play and basic common sense.

Using the protective cloak of parliamentary privilege, the learned gentleman lambasted “gays”, describing them as being violence-prone and should therefore not be allowed to have licensed firearms. And as if this was not enough, this esteemed lawmaker (because that is what each parliamentarian is) then went on to intimate that the Jamaica Constabulary Force was being overrun by homosexuals. In essence, a “straight” lawmaker versus “bent” law enforcers?

A soap opera in the making indeed! Mr Smith further went on to add more fuel to his already inflammatory speech by saying that because a Gleaner story purporting this to be so was not denied publicly by the JCF, then it may well be so.

SMITH… needs to rewind and come again
The eminent and astute attorney-at-law that he is, Mr Smith well knows that if he had made such a statement outside of Gordon House, he could have faced a libel suit of tremendous proportions, whether from individual members of the police force or collectively. His seeming attack may well be deemed by many as an act of cowardice. And what about the legal tenet which deals with the presumption of innocence? Why should we assume that the majority of policemen and policewomen in the JCF are homosexuals without the evidence to corroborate such a claim?

In any event, homosexuality is not a crime in Jamaica; it is buggery, the act of two persons, usually men, having anal intercourse. An archaic law which most enlightened countries have expunged from their law books. One is not aware that every police station in Jamaica is a “romping shop” of whatever kind and from my own observation, the JCF comprises many decent, Christian, morally upright men and women who have sworn to uphold the laws of the land. You see, the word homosexuality is a generic term although most people tend to think that a homosexual is automatically of the male species. And this is a very important point to make because part and parcel of the homophobic mentality in Jamaica is that lesbians are usually more tolerated than male homosexuals. In fact, many so-called heterosexual men get very turned on watching lesbian women “romping around”.

And there’s the rub (no pun intended)!
My question to Mr Smith and those who support his misguided posture is: How does he propose to rid the society of homosexuals, whether those in the force or otherwise? Years ago when the United States Army was faced with a similar predicament under then President Bill Clinton, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was developed. Who in their right mind in Jamaica would willingly admit that he or she is gay?
And how does one identify a homosexual? This is risky business because even when two men are caught in the act, this does not automatically mean they are both gay. After all, it is well known that some straight men do go to bed with a homosexual counterpart for money, a job or other favours.

Contrary to the popular perception, not all homosexuals are effeminate or prissy. Some of the most macho men in our society behind closed doors are quite comfortable being on the ‘down low’. On the other hand, not all men who behave or look like women are homosexuals. Some years ago, I had to counsel a male student of a prominent high school who had been ostracised, ridiculed, neglected and vilified by his father (a policeman) because he acted and spoke like a girl.

The young man was adamant that he was not gay but because he had grown up with his single mom who saw him as the apple of her eye he had somehow developed these traits. Today, that young man, thanks to my counselling and his strength of character, has graduated from university, is working and is happily leading a heterosexual lifestyle.
Unfortunately, he has not been able to forgive his father for the way he was treated by him, so they are yet to be reconciled.

Against this background, Mr Smith should have been more responsible in his remarks, lest he become, whether wittingly or unwittingly, an advocate for gay-bashing or even worse, the eradication and persecution of such people in the society, because innocent lives could forever be damaged or lost. Would he want that on his conscience? And what if someone who was so treated came to him for legal assistance, would he refuse to handle the case? In other words, in the same way a person who is deemed to be homosexual should not be given a firearm licence, should that person also be denied legal representation, assuming that no Jamaican lawyer is homosexual?

On a lighter note, perhaps the wily Mr Smith is hoping to get into a Bruce Golding reshuffled Cabinet by the back door?
After all, the Jamaica Labour Party leader had stated vehemently when asked during a BBC interview about accommodating gays in his administration: “Not in my Cabinet!” Mr Smith’s unrelenting stance on the issue of homosexuality should therefore put him in good stead with Mr Golding, thus making him a most suitable candidate for the post of minister of national security! By the way, is Mr Smith aware that some, if not all European countries are averse to approving loans to other countries which openly persecute or discriminate against people of varying sexual preferences, particularly homosexuals? It is in the fine print!

The bottom line is that we need to create a kinder, gentler and more tolerant society. Homosexuals ought not to flaunt their wares, so to speak, on John Public, but the fact that a person is thus sexually challenged should not mean that he or she is less of a human being. Not all homosexual men prey on young boys, and there are latent homosexuals who never get involved with men as well as some gays who do not engage in buggery. If one is to go by Mr Smith’s theory, though, then we would have to adopt the Animal Farm philosophy that all men are created equal but some are more equal than others. Is this in line with the JLP espoused tenet of equal rights and justice for all?

It has been said that it is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be deemed misguided than to open it and remove all doubt. Mr Smith needs to rewind and come again. In the meantime, all well-thinking citizens should say to our good friend, “Moutamassi Ernie, kibba yuh mout!”

Interesting Letter to the Gleaner’s Editor – Gays in the Church

The Editor, Sir:

It is ridiculous how much time the Jamaican society spends debating the gay issue when there are so many others in the society and the Church, as a whole, to be addressed.

Why are the churches shunning them? Are they not entitled to hear the word of God? If so, why aren’t the adulterers, liars and thieves thrown out? We know there are many of these types of people in the Church who go every week and pretend to be Christians only to go home and continue their sinful behaviour.

The church has no right to try and force change on anyone. It won’t work. If a person desires change and looks to God for it and believes God is powerful enough to grant his or her desire, it will happen. No pastor can counsel it to happen; the individual must come to that decision himself or herself.

Reconditioning not simple

I do not feel you can ‘recondition’ gay people. I’d like to ask these so-called Christians if they would be able to just switch their heterosexual desires to homosexual ones if counselled enough to do so? To believe that homosexuality is a choice is ludicrous. Why would someone choose to be a target for violence in such a homophobic society, to be shunned from churches, disowned by family, lose jobs and lose friends?

God preached compassion towards all sinners. All the people trying to keep gays out of the Church because they believe it is sinful should be pushed out the Church themselves. Since everyone is a sinner, the churches should be empty.

People do not have to accept homosexuality but everyone has the right to live and choose to live how he or she wants, especially if they are not bringing harm to others.

I am, etc.,

Altamonte Springs

Outlaw J-Flag Smith MP says it could inspire wave of illegal groups

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”.