VICE-PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals Rev Peter Garth has urged Jamaicans not to leave the repeal of buggery laws to parliamentarians, but instead called for a referendum on this issue, which has again taken centre stage with the recent endorsement of same-sex marriage by United States President Barack Obama.
“Don’t sit in Parliament and make a decision; let the Jamaican people decide,” Garth said as he addressed the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s head offices in Kingston.
Talks of repealing Jamaica’s buggery laws intensified following the political debates leading up to the December 29, 2011 General Election when then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller promised to review these laws if she was returned as prime minister.
Simpson Miller, who was returned as prime minister in the polls, also challenged a previous declaration by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding who told a BBC TV interviewer some years ago that no gays could serve in his Cabinet. She said she was not in favour of such a position and suggested that persons should be selected for Cabinet duties on the basis of their capacity to deliver.
Rev Peter Garth (right), vice-president of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, gestures while addressing yesterday’s Observer Monday Exchange. With him are members of the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (from left) Alexis Robinson, Dr Wayne West, Rev Dennis Jernigan and his wife Melinda. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)
Rev Garth argued, however, that it was not a human right to be a part of a Cabinet and any prime minister has a right to select persons to serve in this capacity. “He (Golding) was extremely bold to say what he did and I have no problem with that because if someone says that is my preference he must have that right just as how Obama has the right to come out and say what he said recently,” he added.
Last October, Britian’s Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his country would begin withholding aid from governments that do not reform legislation banning homosexuality.
But yesterday, Rev Garth, who strongly opposes the repeal of buggery law in Jamaica, said he took strong objection to this approach by international donors.
“This is a sovereign nation and I take strong objection whether it is the President of the United States of America, the Prime Minister of England or Australia trying to dictate what should happen in Jamaica. If the people decided against it they should not be saying they are going to cut off funding,” he said.
According to Rev Garth, there has been no research to show where the buggery laws have made Jamaica a more homophobic nation. “You look at the incidence (violence against homosexuals) in Jamaica and I am placing it on the table that majority of those acts are infighting,” the churchman said.
Meanwhile, attorney-at-law and member of the Jamaica Coalition for Healthy Society Alexis Robinson said Jamaicans must realise that there are some things which were more important than pandering to international agendas.
“We will not come under a new form of colonialism and we will not allow England or America or anyone else to tell us how we should be who we are,” Robinson said, adding that Jamaicans were one of the few people in the United Nations who stood up for the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.
“We have a huge international voice, and it is time for us to use that in a positive way,” she told Observer reporters and editors.
She further questioned if Jamaicans want a Jamaica which is open to everything, resulting in the rapid decline of culture and family. “It is short-sighted that we accept something and 20 years from now we have nothing to hold on to as a result, or do we want to say no this is who we are as a people we will not bow to international pressure,” she said.