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JAMAICA | JLP vote against Parliament hearing from detainees and their families - PNP Appalled

Featured Chairman of the Internal and External Committee of Parliament, PNP Shadow Minister of National Security, Fitz Jackson. Chairman of the Internal and External Committee of Parliament, PNP Shadow Minister of National Security, Fitz Jackson.
KINGSTON, Jamaica, November 27, 2018. The Internal and External Committee of Parliament, which has been looking at the operation of the State of Emergency in St. James since last week, has voted against a motion which would give detainees and their families an opportunity to take their complaints before parliament.

The motion, put forward by PNP Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna, was for the JCF as well as State of Emergency detainees and their families to appear before the committee.

However, the committee this afternoon by a margin of 3 PNP  to 4 JLP voted against the motion. This did not go down well with the Opposition members of the committee who said they were appalled at the vote.

"This has effectively shut the door in the faces of the detainees and their families, denying them the opportunity to give a first-hand narrative of their detention experience and the conditions existing in the detention centres," the PNP said in a press release this evening.

The Committee agreed that the police should be invited to the next sitting.

The vote came immediately after the Public Defender continued her report to the committee, chaired by PNP Shadow Minister of National Security, Fitz Jackson.

The PNP members said they condemned in the strongest possible terms the denial of an opportunity for Jamaicans to present their own stories to their own Parliament on the State of Emergency. What was worse, the PNP Parliamentarians said, was the decision to hear only from the agencies of the state, which the Public Defender’s report alleged had committed breaches of human rights and breaches of the Charter of Rights of the Jamaican constitution.

The PNP members termed the vote, “one of the darkest days in the history of the Jamaican Parliament” and denied the committee an opportunity to hear from citizens before the government comes back to Parliament with a motion to extend the state of public emergency in St. James.

The committee has been adjourned until January 2019 when it will hear from the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force.

In the meantime, the Public Defender Mrs Arlene Harrison-Henry says her office has been experiencing increased resistance from the police with each extension of the states of emergency.

Mrs Harrison Henry told Tuesday's sitting of Parliament's Internal and External Affairs Committee, that the police have been treating her office as if it is impeding or interfering with their work.

She pointed to a recent incident where her team was prevented from meeting with four women detained under the state of emergency  for some 26 days, and was told she needed to get the assistance of a Justice of the Peace in order to see them.

"We sought to investigate the circumstances under which they were being held...and the team was told on Friday that they could not enter the cells because there was nothing under the regulations that permit the Public Defender and a team to enter."

The Public Defender told the parliamentary committee that her office has received a total of 679 complaintts from the public about the state of emergency now in operation in Kingston, St. Catherine and St. James.

She outlined that 553 of those complaints have come from St. James, 86 from St. Catherine North and 40 from Kingston Western.

The Public Defender said that of the more than 3,600 people detained in St. James, fewer than 200 have been charged.

She lamented that the detainees are being held in inhumane conditions with only $300 a day allotted for meals for each inmate.
 
Mrs. Harrison-Henry observed that her office was being treated with scant regard as it relates to the performance of her duties: "So we do have concerns that there is a sense that we are impeding and interfering with police work and that could not be, that is so far from the truth but is important enough for us to bring it to the attention of the committee," she said.
 
Last modified onWednesday, 28 November 2018 07:21
  • Countries: Jamaica

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