“We have embarked on a process of consultation with other stakeholders, including civil society groups, human rights groups and the Western Bar to interrogate further the public defender's report of extensive human rights breaches by the Government of Jamaica.”
This is the word from Opposition Member of Parliament for St Catherine Southern and People's National Party Chairman Fitz Jackson, who told a press conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition yesterday that the parliamentary Opposition will not let the matter rest.
“We absolutely do not intend to let this matter rest and consequently, we have embarked on a process of consultation with other stakeholders, including civil society groups, human rights groups and the Western Bar to interrogate further the public defender's report of extensive human rights breaches by the Government of Jamaica,” Jackson said.
He was speaking about Tuesday's rejection by government members on parliament's Internal and External Affairs Committee of a motion moved by MP member of parliament for St Ann South Eastern,Lisa Hanna, to have people in St James, who were detained under the SOE, and their relatives, appear before it to testify about their experiences.
“We note that both the prime minister and the minister of national security have denied the basic facts as presented by the public defender, whose basic duties involve the protection of the rights of citizens as set out in the Charter of Rights in Jamaica's Constitution," said Jackson, who is also chairman of parliament's Internal and External Committee that is looking into the matter.
According to Jackson, detainees are being made to sleep on cold concrete floors; only $300 has been allocated for meals per detainee; detainees are being fed bush tea and hard dough bread; some are showing signs of diseases, including scabies and gastroenteritis; and families of detainees were never informed about their detention.
“This is not a moment of which we can be proud and provide excuses of justification of such treatment. We remain appalled and totally flabbergasted that a parliamentary committee would vote to deny an opportunity to citizens to speak directly to their representatives,” Jackson declared.
In the meantime, Lisa Hanna is concerned about what she says was silence from children's advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison in the face of the public defender's report, which disclosed that 105 children have been detained under the state of public emergency (SOE) in St James.
Hanna told the press conference that some 4,000 young men were detained under the SOE along with the children, and were being treated inhumanely, as conditions include lack of bedding, starvation, diseases, and the contamination of rations with human waste.
According to Hanna, there is evidence that looks at the toxicity and post-traumatic stress on children and youth who have been exposed to extreme situations such as the SOE.
“There's going to have to be serious interventions. Even in my own parliamentary statements and interventions on statements from Minister of National Security Horace Chang recently, I asked the question about what kind of psychosocial support and intermediary steps will be given to some of these young people, especially those children who were also detained.
“I haven't seen where the children's advocate is playing a serious role. I haven't seen whether or not they've called in the [Child Protection and Family Services Agency]. So it is critical. There is an absolute need for that kind of intervention,” she said.
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