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Monday, 2 January 2012

Jamaican elections: 'a lesson for all Caribbean cowardly politicians'

Source: Trinidad Express

President of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), Colin Robinson, says Jamaican Prime Minister-designate Portia Simpson-Miller did the right thing by stating quite clearly that she opposed the discrimination against homosexuals.

Simpson-Miller led the People's National Party (PNP) into victory in Thursday's general elections in Jamaica.

The country with a population of 2.8 million people has developed a worldwide reputation for its strong anti-homosexual views and acts of violence against homosexuals.

During a televised leadership debate on December 20 between herself and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, whose Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was voted out of office, Simpson-Miller said her administration believes in protecting the human rights of all Jamaicans.
"No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation," Simpson-Miller said.

"Government should provide the protection and I think we should have a look at the buggery law and that members of parliament should be given an opportunity to vote with their conscience on consultation with their constituents.

"But for me, I do not support the position of the former prime minister (Bruce Golding who said he would not appoint a gay person in his Cabinet) because people should be appointed to positions based on their ability and to lead."
Simpson-Miller said she has no intention of prying in the private business of anyone and will appoint anyone with the ability and capacity to manage in her Cabinet.

Robinson said Simpson-Miller's victory, in spite of her statements, is a lesson for all "Caribbean cowardly politicians".
"What the win says is that you do not lose an election by being supportive of the rights and the humanity of gay people," Robinson said.

"Similarly the JLP candidate, who was most outrageous (by) using homophobia as a campaign tool, lost his seat. So the other message is 'bun batty man' and beating the Bible on the backs of gay people will not win you elections."
Robinson said it is a signal to politicians that the issue of nondiscrimination against homosexuals does not carry the political liability they think it carries.
"The only reason that the politician has now to oppose full equality concerning gay people is their own prejudice."
The view was shared by the president of another local lobbyist group, Friends for Life, Luke Sinette. He said he fully endorses Simpson-Miller's statements.
"Gay people are full citizens just like anyone else," Sinette said.

"Gay persons should not only be allowed the same protections as anybody else under the law, but they should also be allowed the opportunity to serve their country just like anybody else. People should be allowed to be full citizens irrespective of race, class, gender, ethnicity and, of course, sexual orientation."
Lynette Vassell, a member of the Women Resource and Outreach Centre in Jamaica, told the Express the strategy used by the JLP in their attempt to discredit Simpson-Miller, backfired on the ruling party.
"It backfired because the issues on people's minds were more concrete and practical," Vassell said.

"I and a lot of right-thinking Jamaicans support the stance she took during the debate because what she is saying is that we need to open up a conversation around a matter that is very touchy in our context.

"What she has said is that she is going to open the debate around the repeal of the buggery Act and she is going to encourage parliamentarians to deal with it on an individual basis after consulting with their constituents.

"Of course we recognise that if a man had said it, it would have been a damaging and dangerous thing (politically) and I am glad that she is the one who very sincerely made the response."

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