Par­lia­ment ea­ger to clear na­tional he­roes of crim­i­nal record

Jamaica Gleaner - - FOOD -

BOTH SIDES of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide in Gor­don House co­a­lesced yes­ter­day around a ma­jor ef­fort to blot out the crim­i­nal records of Ja­maica’s no­table free­dom fight­ers and na­tional he­roes who, in some in­stances, were severely pun­ished cen­turies ago for what was deemed to be acts of re­bel­lion or trea­son, which then, at­tracted the ul­ti­mate penalty of death.

The thrust to clear the names of at least 1,000 free­dom fight­ers, in­clud­ing four na­tional he­roes, is al­ready far down the wicket, with draft leg­is­la­tion at an ad­vanced stage.

Min­is­ter of Cul­ture Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange told The Gleaner yes­ter­day that the draft law would shortly be taken to the leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee of Cab­i­net for pe­rusal and then pre­sented to the full Cab­i­net for ap­proval be­fore be­ing ush­ered into Par­lia­ment for tabling and sub­se­quent de­bate.

An en­thu­si­as­tic Grange said ev­ery ef­fort was be­ing made to take the ‘ex­punge­ment’ bill to Par­lia­ment in short or­der.


Top­ping the list of hundreds of per­sons whose crim­i­nal records are to be ex­punged are Ja­maica’s first na­tional he­roes Mar­cus Mosiah Gar­vey, Ge­orge Wil­liam Gor­don, Paul Bogle, and Sa­muel Sharpe. Ja­maica’s so-called an­ces­tral hero, Tacky, is also among the top free­dom fight­ers whose names are to be cleared by the Ja­maican Par­lia­ment.

In a state­ment to Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, Grange said the An­drew Hol­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion is tak­ing im­me­di­ate steps to en­act law “that would once and for all set the record straight and en­sure that jus­tice is served for at least some of those who stood up for clear­ing the path­way to our mod­ern democ­racy”.

“The view has been widely held that the acts for which these na­tional he­roes were con­victed were not crim­i­nal acts of re­bel­lion or trea­son, but acts of lib­er­a­tion, with abun­dant moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tion car­ried out in the best tra­di­tion of hu­man­ity. Con­se­quently, our he­roes ought not to have the stain of a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing their role as na­tional he­roes.”

Op­po­si­tion Leader Por­tia Simp­son Miller said she was de­lighted that Grange had brought this crit­i­cal is­sue to the leg­is­la­ture. Simp­son Miller said the Par­lia­men­tary Op­po­si­tion of­fered its full sup­port to ex­punge the crim­i­nal records of Ja­maica’s na­tional he­roes.

Op­po­si­tion Spokesman on Ed­u­ca­tion Ron­ald Th­waites said the leg­isla­tive move to clear the names of Tacky, Bogle, Gor­don, and Sharpe was not be­cause they are he­roes, but be­cause “all avail­able ev­i­dence in­di­cates that the crim­i­nal con­vic­tions against their name rep­re­sent pal­pa­ble in­jus­tice even at the time.”

He made it clear that no one should be­lieve that be­cause “you are im­por­tant that you can be ab­solved. What this Par­lia­ment is about to do as an act of vin­di­ca­tion is to in­sist that the prin­ci­ples of jus­tice must be main­tained and that pal­pa­ble mis­car­riage of jus­tice must be cor­rected”.


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