Tue | May 23, 2017

One man's death and the decriminalisation of ganja

Published:Thursday | August 14, 2014 | 8:00 AM
Donia J. Fuller, Guest Columnist

Donia J. Fuller, Guest Columnist

U
ndoubtedly, any reader who is unfamiliar with the news reports of a young man who was brutally beaten and later succumbed to his injuries upon looking at the heading of this article would struggle to make the connection. Alas, your thinking and that of mine, notwithstanding the fact that I am the author, are at one. Indeed, surprise and utter irritation does very little to describe my reaction to those who have taken the unjustified killing of a young member of society, who was arrested allegedly because of possession of a 'ganja spliff' as a platform to advocate for the decriminalisation of the drug. Those who have taken this stance have sadly missed the entire point, or rather several points. Allow me to elucidate upon what they are:

1. Freedom of the person and freedom of expression.

It is alleged that notwithstanding the fact that someone came to bail the young man, a female officer refused to facilitate the process because he allegedly commented on his dislike for police officers. Forgive me if I am wrong; however, I do believe there is a constitutional right to freedom of expression, and if many of our crass, immature unfounded opinions can be given a public forum to be expressed, I fail to see how this man's opinion could cause him to be remanded for a further period.

2. The sanctity of the right to life.

The right to life is absolute. To that end, there should be no arbitrary deprivation of life regardless of what a person is charged with. This right goes hand in hand to some extent with the right to a fair trial as well as the presumption of innocence. For instance, while the death penalty remains on our books (whether or not this should be so is an entirely different discussion) no one can be deprived of their life for a crime committed, assuming that penalty is permissible for that crime until first receiving a fair trial, during which time he is innocent until proven otherwise. To that end, what happened to that young man is beyond atrocious.

3. Lack of respect for human rights.

Throughout the article, you would have noticed that the whole discussion focuses around a central axis - respect for human rights. Time and again members of the police force seem to not understand that their mandate to serve and protect demands that they respect human rights. Now, I am not going to say all police officers are bad, in fact, the bad apples consistently make it bad for the good in the bunch. However, a failure to respect the rights of one person is a sufficient act of barbarism for the entire nation to decry it! This exists independently of the ganja issue! The point is, it matters not what the young man had in his possession - ganja, bubblegum, chemical X, his right to life was violated and, of course, there are the attendant cries for justice.

In view of recent news about the usefulness of INDECOM or the lack thereof, I sincerely hope that someone will be held accountable for this human- rights violation, and that the person(s) responsible do not escape into the nearby bushes.

Donia J. Fuller is a final-year law student at the Norman Manley Law School who is employed at Lex Caribbean Attorneys-at-Law. Send your feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com or donia.fuller@jm.lexcaribbean.com