Justice Patrick Robinson embraces Bogle’s Justice Issues
Recently, Justice Patrick Robinson, in delivering the 150th anniversary lecture of the Morant Bay Uprising, declared the privilege and responsibility given him to make this presentation, as "the greatest honour I have received in my life". This is in spite of he being the first Jamaican to be a judge for the International Court of Justice and a recipient of the Order of Jamaica. This shows the esteem in which he holds National Hero Paul Bogle and the degree of his indebtedness to the contribution of Bogle and his band of protesters in their march for justice.
Robinson's lecture 'Don' Pay the Fine: Appeal! Embracing the Broader Justice for Which Paul Bogle Fought and Died' was insightful and it outlined important implications. Robinson used the incident involving Bogle's cousin, Lewis Miller, who was fined for trespass because his horse had strayed on to a planter's land. Bogle told him not to pay the fine, but to appeal. Arising out of that incident, a warrant was issued for Bogle's arrest and the rest is history. Robinson used that incident as his text to embrace the cause of justice.
In this lecture, Robinson argued colonialism was an internationally wrongful act entailing the responsibility of the states complicit in its execution, because it breached the international obligation to respect the inherent dignity of those colonised. He based his submission on the United Nations Declaration on the Granting of Independence for Colonial Countries and Peoples which proclaimed 'the necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations'. He bemoaned that in 19th century England there was no examination of 'the fundamental question of the acceptability and legitimacy of colonialism as a political system'. This is a profound point. In 2003, on a tour of the House of Commons conducted by Diane Abbott, MP, I saw a statue of a former British Prime Minister which extolled him for expanding colonialism! To this day many British people do not understand that colonialism was an evil political system.
Based on the oppression and what was denied the people of St. Thomas, Robinson made significant suggestions such as calling on Jamaicans to:
- Agitate for adequate housing as a basic human right. Jamaica is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which provide for the right to adequate housing as a basic human right. This needs to be included in our Charter of Fundamental Human Rights;
- Debate about an equitable system of land reform and implement a comprehensive land reform programme;
- Recognise the irreparable damage that the discrimination inherent in our beauty contests does to the identity, image and self-worth of so many of our women;
- Ratify the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965) without reservation;
- Promote and protect human rights;
- End retaining the United Kingdom Privy Council as the final Court of Appeal because not having access to the Privy Council is just as bad as having access to a court that is biased and unjust in its decisions;
- Ensure that the court system and legal aid system are adequately funded;
- Participate actively in the governance of Jamaica through sustained and informed activism to ensure that the Government acts in the best interests of Jamaica;
- Cultivate a climate for economic growth that creates jobs and ensures fair wages;
- Implement a more effective and equitable taxation system;
- Provide effective and inspiring leadership at all levels of the society;
- Use privilege position for the benefit of the less fortunate, and;
- Institute a new funding strategy so that many of our bright young people are not deprived of the benefit of tertiary education.
Robinson embraced Bogle's justice issues and we all need work toward justice for all in this election season.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.