Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Annie Paul | Much law, no order

Published:Wednesday | August 10, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Annie Paul

It's high time the law against using 'indecent language' in public is taken off the books. In a society which acknowledges widespread abuse of power by the police, the State must remove any unnecessary pretext lawmen might have for arresting citizens, especially when the so-called crime is absolutely no threat to public order.

People should have the right to curse when they are upset, and if the police are breaking the law by cursing at them, yes, citizens should have the right to curse back without being manhandled on the pretext of being arrested.

Had this inane law not been on the books, Kay-ann Lamont and her child might have been alive today, the latter all of four years old. Her two older children would not have to be passed around from relative to relative like hot potatoes, as was reported in the news a few days ago. According to a newspaper account: "The summer holiday is a bittersweet period for sisters Gillian Senior, 13, and nine-year-old Sabreka Salmon, daughters of Kay-Ann Lamont ... . For the first time since last Christmas, the sisters played together two Thursdays ago, having become accustomed to a choppy routine after being separated to live with relatives following their mother's death."

Lamont's crime? A policeman overheard her using an expletive after her wallet was stolen on Orange Street, where she was shopping for back-to-school items for her children. In the tussle that followed his decision to arrest her, he ended up shooting the eight months' pregnant woman in her head, killing both mother and child instantly. If that isn't obscene, I'd like to know what is.

Meanwhile, criminal charges have been pressed against the Gordon Town woman who greeted profanity from a policeman with profanity, but "NO CHARGE FI DI POLICE WHEY DID A BATTA UP DI WOMAN FI NOTHING". This despite the fact that the policeman involved was caught on video, dragging the woman by her hair and generally manhandling her with the kind of gusto and abandon one has become used to seeing from American police, prompting a #Blacklivesmatter movement in that country.




As an online commenter once said, "The culture we have developed seems to be one where there is much law, yet no order." Yet we refuse to reconfigure the legal system inherited from our colonisers, keeping alive archaic laws that have long been consigned to oblivion in the countries where they were first devised. We slavishly practise the letter of the law and studiously ignore its spirit, especially if financial blandishments are on offer.

This is the same spirit in which the Government pays lip service to the Paris Agreement it signed some years ago to stick

to a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to greenhouse gas emissions. According to Wikipedia, NDCs is a term used under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that all countries that signed the UNFCCC were asked to publish in the lead-up to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris, France in December 2015. Jamaica did so in November 2015.

Along comes an investor with deep pockets, promising thousands of jobs, and the Government is willing to abandon the Paris Agreement and sign on to a 1,000MW coal-fired plant to be built by a Chinese company, Jiuquan Iron and Steel (JISCO). As Diana McCaulay, head of Jamaica Environment Trust, often a lone voice in the wilderness, points out:

"A modern, coal-fired plant emits 762kg of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity generated, if there is no CO2 capture. This plant alone would emit roughly 6.7 million tons of CO2 per year, just over half of our 2025 target. Meeting our intended Nationally Determined Contribution to greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement would become highly unlikely."

A multitude of sins creep in under the cover of blandishments of 'development' and 'progress'. For the Government, 'job creation' translates to votes, which must constantly be mustered, no matter the cost. What could be more indecent than that?

In an eloquent article published by Commonwealth Writers called 'Giving up on the earth', McCaulay details the price we are paying globally for reckless abuse of the environment in the name of progress. She concludes: "All over the world, the people most vulnerable to extreme climate events are displaced, impoverished and die. You think there is a refugee crisis now? Wait until large areas of the globe are uninhabitable. And yet real reductions in greenhouse gases have not been achieved, despite decades of international meetings, agreements and stated good intentions."

It's high time we paid attention to the spirit of the law and agreements we sign on to, instead of obeying them in letter only. And take that #$%^@ law against indecent language off the books! There is much to curse about.

• Annie Paul is a writer and critic based at the University of the West Indies and author of the blog, Active Voice ( Email feedback to or tweet @anniepaul.