Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Editorial | Hunter, Stone, Montague must account

Published:Wednesday | March 1, 2017 | 3:00 AM

Ina Hunter and Joyce Stone have been conspicuously silent. So, too, has Robert Montague, the national security minister, who, ultimately, is their boss.

Ms Hunter is commissioner of Jamaica's correctional services, which means she runs the agency that oversees the island's prisons and remand centres. Ms Stone is one of her deputies, with responsibility for custodial services. She should have a handle on what goes on in the prisons, whose superintendents report to her.

If things go awry, they are responsible. But it is Mr Montague, as minister, and the prime minister who appoints him, who are accountable to the Jamaican people who elect them. It is time for some accounting on this Vybz Kartel affair.

Kartel, whose given name is Adidja Palmer, is a dancehall artiste. His music is very popular. But he has been serving a life sentence since April 2014 after his conviction for murder. Before that, he was on remand for three years.

Yet, during the six years that Kartel has been incarcerated, his recording label has not stopped releasing new music, much of which deals, it seems, with very contemporary issues. How Kartel is able to do this has been a nagging question for years. It has come back strongly in the face of threats of violence on social media against parliamentarian Lisa Hanna for her criticism of Kartel, after he won several awards at a youth-driven music awards.

Beyond the moral and ethical issues raised by Ms Hanna and the debates over the misogyny and promotion of violence, including murder, often associated with dancehall music - including Kartel's - there is the question of the law and what is allowable in Jamaica's prisons.

For example, Rule Nine of the regulations of Jamaica's Corrections Act says: "The superintendent (of a prison) shall not permit any inmate to have in his possession any writing material," except with the permission of the commissioner, and under specific conditions. The same rules demand that all cells in a prison, occupied or not, be "carefully examined" daily, which is interpreted to mean searched for contraband.

PROHIBITED ARTICLES

Rule 129 denies to inmates the possession of "prohibited articles" unless authorised by the commissioner, within parameters she establishes. Cell phones and recording instruments, we believe, are among these "prohibited articles".

In the circumstances, Ms Hunter should declare whether she has authorised any inmate or "class of inmate" in any of Jamaica's prisons to have in their possession, or to have access to, any recording devices, including mobile phones, and if she has given any such authorisation, to whom and on what basis.

Further, Ms Stone should say whether, to her knowledge and satisfaction, the superintendent of the prisons and remand centres caused to be searched, daily, the cells of those institutions, as is required by law. If not, she should explain why. If Mr Montague determines that Ms Hunter and Ms Stone have not acted in accordance with the law, the discipline of the correctional system and in the best interest of Jamaica, we don't have to tell him what he must do.

In the event that any of Kartel's music is produced in breach of the rules and contrary to law, it ought to be removed from the market and denied airplay. In the meantime, the moral issues raised by Ms Hanna are worthy of serious debate.