Alleged sex assault victim disappointed at PAAC snub
Alleged sexual harassment victim Janelle Blair says opposition by some members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) into hearing her testimony regarding reports of misconduct at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts smacks of ignorance and short-sightedness.
“I am quite disappointed by the way in which my request to address the PAAC was received by some committee members and how it was viewed by many Jamaicans,” Blair told The Gleaner.
“The Edna Manley College is a public school, a government-aided institution, and the PAAC has every right to probe into matters of this nature as it sees fit. They can examine existing policies, look at the various legislative proposals, and make recommendations to the Cabinet through the Legislation Committee,” she said.
Blair, who is one of a number of students to have levelled sexual harassment allegations against a male lecturer at the St Andrew-based fine arts college, is also incensed by suggestions that she and others were trying to bring the Parliament into disrepute.
“It was made out to appear as if I am unintelligent and unaware of the fact that the Parliament is not a court and that I was attempting to bring a criminal case to Gordon House,” she told The Gleaner. “This is not true. ... I already have adequate legal assistance regarding the situation at school and know fully well that it is not a criminal but a civil matter. I have already attended the disciplinary hearing with the accused and the school’s personnel committee, and I am not attempting to ‘try a case’ in Parliament.”
Urging Jamaicans to get to know their Parliament, Blair noted that parliamentary committees are able to receive submissions from citizens, put together meetings with community groups and other organisations while facilitating the exchange of views on the Government and how it affects them.
“It is sad that many Jamaicans do not realise the power they have and what they are able to achieve,” she argued. “My reason for going to the PAAC is not to attack the school in any way, but it is to speak on the existing policy at the institution regarding sexual harassment and the less-than-acceptable way in which reports have been dealt with for quite an extended period of time.”
“I am emphasising the importance of students’ safety in institutions – not only at Edna Manley – because this issue is one that occurs in many schools and workplaces as well,” Blair added.
Blair and others persons linked to Edna Manley College are expected to give in-camera presentations at the next PAAC sitting.