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Letter of the day: 'You cya siddung pon cow back and cuss cow skin'

Published:Thursday | April 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM


The Jamaican proverb quoted in the title translates to "You cannot ride a cow and then complain about the texture of the cow's skin". I have interpreted this to mean that you cannot expect to be carried from point A to B and then complain about how unsuitable the medium is. This is the current position taken by the Jamaican Government in its decision to revoke the charitable status of the long-standing and internationally recognised organisation known as Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ).

Based on reports, the human rights organisation applied to the Department of Cooperatives and Friendly Societies to have its status renewed but was unfortunately rejected. The government in justifying this rejection articulated that the organisation has made it a part of its mandate to advocate for legislative change. This they interpreted as a political objective instead of a charitable one. As a result, the financial burden that has been placed on the organisation is one met with heavy burden. Previously, being governed by the Charities Act entitled them to be absolved from accruing any expense related to GCT or any other statutory deductions. However, their current position has resulted in them returning grants issued for the fulfilment of their mandate, facing a backlog of taxes, laying off employees, reducing operational expenses and, most important shutting down their legal department.

The Government seems to be making an attempt to demonstrate how unsuitable they believe this medium is by dismantling the organisation that has promoted the rights of Jamaicans in every sense. From this, it may be safe to infer that anyone who openly speaks out against injustices in an attempt to garner public support must suffer the consequences as our nation's image and reputation is clearly more important. Let me trod lightly.

I find the justification on the part of the Government to be flawed because the nature of any human rights organisation will require a political agenda as the only way in which the rights of persons will be recognised and respected is through political transformation, policy change and policy implementation.


Furthermore, in light of all that has been going on, this game of political badminton has seen the Government emerging victorious in every sense. My question is, how? From the positioning of each player, the timing of each stroke as well as the underhanded instances of dirty play (paying off the Jamaican populace) we have seen where such elements have contributed to consistent wins.

The organisation itself has been suffering at the expense of an entity more concerned about their personal political gain. These political pieces seem ready and willing to sacrifice the entity serving and promoting the interest of its people. Human rights are nothing to be toyed with.

To strip this group of its charitable status says to me that the rider of this cow has no respect for the proactive agenda of this organisation, and that 'saving face' is more important than our people's struggles. The cow that is JFJ has spent a considerable amount of time carrying this country forward in the realm of human rights but I do not believe that it is wise to chastise it because it "fell out of the mould" that is was expected to conform to.

Christopher Harper

Law Student