Letter of the Day | Heavy-handed response
THE EDITOR, Madam:
I DEFENDED human rights at the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights, Jamaicans for Justice, and the Ministry of Justice, and I am sure that they are now at risk more than ever. I am deeply concerned with the Jamaican Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in several regards; I am particularly concerned about the curfew implemented.
The death of 19-year-old Carmichael Dawkins is directly linked to those curfews. Dawkins, who did not own a car, was unable to find public transportation to take him home before the curfew. He was allegedly spotted by the police, after he was prohibited from being in public, and collapsed during the chase that followed. Furthermore, it’s reported that instead of taking him to the nearest hospital, the police ordered a taxi driver to take him there and he died while being treated. This entire incident is absolutely tragic. The actions of the police show a gross disregard for human life. Dawkin’s parents, family and friends are burdened by such inconsolable grief. They deserve justice.
Another recent case of police abuse related to the curfew, is the case involving Dayne Mitchell. Mitchell was not killed, but the incident is still rather troubling. He posted a video online where he was joking around at the prime minister’s expense. He made comments about the curfew, and rather distasteful ones about the prime minister. However, despite how distasteful the comments were, he had every right to say them.
The video was posted on social media and was brought to the attention of law-enforcement officials. He was immediately hunted down and arrested by an assistant superintendent of police as if he was the number-one criminal on Jamaica’s most wanted list. In a video posted online, while handcuffed, Mitchell apologised to the prime minister and made admissions without the benefit of proper legal advice. The apology and confession were clearly not freely and voluntarily given. And his arrest appears to be the vindictive actions of an embarrassed Government with a personal vendetta. Despite President Trump’s many flaws, he doesn’t have his critics arrested on trumped-up charges (pun intended). The arrest of Mitchell appears to go beyond what even President Trump would do.
There needs be a thorough investigation into both the Carmichael Dawkins and Dayne Mitchell cases. Everyone involved in these matters should be held accountable for their actions, and the Government should indicate what steps have been taken to prevent incidents like these from happening again.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we must ensure that the limitations on movement are rooted in science and not simply arbitrarily imposed on Jamaicans. Moreover, they ought to be the least restrictive possible.
Even in unprecedented, tumultuous times like these, it is important that human rights are respected. Rights like the right to life, the right to free speech, and the right to freedom of movement are the cornerstones of democratic societies.
We must resist the pressure to be silenced. It is our patriotic duty to preserve our democracy and challenge abuse of power, because as our past has shown us that systemic injustice leads to rebellion.
TASHA C. RODNEY