Fri | Oct 30, 2020

Governor general should be the guardian of human rights

Published:Tuesday | June 30, 2020 | 12:16 AM
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.


A quantitative survey of the legislative process in the post-Independence House of Representatives reveals an inclination to abuse the invested legislative freedom and pass laws that “abrogate, infringe and abridge [our rights]”.

Columnist Frank Phipps, in reflecting on the propensity of the Government of Jamaica to abuse the constitutional rights of its citizens, wrote: “After seeing what took place with the secret MoUs of 2004, we must now take a comprehensive view of human-rights abuse in Jamaica after Independence, where there is now a rainbow workforce – being neither white nor black, at all levels of the society, including the overseers” ( The Sunday Gleaner, November 3, 2019).

As early as 1963, the Government of Jamaica signalled its attitude of indifference with the marginalisation of the human rights of its citizens through the Coral Gardens riots. The Government (both under the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party) has consistently instituted draconian means where necessary: the Suppression of Crime Act, states of emergency, the Green Bay Massacre, Tivoli incursions. The Constitutional Court has overturned abuses in the Gun Court Act (1975), and we have witnessed former High Court Judge Bryan Sykes ruling that the monopoly licence granted to the Jamaica Public Service was illegal (RJR94 FM news, July 31, 2012).

With such a history of abuses, our nation will need a head of State whose office is above ill-repute, neutral, and functions as guardian of the Constitution and the human rights of Jamaicans. Former Minister of Justice Mark Golding said that a “national human-rights institution will be a valuable addition to Jamaica’s human-rights landscape” (JIS, December 10, 2014).

The Gleaner’s editorial, ‘Sir Patrick should promote constitutional reform’ (June 28, 2020), is on point. It is this office that will transition to that of president. The office, therefore, should include the “national human-rights institution,” leading the path of justice for the people with the support of other human-rights NGOs by safeguarding the rights and civil liberties of Jamaicans as guaranteed in our Constitution and protecting the resources of Jamaica from corruption, including the elimination of abuses from agents of the State, political tribalism, and one-man upmanship by our elected or appointed officials.


Mandeville Manchester