Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Charter of rights - 'A recipe for discrimination'

Published:Wednesday | March 30, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

IMAGINE AN old lady who has difficulty communicating in English and has to interact with officers of the state at a public hospital.

These officers, however, communicate in English, not Creole, as in the case with the old lady.

University of the West Indies professor Hubert Devonish believes that the situation is a recipe for discrimination on the grounds of language. He feels that unless the issue is addressed in the Charter of Rights, it would make a mockery of the State's attempts at constitutional reform.

"The fact that it does not mention language issue means it is one of the major grounds for discrimination by officers and institutions of the state," Devonish told The Gleaner on Monday.

Charter of Rights

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 22 passed the Charter of Rights and sent it to the Senate.

However, last Friday Opposition Senator A.J. Nicholson reminded the Senate of a commitment given by the Parliament to the university, to pursue the work which could ascertain the feasibility of providing protection from discrimination on the ground of language.

Devonish pointed to a language-competence survey conducted by the Jamaica Language Unit (JLU) at the UWI, which has found that approximately 30 per cent of the population could not use English, and that 70 per cent have positive attitudes to Creole being embraced as a formal language.

"Now that we have done the work, the freedom from discrimination on the ground of language, must go into the constitution," Devonish said.

"This hurry way in which they rush it through without giving us a chance to report seems a little unfair, given that they asked us to go do the work. We were set up and we have never been given that opportunity to report," Devonish said.

The Charter of Rights, which is to replace Chapter Three of the Constitution, is intend to protect the rights and freedom of Jamaicans.

"I am hoping that the Senate will operate as it should, as a deliberative body, and that when the lower House comes rushing stuff they say hold on, let us try and get the best bill we can," Devonish said.

The Creole advocate said the senators should not allow the pressure to have the Charter of Rights passed impact on their judgement.