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HEART not responding - Public defender pledges to continue investigation into reports of colour prejudice in Jamaica's job market

Published:Sunday | October 2, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Public Defender Earl Witter
Dr Carolyn Hayle, executive director, HEART Trust/NTA.
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Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

Almost a week after the expiration of the 10-day deadline the public defender gave the Government's skills training and certification agency to reveal the names of companies that have asked it for light-skinned trainees to fill vacancies, the HEART Trust/NTA has failed to respond.

Earl Witter, the public defender, said he was shocked and saddened by the state agency's non-response but he was adamant that the colour-prejudice investigation, which was sparked by a Sunday Gleaner report in September, will continue.

"I'm very surprised and disappointed by their lack of response, but there are other strings to my bow and I certainly have no intention to let the matter simply go to rest by reason of their non-response," said Witter.

calls for company names

HEART Trust's executive director, Dr Carolyn Hayle, did not respond to a Sunday Gleaner query seeking to ascertain the reason behind the training agency's failure to respond to the requisitions made by the public defender.

When The Sunday Gleaner contacted HEART's corporate offices in New Kingston on Friday, our news team was told that Hayle was in a meeting. A detailed message was left stating the nature of the call but the executive director did not return the call.

Witter launched his investigation amid simmering threats of a boycott as many angry Jamaicans called on HEART to reveal the names of the employers who specifically asked the training agency for fair-skinned trainees to fill vacancies at their companies.

The public defender advanced that the employers' request for light-skinned Jamaicans might be a breach of the Constitution of Jamaica.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, approved by Parliament earlier this year, lists among those rights and freedoms: "The right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of being male or female; race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinions."

Witter argued that Parliament's approval of the Charter of Rights signalled a fundamental or jur-isprudential sea change because it is now possible for an individual citizen to infringe upon the fundamental rights of another citizen.

The Human Resource Manage-ment Association of Jamaica also expressed concern about the claims of racial discrimination in hiring practices.

At that time, Labour Minister Pearnel Charles made it clear that he was not aware of any of the cases of discrimination that had come before HEART Trust. However, he vowed to throw the book at any employer whom he finds out is engaging in the skin-tone discrimination.

tyrone.reid@gleanerjm.com