Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
University professor Carolyn Cooper has chided Senate President the Reverend Stanley Redwood over his admonishing of Justice Minister Mark Golding to speak English only in the Upper House.
"Rispek' due to those patriotic Jamaicans," Golding said, during a debate in the Senate last Friday.
"Sorry to break your flow but the language used in the Senate must be standard English," Redwood reprimanded him.
But Cooper was not amused.
"Reverend Stanley Redwood has flown way past his nest. He had no business reprimanding Justice Minister Mark Golding for giving due 'rispek' to patriotic Jamaicans," Cooper told The Sunday Gleaner.
"And Golding should not have backed down. Instead of resorting to English, he ought to have challenged Redwood's assertion," added Cooper.
She argued that while by custom and practice, English is the preferred language of government business, there is nothing in the Jamaican constitution that declares English, or any other tongue for that matter, as the official language of the nation. "The Senate president is completely wrong. And the justice minister ought to have known that Redwood was on very shaky ground. Not even a man of the cloth can turn prejudice into law. 'Because I say so' just can't cut it," argued Cooper.
"Instead of bowing to the president, Golding should have simply asked him, 'Wa wrong wid yu, brejrin? Yu no know seh dis a Jamaica? If mi kyaan seh 'rispek due' inna di Senate, sopn wrong. We waan justice fi speak fi wi langgwij inna di Senate. An anyweh wi choose! Rispek due every time'," added Cooper.
She said the Senate president displayed his ignorance of the law and the justice minister needed to take a stand against injustice.
"For it is nothing but plain injustice that the mother language of the majority of Jamaicans is treated with complete disrespect by state institutions."
The professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, noted that in 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation launched International Mother Language Day which is observed on February 21.
"Not a gun fire 'bout International Mother Language Day inna Jamaica'! We are much too backward for that, despite the high profile of our language internationally. And we refuse to acknowledge the importance of using the mother language as a tool of communication in schools, particularly for primary education.
"We prefer to let our children go to school and sit in silence because they don't understand the language of instruction. We don't mind if our children end up not being literate in any language at all. That's much better than accepting the fact that Jamaican is a 'real-real' language. Hopefully, one day, one day, we'll see the light. And all Jamaican speakers will be given due 'rispek'."