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Cops deny trimming Rasta kids in family tug of war

Published:Sunday | May 12, 2019 | 12:00 AMNickoy Wilson - Gleaner Writer
JahDore’s four-year-old and eight-year-old stepsons, who he alleges were given haircuts after policemen removed them from their home last week.

Amid mounting public condemnation for abuse of power and human-rights breaches and a multiagency investigation, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has denied a reggae singer’s allegations that the police trimmed his Rastafarian children and fed them meat.

But the brouhaha appears to have been the result of a simmering family spat that boiled over at the Gordon Town Police Station more than a week ago.

The JCF said that its officers were not responsible for trimming the stepsons of reggae artiste JahDore, given name Sean McDonald, nor did they cause the acts to happen.

The force’s communications arm said that the boys were taken to the police station in the company of relatives and were taken to the barber and for lunch by an aunt, who had reportedly accompanied the mother. The initial report about concerns for the children’s welfare appears to have triggered the police’s action.

Melesha Welsh, a woman claiming to be the aunt of the two boys, commented on The Gleaner’s Instagram post, contradicting McDonald’s claim.

“The mother have these two kids out of school nearly a year ... . She have a child for this man and the other kids can’t play with that baby. He tends to punish these kids ... .

“She (the mother) is the one who call me saying she’s stressed out and her kids not going to school. As an aunty and other family members decided to take action, people been calling me about this situation . ... She move from his house about a month, stressed out,” said Welsh, who claimed that McDonald attacked the police.

Commissioner of Police Antony Anderson had ordered the Inspectorate of the Constabulary to commence a probe early Saturday morning into the allegations. The Office of the Children’s Advocate and the Independent Commission of Investigations are also investigating the incident.

JahDore had claimed that the police visited his Irish Town, St Andrew, home on April 30, forcibly removed his stepchildren, aged four and eight, from the premises and took them to the Gordon Town Police Station. He also alleged that while he and his partner were detained, his stepchildren’s locks were cut and they were given chicken to eat.

Orthodox Rastafarians do not cut their hair and are vegetarians.

McDonald said that the police accused him of preventing his stepchildren from attending school, but he insisted that they were homeschooled. He also claimed that he sustained injuries to his left eye and right side of his jaw when he got into an altercation with a policeman at the station. He was subsequently charged with assaulting a police officer.

But accounts by the police and the family have not indicated that they had sought the intervention of Jamaica’s child-welfare officers, which is customary for the resolution of family disputes over the custody and care of children.

Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison said that in cases where it is suspected that a child is being kept from school, a report is usually made to the National Children’s Registry, which would conduct checks with the home and have discussions with parents to ascertain whether they are receiving an education.

“The typical and appropriate approach would have been to enquire first, to do the necessary investigation, and to make an assessment to determine if that was the case. ... If it’s not a financial problem, then a greater assessment would be made as to what is the problem, and the discussion would be had with the parents before getting to this extreme stage,” she told The Sunday Gleaner

Gordon Harrison said this was not the first time she had heard stories of this nature.

If McDonald’s account is true, she said, there are serious concerns.

“So certainly, things like the separation of the children from the parents, the lock-cutting that is alleged to have occurred, and also the variation in diet that they were not necessarily accustomed to based on what the parents are saying, we would be concerned as well about the treatment of these minors while they were out of the custody and control of their parents, albeit temporarily,” the children’s advocate said.

Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry has expressed shock at the allegations, citing that she believed that Jamaica had abandoned xenophobia against Rastafarians, which was common during the 1960s.

“What has happened, as reported, is actually quite shocking and completely unacceptable and untenable. A violation of these youngsters’ rights and, indeed, in fact, a violation of their parents’ rights, too – the right to self-determination, the right to establish your identity, the right to have your faith, your religion, your right to practise and observe values that your family has,” Harrison-Henry told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.

Like the public defender, senior lecturer in cultural studies Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah was outraged.

“I am appalled at any level of injustice, any level of discrimination, any level of force that another human being could feel the need to mete out to other human beings – children at that, minors, who obviously have parents looking out for them,” the academic said.

“Why would it be that a police officer of any calibre, rank, or station could feel they could do that? ... It’s very, very appalling.”

And Minister of Culture Minister Olivia Grange has also condemned the reported maltreatment of McDonald and his family.

“If these allegations are true, they are unacceptable and an affront to justice and the peaceful ‘livity’ that we all desire,” said Grange in a press statement issued yesterday. “They should be condemned in the strongest manner and the perpetrators left to face the consequences,” the culture minister added.