Tue | Oct 19, 2021

Updated | ‘DOUBLE STANDARD’

• Critics slam ‘classist’ contrast in police reaction to Floyd Green video versus others • Prosecutors could face legal hurdles if charges laid, says Champagnie

Published:Saturday | September 18, 2021 | 12:11 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter
Former Agriculture Minister Floyd Green
Councillor Andrew Bellamy
Dave Powell, national coordinator (landfill director), NSWMA.
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There is a “very obvious double standard” in the police’s handling of an investigation into alleged breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) by fallen Agriculture Minister Floyd Green and others connected to the governing Jamaica Labour...

There is a “very obvious double standard” in the police’s handling of an investigation into alleged breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) by fallen Agriculture Minister Floyd Green and others connected to the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), critics have charged.

Dave Powell, national coordinator (landfill director) at the state-run National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) is among the persons captured in the video at the centre of the probe that led to Green’s ouster.

The gathering at the District 5 Restaurant at the R Hotel in New Kingston was to celebrate the birthday of Green’s assistant, Gabrielle Hylton.

Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson disclosed on Thursday that the video, showing Green, JLP Councillor Andrew Bellamy, and others at a table making merry with food and alcohol on September 14 – a designated no-movement day – is being analysed by investigators.

“I’ve passed it on to the DCP (deputy commissioner of police in charge of) crime, who has passed it to our cyber people,” Anderson told journalists during a press conference, referring to the police Cybercrimes Unit.

“So, yes, we’ll be looking at it.”

But this approach is in stark contrast to the actions of the police in other cases where citizens have been accused of flouting the orders under the DRMA, charge attorney-at-law Charles ‘Advoket’ Ganga-Singh and civil society advocate Carol Narcisse.

Dayne Mitchell, a resident of Jones Town in St Andrew, was arrested by the police inside his home in April last year, hours after he was seen in a social media video directing invectives at Prime Minister Andrew Holness and indicating that he would not comply with the curfew order imposed under the DRMA.

Stephen Witter, the Stony Hill, St Andrew man seen in another video in March cursing at Holness and chasing the police away from Hellshire Beach in St Catherine during the curfew, was charged days later for breaches of the DRMA.

Shaquille Higgins was in police custody hours after a video of him lambasting Holness about the imposition of new curfew restrictions went viral on social media. The police have explained that he was apprehended for suspected larceny and not for breaching the DRMA.

Forced to apologise

Mitchell and Higgins were forced to publicly apologise to Holness and the police.

“In the same way the police are quick to protect politicians and their friends to investigate their videos, the same effort must be granted to the ordinary man’s video as well,” said Ganga-Singh, the attorney representing Higgins.

Narcisse was more blunt, asserting that the double standard was “essentially class-based” and was harmful to society.

“The difference [is] in who adheres to principle and law and who gets to flout it in the most barefaced kinds of way … . We are really doing ourselves great harm because of the cynicism that is the result of these very obvious double standards,” she said during an interview with The Gleaner on Friday.

“Were the videos of poor people who cussed out the prime minister and got arrested within hours … were those videos also authenticated? If not, then why not?” she continued.

DCP Fitz Bailey has, however, pushed back at the criticism, declaring “I don’t see any difference in the handling of the video” in the case involving the former agriculture minister.

“People are making an assumption that we did not send both videos to CFCD,” Bailey said, referring to the police Communication Forensic and Cybercrimes Division and two of the viral social media videos that resulted in arrests.

“That’s an assumption by the public.”

Further, he cautioned that the probe into possible breaches of the DRMA by Green and others at the birthday celebration is not a “clear-cut investigation”.

“We are trying to determine when the event happened,” said Bailey, who has responsibility for crime and security.

“I was told that it happened at a hotel. We need to establish that and to identify what breaches, if any, were committed.”

Still, prosecutors would encounter a number of legal hurdles to mount a successful prosecution against Green and others who attended the event, says top criminal defence attorney Peter Champagnie, QC.

“You would first have to establish the source of that video recording and that the recording was not, in any way, enhanced or altered, and you would need the maker of that recording,” he explained.

Further, Champagnie said prosecutors would have to prove that the incident or the capturing of the images occurred on a no-movement day and that where the celebration occurred was not at the home of one of the attendees.

While a majority of Jamaicans were forced to remain indoors because of the partial lockdown imposed by Cabinet to slow a deadly third wave of COVID-19 infections, Green, Bellamy, and others were captured on video gathered around a table laughing, raising their glasses in a toast and shouting “Shower, Labourite”, a term used by JLP supporters.

Green, in his resignation letter to Holness, admitted that his attendance at the event with other maskless persons was “wrong”.

“No matter how briefly, and regardless of the circumstances, I should never have participated in any engagement that could indicate a lack of appreciation of the difficult and serious realities that now face the entire country,” he said in a statement a day after the video was made public.

Champagnie said that while Green’s statement contained a number of confessions, “it doesn’t strike at the heart of what the criminal law, in my view, would deem appropriate or sufficient to mount a prosecution based on a confession”.

Bellamy, the councillor for the Mona Division at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), has resigned from the board of the South East Regional Health Authority. He has also stepped down from all committees he chaired at the KSAMC.

NSWMA Executive Director Audley Gordon said he met with Powell, who did not deny that he was in the video.

Gordon indicated, too, that Powell was not in breach of any policy established by the state agency.

“The truth is that departmentally, we don’t have a case against Mr Powell,” Gordon told The Gleaner.

“Mr Powell is an adult employee, who, in his free time, has his right to association. To the extent that there any aspects of the DRMA that may have been breached, the police would have to ascertain that, and we await the conclusion of the police investigation.”

APOLOGY
In the original article, The Gleaner incorrectly identified Mr Collin Virgo, assistant general secretary of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, as one of the persons featured in a controversial video taken at a celebratory event on September 14, 2021 – a designated no-movement day.  We sincerely apologise for this error and any embarrassment it may have caused to Mr Virgo and his family.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com