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Cabinet ministers, police bashed for DRMA breaches on eve of PM’s announcement

Published:Thursday | March 17, 2022 | 12:11 AM
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke (third left) and Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton guffaw in the background as songstress Shenseea takes a selfie with Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang and Entertainment Minister Olivia Grange at her album launch on Tuesday night.

Hours after five Cabinet ministers appeared to flout the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) while attending an entertainment event Tuesday night, the father of a man who was thrown into prison for 30 days for mask-wearing and no-movement day breaches has chided the Government and police for class prejudice and corruption.

The breaches at the Alpha album launch of Jamaican sensation Shenseea on Campbell Boulevard in Kingston present an embarrassment for Prime Minister Andrew Holness as he is expected to review or end the controversial legislation that governs coronavirus protocols. The protocols expire today.

Devon Lambert of White Horses, St Thomas, whose son was charged under the DRMA in September 2021, could not find the funds to help pay the $200,000 fine, resulting in the convict spending a month behind bars.

DRMA fines range up to $1 million with a maximum prison time of one year.

Lambert said that while his family was at home on a no-movement day, his hungry son, who was maskless, went on to the road to visit an aunt for food.

On the way back home, Lambert said that his son was stopped by the police, who ignored his plea and never gave him a chance.

“We never have the money to pay, so him did have to do the time. Dem hold him in Golden Grove lock-up first then send him down a GP among murderers,” Lambert, in a Gleaner interview on Wednesday, said, referring to the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Kingston.

That treatment, Lambert and other Jamaicans have claimed over time, contrasts with police action towards more privileged Jamaicans.

The five Cabinet ministers at the album launch – Dr Nigel Clarke, Olivia Grange, Dr Christopher Tufton, Floyd Green, and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang – were seen huddled together and guffawing in a party-like environment. State Minister Alando Terrelonge and Opposition Spokesperson Lisa Hanna also attended the event and had photo ops.

Only Terrelonge and Grange wore masks in widely published photos and videos.

The launch appeared to breach the gathering restrictions issued on February 22.

The optics were worsened because at least three of the high-profile ministers – Grange (entertainment), Tufton (health), and Chang (security) – have responsibility for policy governance of the DRMA.

That has caused Lambert to brand the apparent breaches at the launch as “a corruption thing”.

“Same as how the likkle poorer class get charged, the bigger heads should get charged, too. But because the poorer class don’t have nothing and can’t help weself, so the richer man walk on them. And because they have the money, they can do anything and get away for free.

“The rich man and the poor man do the same crime, but is only one get away free ... . That’s just how it go.”

Green, the agriculture minister who quit last September after a video went viral with him and other ruling Jamaica Labour Party officials toasting to a no-movement day during a hotel party, was reinstalled in January as a minister without portfolio.

The once-chastened minister has been tasked, according to a March 14, 2022, statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, with oversight of the National Partnership Council, which “addressed, among other matters, the future of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) restrictions”.

It is unclear whether Shenseea’s album launch received the blessing of the security forces or central Government.

However, Senior Superintendent Marlon Nesbeth, commander of the St Andrew Central Police Division, within whose parameters the venue was located, informed The Gleaner on Wednesday that he did not grant permission for the hosting of the event.

He said, too, that he was not aware, beforehand, of the staging.

“I don’t know of that,” he said, adding that he could not comment further on any perceived breaches of the DRMA that might have occurred.

– Shanna Monteith, Asha Wilks, Janet Silvera, and Kimone Francis contributed to this story.