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EDITORIAL - Tell us more, Dr Wade

Published:Friday | August 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM

We admit to being more than a little bit confused over what we presume to be an interim board of the human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) and on what authority it will act and for how long.

What is known is that for several months, JFJ was racked by public scandal and internal strife over the sex-education programme it ran in six private children's homes, which critics claim not only to have been age-inappropriate, but surreptitiously contrived, for which the inspiration for the group's founding and one-time chairman and former executive director, Carolyn Gomes, bore the blame. In the midst of the controversy, Mrs Gomes left the board, followed by some like-minded supporters, a clutch of whom, like her, were strongly identified with JFJ.

On Wednesday, after a special members' meeting, a new 10-member board was named, with a good and decent Christian man, Dr Barry Wade, as the chairman. The other nine persons, we expect, are also good and decent. What we are not clear about is what Dr Wade, a geologist who specialises in environmental issues, and his colleagues are expected to do.

First, though, as an organisation that was a stickler for the State's adherence to constitutional order, what Dr Wade must explain is the process by which he and the rest of the board were chosen, including whether those members of the board who were in place up to Wednesday resigned en bloc, paving the way for new elections. It would be useful, in the circumstance, to explain if, and how, the JFJ's constitution addresses this, especially in the context of his announcement of a planned vote for a new board in three months' time after "a nomination process and election of the paying members" of the organisation.

Said Dr Wade: "This is a transition period, so other than arranging for the election of a full board, it (the work of his group) will be to steady the organisation and make sure that we fulfil all our obligations to our funding agencies."

JFJ did good work

This newspaper believes that despite its sometime missteps and the too-shrill rhetoric of Mrs Gomes, and on matters relating to JFJ, her intellectual soulmate, Susan Goffe, the JFJ did good work and, on balance, added value to Jamaica. It can do so again.

But first, JFJ has to decide what kind of human-rights organisation its wants to be, clearly articulate its mandate, and institute governance structures to ensure that its core values are adhered to. Or its members can determine that there is no value in pursuing in the project, in which event they can dissolve the organisation.

We have a sense that something akin to the former is the agenda of Dr Wade and company, although that has not been articulated with any clarity, or a sense of surety, or the basis of the mandate, so that stakeholders can have confidence in the legitimacy of the process. It is urgent, therefore, that Dr Wade and the other board members lay it all out with clarity, lest they find themselves saddled with a rump JFJ. In the meantime, they might find it useful to post the organisation's constitution on JFJ's website.

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