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Many call for justice at Mario Deane funeral

Published:Monday | September 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Adrian Frater, News Editor

Western Bureau: Jamaica's justice system came under intense scrutiny yesterday during the funeral for Mario Deane, the St James construction worker who died on Independence Day, three days after a savage beating at the Barnett Street Police Station in Montego Bay.

During the service, held at the Mt Salem Seventh-day Adventist Church in Montego Bay, there was a generous outpouring of love, tears and cries for justice, as Deane was eulogised as an ambitious young man with big dreams who suffered at the hands of an inadequate justice system, which cut short his promising life.

"I was born poor and had humble beginnings ... . What happened to Mario could have happened to me," said Central St James Member of Parliament Lloyd B. Smith, who broke down in tears as he described Deane as a martyr for justice.

"The culture of policing in Jamaica must change or we are going to have more Mario Deanes."

many speakers

Like Smith, the litany of other speakers, which included United States civil-rights attorney Jasmine Rand; internationally acclaimed dub poet/radio personality Mutabaruka; attorney-at-law Michael Lorne; co-convenor of Citizens' Action for Principle and Integrity, Dennis Meadows; and parliamentarian J.C. Hutchinson, who represented Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, the cry for reform and justice was quite loud.

"Mario's death should be seen as the turning point for justice in Jamaica," wrote Holness, who also renewed his call for the creation of a human-rights commission in Jamaica. "We need to take a proactive approach to justice in Jamaica."

Like earlier speakers, such as Meadows, who did not mince words, Mutabaruka also bemoaned the fact that the Jamaica Constabulary Force was not created to serve the majority of the Jamaican people when it came into being after the Morant Bay Rebellion.

"There is no justice in Jamaica. What we have is a system to prop up the minority," said the popular social activist. "The Constitution was not made for the Jamaican people ... it does not recognise the Jamaican people ... . We need to attack the Constitution ... that is where the change should start."

The ceremony took on a rather sombre tone when Lorne, the family's attorney, and Mario's father, Nicholas Deane, displayed the contents of the bag Mario was carrying on the day he was arrested. Tears flowed freely as they displayed items such as clothing, tools and foodstuff.

"All Mario had on his mind on the day he got arrested was just work ... . Here is the evidence," said Lorne, pointing to the contents of the bag. 'Nobody wants to listen to us when we call for justice here in Jamaica, so we had to take our call international ...; That is why we got an overseas pathologist and overseas human-rights help."

The eulogy, delivered by Mario's cousin, Diandra Norman, also elicited much tears, as, standing on an elevated platform just above the personalised sky-blue coffin, which was decorated with pictures of Mario and hand-written notes of condolences, she spoke of his many dreams and aspirations and the joy he brought to his family.

"He was a gentle giant, who was well focused and knew what he wanted out of life," said Norman. "He was well loved and was a hero to his family."

Following the church service, Deane's body was transported to Welcome district, in Hanover, where it was buried in a family plot.