News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller

pointed commentary on current affairs in Jamaica and the Caribbean


June 2013

VCB is Ours!

English: Veronica Campbell during 2011 World c...
English: Veronica Campbell during 2011 World championships Athletics in Daegu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Make no mistake about it. Veronica Cambell-Brown is our daughter. The news has spread like wildfire that she tested positive for a diuretic at the Jamaica Invitational in May. News outlets across the world have already picked up the story  and are not holding back in initial commentary. We now await subsequent developments.

But let us be clear about one thing. Any attempt to try to distance ourselves from VCB by saying she trained overseas and does not belong to our local athletic training camps is ill-advised.

Veronica is one of our most visible standard-bearers. She carried our flag during the 2008 Olympics. We made no distinction then. UNESCO appointed her a Goodwill Ambassador for Sports. We made no distinction then.  Over the years we rooted for her. Her grace, determination, doggedness and sheer hard work won our hearts. We screamed ourselves silly over her all her victories, such as her gold medals  in Athens and Beijing. We made no distinction then.

We hailed her achievements as the first female sprinter to win gold in the Caribbean and one of our best athletes ever.

It’s natural that we are all shocked and concerned right now. The implications of her positive test are tremendous, both for this incredible athlete and for Jamaica. The reactions so far, as expected, are mixed.

Some of her fans are declaring support.

“I really fail to believe that VCB knowingly did this. There must be some reasonable explanation.” – Facebook user

“My faith in Veronica Campbell-Brown will not allow for me to believe that she knowingly took Diuretics to hide any performance-enhancing drugs in her system.” – Gleaner website

Others suggest we wait quietly as the story develops.

“I believe we should wait to hear from VCB and stop speculating.”                                                                                                           – Facebook

But others have started to comment along these lines.

“Why is it the overseas athletes are the ones testing positive?”- Facebook

“She should have stayed in Jamaica and trained like Bolt… the American influence???” – Gleaner website

If a son or daughter comes home accused of doing something, depending on our

personality, we might immediately lash out, quietly assess the situation or refuse to believe the accusation. What we don’t do is say ”Bwoy, him used to spend all him time next door you know, so a nuh really fi mi pickney.”

Remember this. Win, lose or draw, VCB is ours.  

English: Veronica Campbell-Brown and Carmelita...
English: Veronica Campbell-Brown and Carmelita Jeter 200 m final – 2011 World championships Athletics in Daegu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parliament’s Sectoral Debate. Yawn.


Gordon House - seat of Jamaica's Parliament Photo by DJ Miller
Gordon House – seat of Jamaica’s Parliament
Photo by DJ Miller

In 2011, then backbencher the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, Member of Parliament for Central Kingston, raised a long-standing problem, the sectoral debates in Parliament. The sectoral debate, which follows the budget debate, is a platform for every single Member of Parliament to address the House. Portfolio Ministers use the opportunity, naturally, to speak about their portfolios, opposition spokesman and women also tend to address portfolio issues, and backbenchers tend to concentrate on their constituencies.

It sounds good, but its implementation has been anything but. It is a never-ending exercise, often dragging on for months. It is boring, the speeches, like most parliamentary speeches, are far too long, and opposition spokespersons and portfolio Ministers are for some strange reason, not scheduled together to enable a useful, comprehensive discussion of national issues. In addition, the schedule is always being changed as Members are constantly asking for their presentations to be rescheduled.

At the time, then Prime Minister Andrew Holness agreed with Rev. Thwaites that a new structure was needed and noted that the public was uninterested in the exercise.

Rev. Thwaites had made suggestions for the revamping of the debate, including a more focused approach, looking at national themes such as economic growth and social issues.

I had hoped the discussion would have been the start of meaningful reform, leading to a more vibrant, useful exercise. Alas, we have seen nothing of that.

As always, my question to the parliamentarians is “Who are you talking to?’ or better yet “Who do you think is listening?’

Surely a more vigorous debate would spark wider public discussion, throw up more ideas for national development, get more press and more favourable attention for bright, thinking Parliamentarians. It should be win-win for us the public, and the parliamentarians. Apparently, none of that matters. So here we are again, in the middle of yet another sectoral debate stretching on and on and on. Yawn.


Gay Rights Activist Seeks to Challenge Belize and T&T Laws

Trinidad and Tobago Machine Readable Passport ...
Trinidad and Tobago Machine Readable Passport (2007) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attorney-at-law and gay rights advocate Maurice Tomlinson has applied to the Caribbean Court of Justice, for special leave to take legal action against Belize and Trinidad and Tobago.

Tomlinson has already sued TV stations TVJ, CVM and PBCJ in Jamaica for refusing to air an ad promoting tolerance towards homosexuals. You can read about those court proceedings in my posts here, here, here and here.

His application to the CCJ is in relation to his wish to challenge the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago which prohibit entry to homosexuals.

Individuals or private companies (as opposed to States) can appear before the court if granted special leave, by virtue of Article 222 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas where:

“(a) the Court has determined in any particular case that this Treaty intended that a right or benefit conferred by or under this Treaty on a Contracting Party shall enure to the benefit of such persons directly; and

(b) the persons concerned have established that such persons have been prejudiced in respect of the enjoyment of the right or benefit mentioned in paragraph (a) of this Article; and

(c) the Contracting Party entitled to espouse the claim in proceedings before the Court has:

(i) omitted or declined to espouse the claim, or

(ii) expressly agreed that the persons concerned may espouse the claim instead of the Contracting Party so entitled; and

(d) the Court has found that the interest of justice requires that the persons be allowed to espouse the claim.”

Court documents filed by Tomlinson reference the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which provides that “member states should commit themselves to the goal of free movement of their nationals within the Community.”

They also reference CARICOM’s Charter of Civil Society which speaks about fundamental rights and freedoms

Flag of the Caribbean Common Market and Commun...
Flag of the Caribbean Common Market and Community (CARICOM) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

including the right to free movement within CARICOM, and which requires states to respect and protect human dignity.

Tomlinson is asserting that his right to freedom of movement has been violated, and that it is an affront to his dignity to limit his movement through CARICOM because of his sexual orientation.

He says the Government of Jamaica has declined to agree to allow him to espouse the claim, stating that “there is no adequate basis” on which to do so.

In his affidavit attached to the application, Tomlinson states that:

“I am aware that…the act provides that the Minister may exempt any person. I am not prepared to apply for an exemption. If I applied for and was granted an exemption, I would be acquiescing in this unjust and discriminatory law. It would be offensive to me to be subject to questioning by State officials about the details of my sexual orientation and private life simply for purposes of determining whether I should be permitted to enter the country. I do not wish to visit Belize until all persons cast as “prohibited” by reason of their sexual orientation are free to visit the country.”

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