Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Editorial | Chuck’s poor judgement … again

Published:Wednesday | July 1, 2020 | 12:00 AM

While charity calls for Delroy Chuck to be given the benefit of the doubt for the sincerity of his apology for his juvenile remarks over what should be the time within which women can bring sexual harassment claims, common sense, and the historic evidence, insist that the justice minister has a far more fundamental problem that transcends his latest gaffe.

Mr Chuck has appallingly poor judgement, and an absence of maturity, that call into question his suitability to serve as a minister of government, especially in a portfolio so crucial, and sensitive, as that of justice. This is a matter that ought to be carefully considered by Mr Chuck himself, and his boss, Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

The issue of sexual harassment legislation has been on Jamaica’s agenda for several years, as the country contemplated – hitherto without serious resolve – the real problem of social patriarchy that primarily victimises women. Unwanted sexual advances, and sometimes rape, are often deemed as normal social interactions – a man-and-woman thing.

Recently, though, a Sexual Harassment Bill, aimed at addressing sexual harassment in the work environment, has been the subject of hearings of a joint select committee of Parliament. Mr Chuck is chairman of that committee.

Last Thursday, at one of the committee’s sittings, Mr Chuck, responding to the bill’s proposed limit to 12 months, the time a complainant who is dissatisfied with how a workplace has handled a matter has to take the case to a Sexual Harassment Tribunal, said: “We don’t want a situation that now happens in the Me Too Movement in the US, where 30 years later you talk about ‘I was harassed in the elevator.’ No. If you don’t complain within 12 months, please, cut it out.”

Reasonable people, perhaps, might debate, and disagree, on what should be the statute of limitation on a sexual harassment matter. But this was not, neither in tone nor context, the substance of Mr Chuck’s argument. There was an obvious trivialisation of the Me Too Movement that arose in the wave of strong rape and sexual harassment cases against the powerful American movie producer Harvey Weinstein, for which he had already faced criminal convictions. By extension, Minister Chuck belittled all the victims of sexual harassment in Jamaica.

Worse, Mr Chuck smirked, giggled and chuckled his way through his remarks. This was not a mature legislator addressing a serious problem. Rather, he was more like a grammar-school boy, behind the refectory, exchanging naughty pictures with equally short-trousered second-formers.

NOTHING HAS CHANGED

As we have already noted, the episode underlines a seemingly incurable weakness of judgement, as was demonstrated by the justice minister last October when he publicly complained about the supposedly “Nicodemus-in-the-night” arrest of former education minister, Ruel Reid, and his wife, on corruption charges. Incidentally, Mr Chuck’s daughter, at the time, represented the Reids.

These, however, are not the only demonstrations of Delroy Chuck’s obvious inability to fittingly calibrate the appropriateness of his thoughts and speech and public sensibilities.

A decade ago, when he was Speaker of the House, we first had cause to draw attention to this weakness, as well as to Mr Chuck’s penchant for attempting to transfer his, and the political class’, failures on to some presumed intrusiveness on the part of the press.

“The media don’t like politicians,” he whined. “Everything you say that is destructive, that puts you in a bad light, it is the first to highlight it.”

You were wrong, Mr Chuck, about not liking, but right about drawing on responses for saying things that are destructive. Ten years later, nothing seems to have changed.