Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Letter of the Day | Some ‘more equal’ than others

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2022 | 12:07 AM


Perception in Jamaica, more often than not, equals reality where public servants who breach, or are alleged to have breached the law, are concerned.

Not so in Britain and other nations of the world. In 2000, then British prime minister Tony Blair’s 16-year-old son, Euan, was arrested in London’s West End, for being “drunk and incapable”.

In Jamaica, it is more likely, for example, that member of parliament (MP) and junior health minister, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, will take a 180-degree turn and become a pro-life advocate, than for a sitting Cabinet minister’s son or daughter and, moreover, a sitting prime minister’s son or daughter, to be arrested for a major breach of any of Jamaica’s laws, currently on the books.

Earlier this year, Speaker of the House, Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, was issued a ticket for illegal dumping in her home parish of St Ann. Subsequently, after the matter was heard in court, she faced no charge.

In 2021, then MP and minister of agriculture and fisheries, Floyd Green, and Andrew Bellamy, then the representative for the Mona Division in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, along with other associates of theirs, attended a party at the R Hotel, on a no-movement day, due to public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subsequently, the director of public prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, ruled that Green and Councillor Bellamy were not in breach of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA).

In 2020, Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor, Shari Douglas, was arrested and charged for breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act and disorderly conduct. Douglas was subsequently found to be exempted under the DRMA. She was, however, recently found guilty of disorderly conduct by the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court. Douglas was not fined but instead admonished by the judge and discharged.

No matter the strength, or lack thereof, in relation to the respective legal arguments/defences put forward by the lawyers, in the aforementioned cases, the favourable outcomes (for the defendants) in each of those three high-profile cases significantly strengthens the long-held perception/notion that in Jamaica, the powerful, wealthy and well-connected get off scot-free, in glaring contrast to what happens when ordinary citizens face similar allegations and/or charges.

Last, unfortunately and disappointingly, the long-held notion/perception that, “In Jamaica, everyone is equal, but some are ‘more equal’ than others”, is ‘alive and well’.