KINGSTON — Attorney-at-Law, Dr. Lloyd Barnett, has described the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Bill, as a "big improvement" on the previous Constitutional entitlements of Jamaican citizens.
The Charter Bill was debated and passed in the House of Representatives and Senate, during the closing weeks of the 2010/11 legislative year. It repeals and replaces Chapter Three of the Jamaican Constitution, making provisions for life, liberty and security of individuals, freedom of assembly and association and respect for private and family life, among other things.
Speaking at the monthly meeting of the St. Catherine Leadership Council at the National Housing Trust’s (NHT) parish office, Twickenham Park, Spanish Town, on Tuesday May 31, Dr. Barnett said the new provisions were major improvements in “many substantial aspects”.
He underscored the need for citizens to ensure that they are aware of and understand their entitlements, by familiarising themselves with the provisions of the Charter and the Constitution.
“The responsibility lies in us, and we must stop believing that other persons must decide our lives. We have a responsibility to decide what is best for us, and to see that the appropriate measures are taken,” he said.
Dr Barnett also lauded the efforts of the Government and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) hierarchy, in curtailing excesses by police officers in the execution of their duties.
Noting that this has been a “great problem” in the society, the noted constitutional lawyer lamented the abuses meted out to citizens, particularly those in areas deemed marginalised. He pointed out, however, that while some of the protests which follow police activities were, in his view, “genuine”, not all were.
Dr. Barnett posited that effectively addressing the issue while ensuring that the police are still able to execute their duties efficiently, require a revival of trust between citizens and the police. Alluding to his initial years in the legal fraternity, during which he served as a prosecutor, he said that up to 75 per cent of the cases which he handled were successfully concluded with assistance from the community.
He said any breakdown in communications between the police and citizens, because of unnecessary challenges, will not yield the desired results of effectively tackling crime.
In addition, Dr. Barnett highlighted the administration’s efforts in ensuring greater accountability, on the part of the JCF, for their actions through the establishment of special investigative bodies and special prosecutors.
“So there is improvement in that respect. But, at the end of the day, this is only going to be completely corrected by a public attitude, which says that this is not acceptable,” he stated.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter