STATEMENT BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND MINISTER OF JUSTICE, SENATOR A.J. NICHOLSON, Q.C. TO THE JUSTICES OF THE PEACE FOR THE PARISH OF WESTMORELAND


Issues concerning law and order looms large on the public landscape in Jamaica and as we tackle the challenges presented by those issues, I wish to re-emphasise the indispensable values of freedom and human rights as we look to the future. History has taught us – and continues to do so – that one of the primary functions of government must be the protection of human rights. With that in mind, this administration continues to give full support to international human rights issues that touch and concern individuals in our country.
In any serious attempt to beat back the awesome challenge presented by the few dangerous members of our society who would wish to see our state sink into the abyss of a murderous culture, there is the requirement that all persons of goodwill work together. And this is so whether the persons of goodwill come from the church, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, Justices of the Peace, the political directorate, state functionaries or the Jamaican citizenry.
The fight to restore law and order in our country is made exponentially more difficult when civil groups proclaim that the government of the day is in collusion with corrupt and inept members of the security forces or any other entity to breach, and trample on, the rights of our citizens. That has been a recent assertion of the lobby group, Jamaicans for Justice, at their press conference last week.
Under normal circumstances, such an assertion, dangerous though it might be, would be ignored; but there are other compelling features of this attitude that is assumed by the human rights lobby groups. So, for the record, I wish once again to state the following:
This is not the first time that such statements have been made by representatives of these groupings. That same assertion was made by one of their numbers in their presence at a meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the Terrorism (Prevention) Bill at Gordon House earlier this year. Just yesterday morning, I heard one of their numbers on talk radio give the thumbs up to that very sentiment;
Reports of such statements find their way onto the international circuit. It can do Jamaica no good in terms of our ability to attract investments, to attract tourists to our shores, to enhance our ability to attract loans and financial and other assistance, or for persons and institutions in foreign countries to have confidence in our ability to create and sustain a viable developmental process;
Statements of this sort, coming from influential members of our society, act as encouragement and succour to those who would ply their murderous trade of death and destruction. Such statements represent another string to their bow. They are buoyed by such assertions coming from particularly from persons whose main mission is to ferret out indiscretions on the part of the security forces;
This administration considers it necessary and prudent to work along with other entities in our country, including human rights groups, in the process of development and in the protection of the rights of our brothers and sisters. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to sit at the same table in the pursuit of such ideals when some of the groupings in our society harbour and express the views that the government is engaged in malevolent and unjust activities;
There is also an illogical underpinning to the statement itself. How could a government have a policy of collusion with state functionaries to carry out wrongs against the citizens of the country, knowing full well that it is going to cost the government and tax-payers millions of dollars every year to compensate for such wrong doings?
Let me state, once again, the position of the present government in relation to allegations of unlawful killings on the part of the security forces. Even as we rely on members of the security forces to safeguard our personal freedoms, we are determined to ensure that the proper judicial procedures are followed when such allegations are brought against representatives of the state. Killings by the police and by soldiers are justifiable only when done in self- defence, or in any of the other circumstances permitted by law.
Let there be no confusion about this! The administration of which I am a member does not, and will not, support killings that are undertaken outside of the ambit of the laws of Jamaica. If the state turns a blind eye to unlawful killings – under the colour of law – this will only drive the society into the arms of lawlessness. There will be no confidence in the security forces if the government is perceived as sanctioning unlawful killings. The right to life demands vigilance on all sides, including vigilance and circumspection on the part of human rights lobby groups.

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