Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Monochrome Flower: Weekly Photo Challenge – Experimental

‘This theme is as wide open as the prairie sky. How will you portray “Experimental”?’ 

I enjoy photographing flowers; they are such colourful subjects. What happens when you take the colour away? Beautiful still!black and white 14

Weekly Photo Challenge – Experimental

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Note-Taking in the Visitors’ Gallery in Parliament: 2002…Yes! 2017…No?

Last week Friday (November 10, 2017) I went to Gordon House to observe the continuation of the Senate’s deliberations on the National Identification & Registration (NIDS) Bill.

Gordon HouseWhen I reached the entrance to the Parliament building, a police woman was conducting a search of women’s handbags. I placed my handbag on the table and then was told, as others were before and after me, that note-taking wasn’t allowed in the Visitors’ Gallery and that I would have to leave my papers downstairs if I wanted to go up to the Gallery. The large envelope of papers I was carrying included not only my notebook, but also my copy of the Bill being debated, the Amendments List tabled in the Senate the Friday before and other documents about amendments that we hoped would be made.

I was very annoyed and expressed my annoyance loudly. In exchanges with the police personnel and with the Marshal, I indicated that the rule against note-taking had been challenged years ago and had been changed to allow people in the Gallery to take notes. I was informed that it had been revised last year, that note-taking was now banned and could only take place with the permission of the President of the Senate. Another member of the public and I decided to remain downstairs while the Marshal went to see if we would be allowed in with our papers.

While we waited, we saw Senator K.D. Knight entering and approached him and informed him of what we had been told. He said he would check to see what was happening.

Not long afterwards, the Marshal returned and indicated that we could go up to the Gallery, which we did, taking our papers and notebooks with us. A number of colleagues who entered after I did relayed similar accounts of being told they couldn’t take notes and one had had to leave his papers downstairs.

Later on, prior to starting his presentation on the NIDS Bill, Senator Knight raised the matter of people being told they couldn’t take notes in the Gallery. The President of the Senate, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, responded saying that he wasn’t clear what the origin of this no note-taking rule was, that it apparently required his permission for notes to be taken and that he was giving his carte blanche permission in that regard. His decision was a much appreciated one.

The reasons for my frustration and annoyance were twofold. Firstly, a rule against note-taking in the Gallery makes no sense. It is hard to see any logical reason for it. Members of the media are allowed to take notes. The Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) broadcasts the proceedings live, including streaming on the internet. What is the danger that is being protected against?

The other reason for my frustration is that in 2002 – fifteen years ago – Jamaicans for Justice (of which I was and still am a member), Transparency International (JA) and the Farquharson Institute wrote to Parliament asking for a meeting to discuss the no note-taking convention, which we felt should be repealed. We wrote to the Clerk of the House on March 28, 2002 and received a reply on June 13, 2002, indicating that in the interim a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee of the House had discussed the issue, had decided that the convention should be abolished and that a motion to this effect had been put to the House on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 and had been agreed to.

The Minutes of the Meeting of the Standing Orders Committee Held on May 28, 2002 at 2:20 P.M. ( Standing Orders Committee Minutes May 28 2002 ) say the following:Standing Order Committee minutes 28 May 2002

The Report of the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives on Its Deliberations on Proposed Amendment to Standing Order No.65 and the Matter of Note Taking in Parliament ( Standing Orders Committee Report June 4 2002 ) says the following:Standing Orders Committee report June 4 2002

The Hansard Report for the Sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 ( Hansard – House of Representatives June 11 2002 pp 626-643) contains the following record of the motion put by Dr Peter Phillips, then Leader of Government Business:

Hansard June 11 2002 aHansard June 11 2002 bHansard June 11 2002c

In 2002, the Government and Opposition members were in agreement that members of the public should be allowed to take notes in the Gallery. By their response to Senator Tavares-Finson’s decision, Government and Opposition Senators seemed to agree last Friday.

A number of us intend to follow up to find out why the no-note taking convention is once again in effect and to ask that it be removed…again. Hopefully, the problem will be quickly corrected.

(As a member and representative of human rights organization Jamaicans for Justice, I worked on this issue when it first arose. I remain a member of the organization. My blog posts are all done in my personal capacity, however.)

 


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INDECOM Reports 8 Police Fatal Shootings in the Past Week: Any Body-Worn Camera Footage?

INDECOM logo 2In two press releases this week, the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) reported on eight people having been killed in the past seven days by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). In one of those incidents, members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) were also involved.

The first release was issued on Monday:INDECOM Nov 6 2017 release aINDECOM Nov 6 2017 release b

The second release was issued today:INDECOM Nov 9 2017 release

The incidents took place in 5 different parishes: Kingston, St Catherine, Clarendon, St Mary and St James. As it investigates the incidents, INDECOM is asking anyone who may have witnessed or may have information about any of the fatal shootings to contact the organization.

One question I would ask is if any of the police involved in any of the fatal shooting incidents was wearing a body-worn camera and if there is any footage of the incidents. This would be particularly relevant to the incident in Salt Spring in St James, as that is reported as having ocurred during a planned police operation carried out by Mobile Reserve.

Terrence WilliamsAt a press conference on September 27, 2017, INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams spoke to the potential usefulness of body-worn cameras, saying:

“…most of the police shootings that you have in Jamaica have no witnesses but the police. So most of them will have no resolution but the police version, which may be true or it may be false. The body-worn camera provides that…an assistance in that accountability. And we were arguing from day one that why not use the body-worn cameras on those planned operations. So that you know you are going into a confrontation-type situation, it’s a very good time to wear the camera. So that your version of events can be depicted in this way of real evidence. We’re not seeing that at all. And we’ve had no update on it.”

He also made the startling statement:

“…in none of the shooting events that we have under investigation, including planned operations, were any body-worn cameras worn by the officers involved.”

COP QualloI think Commissioner of Police George Quallo needs to say whether the announced JCF body-worn camera programme is in operation or has been abandoned outside of the Zones of Special Operations.


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Voluntary? Not Anymore: National Identification & Registration Bill Enrolment Amendment

 

One of the things that has been said repeatedly in discussions and presentations about Jamaica’s pending National Identification System is that it wasn’t going to be a mandatory system. Yes, people would need a National Identification Card (NIC) or National Identification Number (NIN) for all transactions with the Government and its agencies. Yes, many private entities might require a NIC or NIN from someone in order to do business with them. You might end up not being able to function in the society if you did not have a NIC or a NIN, but there was no offence or penalty in the Bill for not having a NIC or a NIN.

But that has changed.

On September 19, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the National Identification and Registration Bill, with approximately 100 amendments. Two of those amendments were to Clause 20 in PART IV of the Bill, which deals with Enrolment. Clause 20 deals with “Enrolment of registrable individuals” and two new subclauses were added to the Bill:

NIDS Bill Clause 20 amendments

The penalty referred to in the Fourth Schedule is as follows:NIDS Bill 4th Schedule Clause 20(9) offence

So if someone doesn’t apply to enrol in the National Identification System, without reasonable cause, they will have committed an offence in law and will be liable to a fine of up to $100,000.

So much for persuasion via public education regarding the benefits of the system or coercion via exclusion from being able to interact with public or private entities. It is now made explicit. Enrolment will be mandatory.

A number of significant changes addressing some of the specific problematic aspects of this new piece of legislation have been made to the Bill since it was first tabled in Parliament on March 21 this year. Many problematic issues remain. The Bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

NIDS Bill title picThe current version of the National Identification and Registration Bill

 

 


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Standing Guard: Weekly Photo Challenge – Peek

“This week, share a peek of something — a photo that reveals just enough of your subject to get us interested. A tantalizing detail. An unusual perspective.” 

Was the small diamond-shaped window put there to allow him to see out?

guard 1

It also allows us to see in…guard 2

…as he stands guard…

P1190690 (2)

…at the Jamaica War Memorial in National Heroes’ Park in Kingston.P1190691

The Cenotaph is in memory of the thousands of Jamaicans who died in World Wars I and II. The Memorial was first erected on Church Street in 1922 to honour those who died in World War 1; in 1953 it was moved to its present location. Soldiers from the Jamaica Defence Force form a ceremonial guard at the Memorial. The epitaph on the monument reads: “In memory of the men who fell in the great war. Their name liveth for evermore.” P1200133

Weekly Photo Challenge – Peek