Right Steps & Poui Trees


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No Written Rules Banning Sleeveless Dresses: An Access to Information Story

I look at the Gleaner this morning and see that the issue of the banning of women wearing sleeveless dresses is again in the news here in Jamaica. The Gleaner’s editorial entitled “Dressing Sleeveless in Jamaica” was sparked by social media commentary pointing out “that women in Jamaica could not dress like Mrs May to enter several government departments and agencies, including hospitals, prisons and schools.” This was a reference to the UK Prime Minister’s sleeveless attire in a formal setting during the official visit of the US President.PM May - Trump visit 7-2018

But we don’t have to go that far afield to show the disparity between what is accepted in a formal setting and what will get a Jamaican woman barred from entry to do business in some government entities. We only need to look at our own Governor General’s wife at the swearing-in ceremony of PM Andrew Holness at King’s House in 2016. She, like a number of women who attended, wore a sleeveless dress, which was perfectly acceptable attire for that very formal occasion. Yet wearing that same or a similar dress, I would risk being barred from entering some government ministries or agencies.

Back in May this year, someone shared the classic story of her elderly mother, a woman of high standing in the field of education in Jamaica, being barred from attending a meeting at the Ministry of Education recently because she was wearing a sleeveless dress. Undeterred, she returned to her car, tore a hole for her head in a sheet of The Gleaner newspaper, returned with her arms covered in this way and was allowed to enter!

I have been interested in this issue for a number of years and have written a couple of blog posts about it and decided that I wanted to actually see the regulations that guided this sleeveless ban. So I made a request under the Access to Information Act to seven Ministries for

“any regulation/guideline/protocol/etc documenting the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”

I also made this request to one Executive Agency.

I made my initial requests on May 29 & 30. This week I received the response from the last of the bodies. Not one produced any document prohibiting the wearing of sleeveless dresses or blouses by female members of the public.

The Ministries & Executive Agency and Their Responses

The Ministries and Executive Agency I made ATI requests to were

  • Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport
  • Ministry of Education, Youth & Information
  • Ministry of Finance & the Public Service
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry of Labour & Social Security
  • Registrar General’s Department

I selected some of these Ministries and the Registrar General’s Department because they have featured in sleeveless banning complaints in the past; the other Ministries were included just to extend the range. Their responses are as follows.

Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport

June  5, 2018 – “In response to your request stated below under the Access to Information Act, I am not aware of any documentation from this Ministry regarding any regulation/protocol or guideline for the prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”

Ministry of Education, Youth & Information

June 8, 2018 – “The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEYI) is pleased to grant you access. Please see attachment Visitors Dress Code.”

MOYC Visitors Dress Code ATI 2018

On June 11, 2018, I made two subsequent ATI requests. It is now more than 30 days since I made these requests and I haven’t received either an acknowledgment of them or any documents in response to them.
“1. I note that this document does not include “sleeveless dresses or blouses” in its list of prohibited wear. Is there any document that does?
2. The document sent seems to be a photograph of a framed notice at the Ministry. It includes the words “Signed Human Resource Management and Administration. Ministry of Education. 2009”. Are there any documents (minutes, memos, letters, reports, etc) relating to the issuance of this notice and the establishment of the dress code for visitors policy on which it is based?
Please regard this as a formal request under the Access to Information Act.”

Ministry of Finance & the Public Service

July 9, 2018 – I am somewhat heartened by the indication that the Ministry of Finance is currently reviewing its “practice of restricting access by females who wear sleeveless blouses or dresses”.

MFPS ATI response 9-7-18 sleeveless dresses

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade

June 15, 2018 – “I hereby acknowledge receipt of your request dated Wednesday, May 30, 2018. The Ministry however, does not have any documented regulation prohibiting female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses when entering the Ministry to do business.”

Ministry of Health

July 3, 2018 – “Please be advised that we have undertaken the necessary research to respond to your request for any “regulation / guideline /protocol/document which guides the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business”.

To date no document has been identified or located. It appears that this is an unwritten policy that has been carried on over many years.
In pursuit of a concrete response we have sent the request to the Cabinet Office and continue to await their response.”

Ministry of Justice

June 22, 2018 – “Reference is made to your Access to Information application below, please be informed that no documents were found in support of your application.

Ministry of Labour & Social Security

July 11, 2018 – “Thank you for your application under the Access to Information Act, wherein you requested the Ministry’s Dress Code to enter its offices. Please note that the ministry in keeping with other Government entities established a Dress Code Guideline for its customers. The Dress Code prohibits:

  • Camisoles
  • Tube Tops
  • Merinos
  • Short Shorts
  • Mini Skirts
  • Low Cut Garments exposing the Bosom
  • Tights
  • Sheer (see through) Garments
  • Pants below the waist

It should be noted that persons are not prohibited from entering the building, as long as the clothing is not excessively revealing. Steps are also being taken to review this guide bearing in mind the Ministry’s stakeholders.”

The list included in the Ministry of Labour & Social Security’s response is displayed on printed posters at the guard house at the gate and in the lobby of the Ministry. It is delightfully ironic that the poster in the lobby has a piece of masking tape affixed to it, on which is written the word “sleeveless”!MLSS dress code poster 7-18 - sleeveless

Registrar General’s Department

May 30, 2018 – “The Registrar General’s Department does not have any formal regulation/guideline/protocol documenting the prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses.

We do however follow the general rule of most Ministries and Hospitals, which prohibit the wearing of alter backs, tube tops and spaghetti blouses.”

On May 30, 2018, I replied making a follow-up ATI request:

I’d like to make a request under the Access to Information Act for a copy of any document (memo, correspondence, minutes, report, etc) in the possession of the Registrar General’s Department that sets out “the general rule of most Ministries and Hospitals, which prohibit the wearing of alter tops, tube tops and spaghetti blouses” referred to in your email, which you advise that the RGD follows.

On June 11, 2018, I received the following reply: “The Registrar General’s Department does not have a written document, but there is an unspoken, unwritten dress code which is in force.

Please note with regard to Dress codes each organization sets its own policy, which can be written or unwritten. It differs and is dependent on the organization.

Our unwritten policy encourages our customers to dress in such a way, that shows consideration for other members of the public.”

(I remain somewhat puzzled at how the dress code can be efficiently communicated if it is both unspoken and unwritten!)

Concluding Comments

So there you have it. A small sampling of government entities.

  • 8 entities requested via the ATI Act to provide documents setting out “any regulation/guideline/protocol/etc documenting the Ministry’s prohibition of female members of the public wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses entering the Ministry to do business.”
  • 6 out of 8 indicated that they had no such document.
  • 3 of those 6 gave some background or context for the unwritten sleeveless ban policy/practice.
  • 1 of those 6 made mention of some of the prohibited garments.
  • 1 of those 6 indicated that they had referred the request to the Cabinet Office for a further response.
  • 2 of the 8 entities sent the list of garments prohibited by their dress code. Neither of those dress codes specifically prohibited sleeveless dresses or blouses.
  • 2 of the 8 entities indicated that they were currently undertaking a review of the existing practice.

It is time that this practice – unwritten, unspoken (?), unjustified, whatever its origin – be officially abandoned and those Ministries and other government entities applying it recognise that a woman in a sleeveless dress or blouse entering their precincts will not bring government business to a screeching halt.

P.S.

A note on camisoles, tube tops, halter tops, spaghetti blouses mentioned by those dress codes supplied…they are different from sleeveless dresses and blouses.sleeveless collage

P.P.S.

Donkey seh di worl nuh level. I guess the Ministry of Education hesitated to apply the sleeveless ban to a former government Minister. No Gleaner newspaper needed to cover her bare arms?

Tweet 31-3-16 Flloyd Green & Lisa Hanna at Min of Ed

March 31, 2016 tweet

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The JCF & Accountability: A Policeman Speaks Out & 3 Opportunities For Change

NNN Hidden Agenda on SoundCloud March 2018Listen to Nationwide News Network’s special report “Hidden Culture”. It is narrated by Nationwide’s Marjorie Gordon and centres on an interview with a serving member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). It is a chilling account of the ways in which extrajudicial killings are carried out and covered up by members of the police force, with the involvement of gazetted ranks. The policeman’s voice has been distorted to protect his identity. It was first broadcast on March 21, 2018, was rebroadcast a number of times that week and is now posted on SoundCloud.

Many of the things that he spoke about are things that have been reported on before, things that I have heard of over many years. The difference here is that a serving policeman is giving a personal account in an interview being broadcast on radio.

“You’re a constable going to work and you realise that your name is set to go on an operation to be conducted 3 o’clock in the morning. So, I go on the operation. When I go on the operation with several other officers, we are briefed by the officer in charge of that operation, who is sometimes a Deputy Superintendent, sometimes an Insepector, sometimes even a Superintendent himself. And what we are told to do, the instructions that we are given on that operation, kill!…We’re going fah a particular person and wi not going to lock him up. There were times when members would ask the question, “So Supa, when we hold So-and-So, what di position? Jail or morgue?” And we are told, “Mi nuh inna nuh jail business.”…As a young constable on an operation like that, what am I to do? What am I to do? Can I stand in the crowd of twenty, thirty police officers and say I’m not going? I can’t do that. So I go on the operation, as a part of this operation, and when I see my colleagues fire shots in an innocent man….I’ve been on operations where I myself have fired. It does something to you. It did something to me and it has…it is doing something to others out there. I have a lot of colleagues who are lost in the culture. I realise…I have realised and I have come to the conclusion, most of us, we have lost ourselves because of how we are taught in the streets when we leave training school.” (Transcribed from Nationwide News Network’s ‘Hidden Culture’)

It has long been known that the problem is not simply one of individual rogue police, but that there is a culture within Jamaica’s police force that supports the use of extrajudicial killings as a crime fighting method. And there are those outside the JCF, across the society, who believe this also and would want us as a people to turn a blind eye and allow the police to do weh dem haffi do.

If we want to change this culture, to rid the JCF of this approach, to have a police service that is unequivocally committed to lawful, professional, accountable and rights-centred policing, then we have to seize opportunities for change. At the moment, three such opportunities present themselves.

  • A New Commissioner of Police

Major General Antony Anderson - JISA new Commissioner of Police was sworn in on Monday, March 19, 2018 – Major General Antony Anderson. He is a former head of the Army and is very familiar with the national security situation in Jamaica. One person alone cannot change the culture within and reform the JCF. A Commissioner can, however, provide the type of leadership that may facilitate such change. Whether Commissioner Anderson will (or will be able to) achieve the necessary change remains to be seen, but his appointment opens up an opportunity.

(An associated issue that does need to be considered is how much reliance on the military for/in policing is a good thing. For another blog post perhaps.)

On March 22, 2018, the day after the first broadcast of Nationwide’s special report, the JCF issued a statement in response, which said that

“The purported actions, which are being recounted by an alleged lawman, are categorically condemned by the High Command as they do not align with the principles and standards of a modern Police Force.

The JCF has implemented a series of measures to reinforce acceptable standards of behaviour by its members, particularly with respect to use of force, human rights and engagement with the public.”

It pointed to the JCF’s Early Intervention System, described as “a proactive approach to identifying members who may display tendencies of abnormal behaviour and thereby allowing for timely intervention.” It also mentioned the oversight roles of the  Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM), the Inspectorate of Constabulary  (IOC) and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA). It promised  “to further seek to create a mechanism that will allow persons who have information in these matters to offer same in confidence and without fear.”

Perhaps I have heard too many such statements over the years to find this reassuring. What actions will follow?

  • Strengthen Rather Than Weaken INDECOM

INDECOM logo 2The two Court of Appeal judgments which were handed down on Friday, March 16, 2018, raise once again the need for the Parliament to revisit the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act. A Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament held meetings from 2013 – 2015 and carried out the first review of the INDECOM Act, as required by the Act itself. The Committee produced a report with its recommendations, which was tabled in Parliament in November 2015. (Click here for a copy of the Joint Select Committee Report on INDECOM Act.) No action has been taken in Parliament regarding this report or its recommendations. (See my blog post in February –  Parliamentarians, A Joint Select Committee & INDECOM.)

On March 21, 2018, human rights NGO Jamaicans for Justice issued a press release calling for Parliament to make amendments to the INDECOM Act:JFJ press release 21-3-18JFJ press release 21-3-18 bJFJ press release 21-3-18 cJFJ press release 21-3-18 dJFJ press release 21-3-18 e

Both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Justice Minister Delroy Chuck have said that a Parliamentary Committee is to be established to review the INDECOM Act…again. At this point there is no clear indication of the timeline for the establishment of the Committee, how long it is likely to meet or when it will produce and table its report. It also isn’t clear whether it will be asked to review the Act in its entirety or only specific aspects of the Act, those affected by the Court of Appeal judgments, for example. It isn’t clear what weight, if any, will be given to the review done by the 2013 – 2015 JSC or if the public will have the opportunity to make submissions to the new Committee. And after the Committee tables its report, what action will the Parliament take in regard to its recommendations? What if there is a change of government after the report is tabled? Will that delay Parliament taking any action on the Committee’s recommendations, as seems to have been the case with the 2013 – 2015 Committee’s recommendations?

The news now is that INDECOM is seeking leave to appeal to the Privy Council for clarification on important issues in the case, including constitutional issues. It is also reported that Minister Chuck thinks that INDECOM shouldn’t seek to appeal, but should rather wait to see what Parliament decides to do.

So we continue to wait…to see what Parliament will do and when and whether it will use this opportunity to strengthen or weaken the important role INDECOM plays regarding accountability for the police force.

  • The Police Service Act to Replace the Constabulary Force Act

The Jamaican public first learned of the Government’s plans to replace the Constabulary Force Act with a Police Service Act via a March 2017 Government of Jamaica Letter of Intent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

JA letter of intent to IMF March 2017“Implement a full legislative review that leads to (i) completion of a draft new Police Service Act to replace the Jamaica Constabulary Force
Act, that supports the modernization and transformation of the
Jamaica Constabulary Force into a modern intelligence-led police
service that ensures Citizen Security, with stronger systems of
administration, management and internal discipline….” (p 21)

The October 2017 Letter of Intent indicated that the measure was “[o]n track for completion by target date”, the target bate being October 2017 (IMF – Jamaica Second Review Under the Stand-By Arrangement Etc October 2017 p 43).

In the Throne Speech delivered by the Governor General in Parliament on February 15, 2018, this new Police Service Act is included as one of the legislative actions to be taken during the 2018 – 2019 legislative year.

Throne speech 2018 - Police Service Act

Throne Speech 2018, p 7

This proposed new legislation is obviously an important opportunity for reform of the police force. True reform – the modernisation and transformation being referred to – cannot be achieved by tinkering around the edges of the current legislation or by focusing primarily on increasing the powers of the police. It cannot be accomplished without full and genuine consultation with the people the police service is intended to serve. The legislation cannot be rushed through Parliament without allowing adequate time and opportunity for those who wish to make submissions about the draft legislation to do so. Indeed, it would be best if there were also consultation on the actual draft legislation before it was tabled in Parliament. I know that new legislation is only one part of what needs to be done, but we cannot afford to miss this opportunity for change.

How these three opportunities are handled will have an impact on many aspects of the workings of the police force and whether we move nearer to or further from achieving a professional and accountable police service. One marker in that process – nearer to or further from – will be the impact on that hidden culture of extrajudicial killings.

Relevant documents – Court of Appeal Judgments

Court of Appeal judgment - FederationThe Police Federation, Merrick Watson (Chairman of the Police Officers Association), The Special Constabulary Force Association and Delroy Davis (President of the United District Constables Association) v The Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations and the Attorney General of Jamaica [2018] JMCA Civ. 10

Court of Appeal judgment - DiahAlbert Diah v Regina [2018] JMCA Crim 14

 

 

(I am a member and a spokesperson for Jamaicans for Justice. My blog posts are all done in my personal capacity, however.)


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State of Public Emergency Declared For Parish of St James

At a press briefing today, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that a State of Public Emergency had been declared for the parish of St James in western Jamaica. Also making statements at the briefing were Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, Minister of National Security Robert Montague, Commissioner of Police George Quallo and Chief of Defence Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Rocky Meade.

PBCJ - State of Emergency press briefing 18-1-18

(L to R) Major General Meade, Minister Montague, Prime Minister Holness, Minister Chuck, Commissioner Quallo

A recording of the full briefing is available via the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) at the following link: Press Briefing – January 18, 2018.

Below is a transcript of PM Holness’ opening statement:

Good afternoon, everyone.

As we are all aware and agree, the crime and violence – in particular murders – have been escalating in the parish of St. James. I have been advised by the security forces in writing that the level of criminal activity experienced, continued and threatened, is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety.

In consideration of this, I wrote to the Governor General recommending the declaration of a State of Public Emergency for the parish of St James. The Governor General has signed a Proclamation dated and effective 18th of January, 2018. The Proclamation has been gazetted. A State of Public Emergency is now in effect for St James.

Under State of Public Emergency the security forces will have extraordinary powers and some rights are suspended. This does not mean that the use of these extraordinary powers can be arbitrary or are beyond review.  The declaration of a State of Public Emergency does not mean the suspension of the rule of law. The security forces are expected and have been directed to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all.

Clearly the operations which will be conducted, though directed at criminals and their facilitators – I want to repeat that, the facilitators of criminals – will create some level of general discomfort. We ask the public to cooperate with the security forces.

Now is the time, if you know where the guns are, please tell us. If you know where the criminals are, please tell us. The reward for guns programme is still in effect. The number to call is Crime Stop – 311 – or call the security forces hotline – 830-8888. {This was later corrected to give the accurate number – 837-8888.}

As has always been the stance of the Government, we will continue with a credible process of communicating with the public. We ask the press and the public to be understanding of the sensitivities of this matter.

Again, a State of Public Emergency is in effect for the parish of St James.

The Office of the Prime Minister subsequently sent out this release:Press release re State of Public Emergency 18-1-18 p 1

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared a State of Public Emergency in the parish of St. James effective Thursday, January 18.

The Prime Minister made the announcement this afternoon (January 18) at a press conference held at Jamaica House.

“Crime and violence in particular murders have been escalating in the parish of St. James. I have been advised by the security forces in writing that the level of criminal activity experience continued and threatened, is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety”, said the Prime Minister.

The Governor General signed the Proclamation to bring into the effect the state of public emergency. The Proclamation has also been gazetted.

The constitution provides that a period of public emergency can be declared by a proclamation if the Governor-General is satisfied that action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of person in such a nature and on so extensive a scale as likely to endanger public safety.

Last year, 335 murders were recorded in St. James, which is twice the number of any other parish.

Prime Minister Holness outlined that under the state of emergency the security forces will have extraordinary powers and some rights will be suspended. He noted, however, “This does not mean that use of these extraordinary powers can be arbitrary or are beyond review. The security forces are expected and have been directed to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all”.

The security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, access to places and to detain persons without a warrant.

In addition, all persons using all roads leading in and out of St James will be subject to vehicle and personal search. In various areas of city and township, there will be joint static and mobile patrol. Persons may also be stopped at various checkpoints.

Meanwhile, Security Minister, Hon. Robert Montaque made an appeal to the citizens of St. James for their full cooperation during the period. He acknowledged usual activities may be curtailed. However, he assured that the operations to be carried out by the security forces will be targeted at the criminal elements and their facilitators.

“Any information you have, we need it. We need your full cooperation in moving forward in restoring peace and order so that the good people can continue to contribute to the well-being of Jamaica”, said Minister Montaque.

If persons have any information to assist in the crime fighting effort, they may call crime stop, 311.

A special hotline has also been set up to be manned by the Jamaica Defence Force for persons to give information.  The number is 830-8888.

—30—

Below is a copy of the Proclamation by the Governor General declaring the State of Public Emergency. (I’m sorry it is such a poor copy, but it’s the only one I could find at the moment. If I locate a better copy, I will substitute it.)

GG Proclamation 18-1-18 p1GG Proclamation 18-1-18 p2GG Proclamation 18-1-18 p3

The Regulations governing the period of Public Emergency are to be tabled in Parliament next week Tuesday.