Right Steps & Poui Trees


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The Death of Noel Chambers: “…a comprehensive audit…has been commissioned”

On January 24, 2020, Mr Noel Chambers died in the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre.

INDECOM 1st Quarterly Report 2020 - Noel Chambers - blog picOn June 2, 2020, the public was made aware of Mr Chambers’ death when the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) released its First Quarterly Report for 2020 at a digital press conference. The details given about Mr Chambers’ incarceration and death were horrifying and outraged the country.

“At the time of his death Mr. Chambers was 81 years old. He was incarcerated on February 4, 1980 and had been in prison for 40 years without being tried. He was being held at the Governor General’s pleasure, deemed unfit to plead to a charge of murder. Therefore he was being held in custody without being convicted for an offence….

At the time of his death he was in a deplorable physical condition. His clothing was filthy and his body showed evidence of chronic emaciation. He was covered with what appeared to be vermin bites, live bedbugs (‘chink’) and he showed signs of having bed sores.”

(p. 5, INDECOM First Quarterly Report 2020)

In the days following news of Mr Chambers’ death, we were told that more details regarding the circumstances surrounding his death and the government’s response would be given when Minister of National Security Horace Chang gave a statement in Parliament. The Department of Correctional Services, which manages the prisons, falls under the Ministry of National Security.

On June 16, 2020, Minister Chang gave a statement in Parliament.  This is the text of the statement…

Minister Chang statement re Noel Chambers blog pic

PARLIAMENTARY STATEMENT on death of Noel Chambers

…and this is a link to the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica’s (PBCJ) recording of the sitting of the House of Representatives that day. Minister Chang’s statement about the death of Mr Chambers begins at approximately 23:30 in the recording.

PBCJ Min Chang Parliament 16-6-2020 Noel Chambers statement pic

I have a number of concerns arising out of this statement, but the one I want to focus on here is the audit announced in Paragraph 4 of Minister Chang’s statement:

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that a comprehensive audit into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Chambers has been commissioned. This audit is expected to not only reveal the circumstances specific to his death but also to thoroughly examine the procedures involved in the treatment of inmates who are deemed unfit to plead. In the interim, I wish to outline the details of preliminary findings from the special investigation undertaken by the Department of Correctional Services.

“…a comprehensive audit into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Chambers has been commissioned.” This is what the Parliament was told and by extension the country as a whole. This is put forward as a major mechanism for uncovering the details surrounding Mr Chambers’ death, for accountability and for recommending changes in the systems that allowed for his incarceration and death.

“…a comprehensive audit into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Chambers has been commissioned.”

  • Who commissioned the audit?
  • Who is carrying out the audit? What body? Which individuals?
  • What are the terms of reference of the audit?
  • What resources and powers have been granted for the carrying out of this audit?
  • What is the timeline for the completion of the audit?
  • To whom will the audit report be sent once it is completed?
  • Will the audit report be tabled in Parliament? Will it be made public?

If the answers to these questions are not made public, it will be difficult – if not impossible – for the public to hold the government accountable for this process and any subsequent action.

One reason why greater transparency is absolutely necessary is that this audit process may be being carried out by entities and/or individuals responsible for the circumstances that led to Mr Chambers’ incarceration and death.

More information is necessary, Minister Chang.

We need to remember that it wasn’t the Ministry of National Security that brought Mr Chambers’ death to public attention. Without INDECOM’s report, we would not have known.

 

 

 

 


They Say a Week is a Long Time in Politics…Jamaica, February 25 – March 3, 2016

Thursday, February 25 – Election Day

Polls opened at 7:00am. Party leaders Portia Simpson Miller and Andrew Holness were among the more than 870,000 voters who went to polling stations to cast their ballots on Election Day.

Observer photo - Portia votes - 25-2-16holness votes 25-2-16                                     (Photo credits: Jamaica Observer & Reuters/Gilbert Bellamy)

I was one of many who posted photos of their inked fingers online.

election tweet inked finger 25-2-16

After the polls closed at 5:00pm, the counting began, as did the monitoring and discussions on radio, television and social media. And later that night, the Preliminary Count by the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) showed that the JLP had  won the election with 33 seats, to the PNP’s 30.

ECJ 10-26

Mr Holness gave his victory speech & PM Simpson Miller gave her concession speech.

 

election holness psm 3election - psm concession speech 25-2-16

Among those celebrating at JLP Headquarters on Belmont Road was former PM & JLP leader Edward Seaga.

election 2016 Seaga party HQ 25-2-16

Friday, February 26

Final counting for all constituencies across the island commenced, with counting taking place in the designated counting centres in each constituency except for five – St Andrew Eastern, St Ann South Western, St Mary South Eastern and St Catherine North Eastern which were being counted at the Head Office at Duke Street Kingston; and St James Southern which was being counted at the Regional Office in Montego Bay.

 

ecj prelim chart with turnout 26-2-16

Figures released based on the Preliminary Count indicated that the % voter turnout was the lowest for a General Election in Jamaica’s electoral history. (Except for 1983, when the PNP didn’t contest the election.)

Saturday, February 27

Following the Final Count for the St Mary South Eastern constituency, the PNP’s Winston Green was declared the winner, instead of the JLP’s Norman Dunn, who had been declared the winner on the night of the election. This meant that the result of the election stood at JLP: 32 and PNP: 31. Tensions heightened as, with the Final Count still going on in many constituencies, another seat changing from the JLP to the PNP would change the overall result of the election.

gleaner green wins by 9 votes 27-2-16

 

Sunday, February 28

Rumours and speculation increased. At one point in the day, a rumour spread that the JLP had lost another seat during the recount, but this was not so. PM Simpson Miller and Dr Horace Chang both issued statements amid the increasing tension.

Gleaner PSM urges calm - 28-2-16Gleaner Chang urges calm 28-2-16

Director of Elections, Orrette Fisher made the decision to move another constituency recount to the Head Office in Kingston, and this was done with the security forces escorting the ballot boxes from St Thomas to Kingston.

gleaner tweet election st thomas western 28-2-16

Monday, February 29

ecj 29-2-16 2

Dorothy Pine-McLarty, ECJ Chairman (right); Orrette Fisher, Director of Elections (2nd right)

The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) held a press conference to give an update on the Final Count of votes. They informed the country that the Final Count of votes had been completed in 62 of the 63 constituencies. The Final Count for the constituency of St. Thomas Western was being continued at their office at Duke Street and was subsequently completed later that day. Press conference statement

Tuesday, March 1

The ECJ confirmed the Final Count and the outcome of the election, and indicated that the results would be sent to the Governor General. The results represented the narrowest majority in seat count for a General Election in Jamaica.

eoj FB final count march 1 2016

Wednesday, March 2

The official announcement came that the swearing-in of Andrew Holness as Prime Minister would take place the following day.

opm swearing in announcement 2-3-16

Thursday, March 3

The Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen , presided over the ceremony held at King’s House, at which Andrew Holness took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office and became  Prime Minister of Jamaica. PM Holness then delivered his inaugural address.

holness takes oath 3-3-16 2

The ceremony was attended by outgoing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, and the three other living former Prime Ministers – Bruce Golding, P.J. Patterson & Edward Seaga.

There were a number of musical items during the ceremony, but perhaps the highlight was the performance by Nesbeth, who sang his song My Dream, which had been used by the JLP during the campaign. The new PM joined him in singing.nesbeth holness tweet 3-3-16

As they say, a week is a long time in politics….