Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jamaican PM's Four Letters
Condemning Anti-Gay Violence

Bruce Golding, the prime minister of Jamaica, has sent four terse letters to several non-governmental organizations since February 2008, the latest from March 2009, condemning violence against gay persons. I obtained the letters after filing an Access to Information request with the Office of the Prime Minister, for any files related to gays and assaults or murders.

This week 61-pages of assorted correspondence to or from Golding in the past two-years related to gays were released to me, in electronic format. Much of what was released were documents submitted to him from NGOs, asking for action on behalf of gays, and a handful of anti-gay letters from homophobes.

On the one hand, it is significant the prime minister of this living hell for gay people has expressed in writing his repudiation of the violence against our brothers and sisters. On the other hand, he goes out of his way to extend hostilities to the NGOs and, by extension, to the gays of Jamaica.

It is revolting to read in his note to JFLAG that he equates homosexuality with bestiality, incest and bigamy. He'd make an expert witness for the defenders of Prop 8 at the federal trial underway in San Francisco right now, but I digress.

As far as I can tell, of the three NGOs to receive letters from him -- JFLAG, HRW, MCC -- only Human Rights Watch publicized its exchange with Golding, and published the text of his reply on their web site. Kudos to HRW for this act of transparency. Would be laudable for JFLAG and MCC to follow HRW's example, and show the community how they have engaged Golding.

I've typed up his letters, making his words suitable for cutting-and-pasting, and am also sharing images of the actual letters made available to me. A word about capitalization and irregular use of quotation marks in the text. I copied the text exactly as it appears in the letters.

Here are the four letters from Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding:

28 February 2008

Dear [HRW HIV/AIDS Human Rights Programme],

I refer to your letter of 27 February regarding the violent attack on a group of men at a house in Mandeville.

This clearly a criminal act and is to be condemned and prosecuted.

The matter is being investigated by the Police with a view to apprehending the perpetrators and placing them before the Court.

[GoogleDoc image of letter here.]

14 March 2008

Dear [Metropolitan Community Church/Sarasota, FL],

I refer to your letter of 18 February.

Like all well-thinking Jamaicans, the government condemns all acts of violence against homosexuals. The recent incident in Manchester to which you refer is clearly a criminal act that must be condemned and every effort made to apprehend the perpetrators and place them before the Court.

Jamaica faces an unacceptable level of violent crime including murder. A tiny minority of these victims happen to be homosexuals or persons who might have been targeted because of their homosexuality.

We will continue our efforts to combat all forms of violent crime whether they are motivated by hostility to homosexuals or perpetrated for other reasons.

[GoogleDoc image of letter here.]

[Letter to JFLAG. Click to enlarge.]

2 June 2008

Dear [JFLAG Programmes Manager],

The position of the Government regarding violence against gays and lesbians is unequivocal. It is to be condemned, discouraged, investigated, prosecuted and punished with vigour and determination.

However, the dialogue regarding the "rights" of gays and lesbians refuses to engage the issue of cultural values of a society and the extent to which these must inform the laws that regulate society.

I accept that universal principles must transcend societal prejudices. The UN Declaration of Human Rights has sought to enumerate these principles that must prevail over a society's norms. Beyond that, however, we enter upon dangerous waters when we seek to transform personal choice into "rights" and seek, through the enactment of legislation, to impose those "rights" on a society to which it is repugnant. While the protection of the minority is a cardinal obligation of any democracy, the interest of that minority must be consonant with the universality of that which is to be protected.

Part of the weakness of the gay lobby is its implicit claim to exclusivity. If gay rights are to be recognized and enshrined, why would similar recognition and endorsement not be applied to other expressions of personal choice which the society considers to be unacceptable, for example, incest, bigamy or bestiality? What makes these expressions of personal choice different from homosexuality? Are these "personal choices" not communalized by the cultural norms that define the Jamaican society?

Until these issues are addressed, the dialogue will remain inconclusive.

3 March 2009

Dear [HRW LGBT Rights Program],

I refer to your letter of 19 February.

The Government and the Party that forms the government have publicly disassociated themselves from the comments made by Mr. Ernest Smith.

The Government respects and will continue to uphold the freedom of association specifically provided in our Constitution. It repudiates violence or intimidation in any form against homosexuals or any other person and will continue to enforce the laws which prohibit such acts.

The Government has a duty to protect the rights of all citizens as provided in our Constitution and the laws which emanate therefrom.

[GoogleDoc image of letter here.]

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