Heroes not criminals - Senator takes issue with label for freedom fighters
Members of the Upper House yesterday passed legislation with five amendments to absolve certain national heroes from criminal liability in specified events. However, one lawmaker urged his colleagues to insert in the proposed law that the country's freedom fighters did no wrong and, therefore, should not be labelled criminals.
In his contribution to the debate, Opposition Senator Lambert Brown contended that the bill was deficient, noting that it failed to condemn the British government for carrying out heinous acts against Jamaica's national heroes.
He said that if it were not made clear in the bill that Jamaica's national heroes were exercising their inalienable right to stand against repression, he could not support the proposed statute.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate Kamina Johnson Smith sought time from the president of the Senate, Tom Tavares Finson, to craft an amendment to satisfy Brown's concern.
ABSOLVED IN CULTURE
On the question of absolution for the country's freedom fighters, Brown said that Jamaica's national heroes have been absolved by Jamaicans in their songs and poetry.
"They adore them, they respect them, they revere them, they are our heroes."
Brown read into the records of Parliament a moving letter from National Hero George William Gordon to his wife detailing his innocence of the charges brought against him by the then colonial rulers.
The letter read: "I do not deserve this sentence for I never advised or took part in any insurrection; all I ever did was to recommend the people who complain to seek redress in a legitimate way, and if in this, I erred, or have been misrepresented, I don't think I deserve this extreme sentence.
"Please to say to all my friends an affectionate farewell and that they must not grieve for me, for I die innocently."
At the end, an adjustment was made to the preamble of the legislation, stating, "And whereas the laws enforced during those times were unjust and oppressive and resulted in the acts of those persons being labelled as criminal acts; and whereas the national heroes and freedom fighters exercised their inalienable rights to resist such unjust laws and oppression."