Harrison-Henry wants J’cans to be more aware of rights
Public Defender Arlene Harrison-Henry is urging Jamaicans to become more aware of their rights and responsibilities, noting that the two go hand in hand.
Speaking yesterday – which was observed as International Human Rights Day – during an opening ceremony for the Central Regional Office of the Public Defender in Mandeville, Manchester, she noted that renewed calls for the advancement of human rights in the country by tackling issues associated with adherence to COVID-19 protocols even as the island battles corruption and criminality.
The Central Regional Office, which serves the parishes of Manchester, St Elizabeth and Clarendon, is part of the agency’s thrust to bolster its push to protect constitutional rights and investigate alleged violations as it makes its services more accessible.
“We believe that offices like ours should be readily accessible to the community and what we must make ourselves available to everyone in the island ... ,” said Harrison-Henry. “We know that we live in very perilous times and we know that when we talk about advancing human rights, it is our call to remind us that we have a particular responsibility to ourselves. When we talk about the ‘Big C’, it is no longer cancer; it is the coronavirus, criminality and corruption.”
Already bearing fruit
She said that the work in the region has already begun to bear fruit in making successful representation on behalf of persons before the courts who were unfit to plead to have them released to their families.
Harrison-Henry indicated that although the pandemic has somewhat scaled back the agency’s activities, its efforts to ensuring persons are aware of their rights were being maintained.
“We want people to become more rights-aware and more responsibility-aware ... . We would like to see a much broader involvement of community. When garbage is not picked up on time it is a violation of the right to a clean and productive environment and a violation of the right to be treated humanely,” she said.
Manchester Custos Garfield Green, the keynote speaker at the ceremony, pointed to issues of inequality in terms of limited access to buildings and services for the disabled and poor sanitary conveniences for customers seeking to do business at various establishments.
“It is very obvious that inequality is stymieing our growth and development. It is threatening our human rights, our peace and security, and ultimately, the sustainable future we want for ourselves ... . The situation can only be better when each one serves one,” he stated.