Wed | May 31, 2023

PNP to defend ‘rights’

Opposition won’t support reform that tramples on citizens’ privilege, Golding warns

Published:Tuesday | March 28, 2023 | 1:23 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Rocky Meade.
Rocky Meade.

OPPOSITION LEADER Mark Golding has warned that there will be no consensus from his team on matters of constitutional reform that do not ensure human rights are upheld, amid concerns over the appointment of former Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, to the Constitutional Reform Committee.

There has been public opposition to Meade’s appointment to the committee from human rights watchdog Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), as well as questions from one public commentator about the justification for the former Jamaica Defence Force boss’ appointment.

Meade is expected to co-chair the committee alongside Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, who, too has been criticised over comments which have raised eyebrows regarding the infringement of Jamaicans’ rights.

“I understand the concerns but what I would say is this, at the end of the day the Opposition is there to protect and defend the Constitution and the people of Jamaica and their rights. We’re not going to agree to anything that we feel doesn’t pass that standard and that test,” Golding told journalists on Sunday at a meeting of the People’s National Party’s (PNP) National Executive Council.

He noted that Meade has been an “ardent advocate” for the use of states of public emergency in the way, he said, the Government has been using them since 2017, which the Opposition disagrees with.

“We’ve actually taken that matter to court so that the court can declare that it is unconstitutional if the court agrees with us,” said Golding.

Last Thursday, JFJ’s Executive Director Mickel Jackson raised strong concerns to Meade’s appointment, arguing that the newly appointed ambassador plenipotentiary was leader of the operations of the “state-sanctioned Tivoli massacre” in May 2010.

Jackson said in the aftermath, upwards of 70 persons were reportedly killed; at least three disappeared, and approximately 4,000 were arbitrarily detained.

“Little accountability was provided despite the commission’s report. While one is not questioning Ambassador’s Meade’s qualifications, we do question whether this decision is wise, especially when there is work to be done in later phases around the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. In this regard, we question what the contribution of Ambassador Meade’s expertise is expected to provide, given his years in military,” Jackson argued.