Tue | Aug 21, 2018

JaRistotle’s Jottings | Stop tolerating the inexcusable

Published:Thursday | May 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The recurring cases of political foot-in-mouth infection and the eventual 'apologies' from the offending politicos, after the usual outcries, reflect disdain for our laws and our people. Public utterances of a profane or vitriolic nature are quite commonplace in our society. however, the police seem more inclined to prosecute those of us who make such utterances under the guise of anything but politics. Are politicians not subject to the same laws as the rest of us? Why do we therefore continue to tolerate the inexcusable, absolving the offending 'mouth-offs' after meaningless apologies and setting ourselves up for further abuse?

 

Our rights and freedoms

 

Under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, all persons in Jamaica are entitled to, among others, the right to freedom of observance of political doctrines and the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of political opinions.

Discrimination is a two-edged sword, as it pertains to making distinctions, often unjustly, based on specific characterisations. While some are unjustly defined and treated, others enjoy favoured definition and treatment, until the tables are turned. Ultimately, there are no winners.

Under the Towns and Communities Act, it is an offence to use any threatening or abusive and calumnious (including profane, indecent or obscene) language to any other person publicly, as shall tend to provoke a breach or disturbance of the peace or instigate the discomfort of members of the public.

 

Is the law protecting us?

 

Consider Portia Simpson Miller's 2016 ominous and perceivably threatening mouth-off to dissenting party members in the SE St Ann constituency; Everald Warmington's 2017 dissertation to voters in SE St Mary on the ills of voting for the opposition candidate; and Denise Daley's recent avowal about evicting people who wore green in her East St Catherine constituency.

Are these utterances not encroachments on people's right to freedom from discrimination [and harm] on the grounds of political opinions?

Forgive me if I have missed out on any instances of the police upholding citizens' rights and applying the provisions of the relevant laws against offending politicos. I question the extent to which we are shielded from such assaults by our laws, and the appetite of the police to take appropriate action .

But mek DJ Cussy or Miss Fussy let off some @#$% in public and si if dem nuh get charge! Oh, how wont are we to major in the minor at the expense of citizens' rights and freedoms! Isn't protection against bigoted politics more important than protection from 'foul-mouthedness'?

 

Remedying the imbalance

 

The Terrorism Prevention Act speaks inter alia to acts which endanger life, health or safety of the public in whole or in part; to acts committed for political [or ideological] purposes intended to intimidate persons or threaten their security, including their economic security; and to offences vis-·-vis persons who knowingly instruct, directly or indirectly, any person to carry out a terrorist act, regardless of whether the act was carried out or not.

While I don't consider the 'mouth-offs' to be terrorists, my question is whether or not such politically motivated rhetoric could be construed as having the potential to endanger life, health or safety of the public in whole or in part, or to intimidate persons or threaten their security, including their economic security, in breach of the Terrorism Prevention Act? After all, their messages could be interpreted as calls to action!

If we really want to arrest irresponsible and potentially dangerous political rhetoric, we need adopt fresh strategies for redress. No more tolerating the inexcusable, not for those whose cups 'runneth' over.