Tuesday, January 31, 2012

PM Should Decry Homophobic Bigotry says Gleaner but some questions & issues present themselves

The story of Maurice Tomlinson, a lecturer at the University of Technology (UTech), reported by this newspaper yesterday, reverberates with the insensitivity of supposed students of the law and at the same time highlights the mediaeval attitude that still largely prevails in Jamaica towards gays.
And having declared her principled position on the rights of gays, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller should add her voice to the protection of Mr Tomlinson's rights under the Constitution of Jamaica.
Maurice Tomlinson is an attorney. He also teaches law at UTech. He came into public notice more recently when it was reported in Canada that he had married his male partner.

In homophobic Jamaica, where a former prime minister declared that he would have no gays in his Cabinet and his successor waffled, equivocated on and parsed his response to the subject, Mr Tomlinson's action is a potential death sentence.

Myopic law students

Indeed, he has gone into hiding and has told this newspaper that he was advised by the police that it would be unsafe to appear on the UTech campus "because my security has been compromised". Put bluntly, Mr Tomlinson has received death threats.

The university law faculty has been unable, as yet, to find a substitute lecturer for Mr Tomlinson's course, and students were advised - apparently by Mr Tomlinson - to sit in with other lecturers.

What has surprised this newspaper is the response of some part-time students affected by the disruption - an apparent absence of sympathy or concern for a man whose life is reportedly in danger.
They are angry over personal scheduling difficulties caused by Mr Tomlinson's absence, complaining that even with the arrangement he attempted to put in place, "we will still be at a disadvantage".
We would be forgiven if we concluded that this lack of empathy and compassion by the affected law students betrays both deep moral failings and weak appreciation for the course of study on which they have embarked. Put another way, it would seem that the concentration of these UTech students is on certification. The substance of the law is secondary.

Breach to one, breach to all

What even early students of the law, like those taught by Mr Tomlinson, should have already learnt is that their rights as individuals cannot be secure if his can be trampled on with impunity. The ultimate protection of one's rights is a democratic society's adherence to the rule of law. There is no more fundamental right than the right to one's life, which, incidentally, is among the first named rights and freedoms protected in Section 13 (3)(a) of the Charter of Rights in Jamaica's Constitution.

Perhaps, in time, the peeved UTech students will appreciate that the application of the law has to be universal, and universally fair, for it to be worthy. Prime Minister Simpson Miller can help in promoting this understanding.

The prime minister displayed courage in defending people's right to lifestyles of their choice when she declared that sexual orientation would not be a criterion for membership in her Cabinet. She must repeat often that there is no right to impunity against people whose lifestyles the majority does not like. For a real test of a democracy is how it protects the rights of minorities.

The PM should also champion the cause for the repeal of the buggery law.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.


How much do we want from the Prime Minister in such a short space of time?, this is almost as dumb as the JFLAG error in stating a timeline within 100 days when the issue MUST be discussed then having to turn around and do damage control so as not to make it look like an ultimatum after the fire-storm from both inside the LGBT community and outside especially with that persistent thinking that the ruling party was funded by gay interests outside so as to push the battyman issue. 

Why should the PM only deal with this because it's Maurice Tomlinson, is he so special over all the others before and with him especially those persons who do their respective work quietly in the community without a song and dance? After all he chose to put himself out there so it comes with the repercussions.

The glaring contempt towards persons who work quietly in the local community is showing its head again as JFLAG operatives themselves have brought to bear when some rude criticisms have been brought to the fore regarding the recent departure of Mr. Tomlinson under questionable circumstances. He complained that the Observer for example published an unauthorised photo of him hence putting his life in danger yet he forgot to mention his very public television appearances long before the shots were seen in print and why did he send the shot of his signing the licence in Canada to a Catherine Porter of the Gay Star News? and the subsequent timing of this to coincide with the David Kato award collection in London with the large purse attached has left some doubt in the minds of many as professional dishonesty is reeking from all these circumstances. All the Observer had to do was republish the story under the creative commons license protection originally carried by Star News Canada written by the aforementioned author in a piece entitled: "Jamaican gay activist, Maurice Tomlinson, married a Torontonian" whils stating the source. The photo clearly showed it was courtesy of Tomlinson, if he did not want this issue out there why allow the overseas article to be put out in the first place?

All these set of circumstances so close to each other and so well timed does not look good. 

Criticisms have been rising about these and other issues and reputations are being re-examined to find out why is it some persons seem to easily benefit from activities in the name of defending the community? I have been on record to say it is all about superstardom and not about looking at the community as a whole, this first pass the post drama to see who will get the recognition is just too glaring these days while the least amongst us continue to struggle. The Gleaner also carried this piece: Threats force gay lecturer to flee which has had some reaction from influentials. This is how strong a comment that came from such a person:

"Frankly, from reading this article, I don't get a sense of someone who's been forced to "flee". People who "flee" don't have a return date scheduled. If someone is fleeing for their life because of circumstances beyond control, how exactly did he suddenly regain enough control to be able to"schedule" when his safety concerns had been resolved? What I do get a sense of is someone who's taking advantage of the reputation that Jamaica has gained, and using it to his own ends. That is, how convenient that such "safety concerns" emerge as significant right around the same time when he goes to London to go pick up his award?

And who told the newspaper that he was away from work? Let me guess....

Suffice it to say, this story reeks of unprofessional and unethical behaviour on Maurice's part. It may well be that faculty members in Jamaica can and do mistreat students however they want - cancel classes, don't show up, don't give the students their grades, etc. - with no repercussions. But to use homophobia as the excuse for not showing up, ad to have the administration in knots over how to deal with this crisis, when I'm sure they sense that things are not as they appear - that is beyond selfish and self-involved.

I am totally sick and tired of lgbt Jamaican individuals manipulating the already hostile situation at home by making themselves into scapegoats and victims, just so they can appropriate resources and attention for themselves. I was wondering where the leaked story of the wedding was going, and I can already see.

In my opinion, there needs to be a total news lockout against Maurice Tomlinson unless what he's talking about or doing DIRECTLY involves broader community, and there's sufficient corroboration of his accounts. He is being very manipulative in his conduct, and is harming the movement in many ways. Others have pulled similar stunts in the past, but Maurice is taking the situation to a whole other level. And he's counting on the silence and gullibility of lgbt Jamaicans as well as the fears of straight people to help him accomplish whatever he's set his mind to, and which won't benefit anyone but himself. Enough already."

The comment when first made/posted was deleted from a Facebook group where JFLAG operatives converge by one of the administrators who work with the organization I have since gathered. Another dangerous precedence for muzzling and or dictatorship to the rest of the community? yet we ask for tolerance elsewhere.


Frankly this whole episode has stirred up a hornet's nest and the bigger issue of ethical professionalism is back at the forefront but for how long will it remain as usually when it does make centerstage some other items are quickly found to create a diversion.

Peace and tolerance


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