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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Commend Jamaica on Efforts to Address Discrimination in the School Curriculum, Ask about “Colourism” and Discrimination Faced by Rastafarian People

Meeting Summaries

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twenty-first to twenty-fourth periodic report of Jamaica, with Committee Experts commending the State on efforts made to address discrimination in the school curriculum, while asking questions about “colourism” and discrimination faced by Rastafarian people.

Sheikha Abdulla Ali Al-Misnad, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, commended Jamaica’s efforts to address discrimination in school activities and its curriculum.

Faith Dikeledi Pansy Tlakula, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said reports had been received of “colourism” where lighter skinned persons were favoured in areas such as employment. What measures were being adopted to address socio-economic differences reportedly present along race and skin colour grounds, in particular regarding income, education, employment and standard of living? What measures had Jamaica adopted to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination?

Ms. Tlakula said the Committee had received reports that members of the Rastafari community were subject to discrimination in housing and employment; and of police forcibly cutting their dreadlocks, which were an expression of their faith, while in detention. Was there a government policy that addressed discrimination experienced by the Rastafari community, including the wearing of dreadlocks, as well as to protect their cultural rights and cultural sites? What measures were being taken to sensitise various institutions of government to protect the Sacramental Right of the Rastafari, which included the right to grow locks?

Introducing the report, Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica and head of the delegation, said Jamaica had a long history of strong advocacy in the fight for the elimination of racism and racial discrimination globally and domestically. Jamaica grappled with the socio-economic impact of unaddressed historical crimes against its people; the economic plunder of the country; and underdevelopment of the majority. These were all legacies of colonialism and slavery.

On 3 April 2017, the Prime Minister gave an unprecedented apology to the community of Rastafari concerning the Coral Gardens incident, continue Ms. Grange. The Government had established a Coral Gardens Trust Fund, which had over 132 million dollars to date. Support was given on an annual basis to the Maroon communities of Jamaica in support of their festivals and development initiatives. The Government had established and promoted “Taino Day” throughout Jamaica and passed legislation exonerating the Freedom Fighters, a previously oppressed people. The Office of the Public Defender offered support to those seeking redress from the Government where they considered that they had been wronged.

The delegation said “colourism” was perceived to be an issue relating to economic advancement. The notion of colourism in Jamaica, was a derivative of the country’s colonial past. Based on Jamaica’s educational system, the issue of colourism was not a bar to attaining educational advancement in Jamaica. In Jamaica, education was free from pre-primary to secondary level, and was heavily subsidised at the tertiary level. All persons in Jamaica had the opportunity to access education and achieve upward mobility.

The delegation said the Rastafarian engagement with the Government was cordial. The Government enjoyed a close relationship with the Rastafari communities. At present, there was no one umbrella group which spoke for all Rastafari. This had been attempted but owing to internal dynamics had not been sustained. The Government was instead engaging regularly with the seven groups. The notion of locks being confined only to the Rastafarian community was a misnomer; many of those not of the Rastafari faith did wear locks, while many Rastafari chose not to.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Grange expressed gratitude to the Committee for its engagement with Jamaica. The Government remained resolute in its commitment to the implementation of the Convention and to fulfil its human rights obligations to the people of Jamaica.

Ms. Tlakula thanked the delegation of Jamaica for the dialogue. The elimination of racial discrimination was always a work in progress. Ms. Talakula wished the delegation a safe trip back to Jamaica.

The delegation of Jamaica consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport; National Council on Reparation; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Attorney General's Chambers; Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs; and the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Jamaica after the conclusion of its one hundred and eighth session on 2 December. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and eighth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 2 December at 4 p.m. to close its one hundred and eighth session.

Report

The Committee has before it the combined twenty-first to twenty-fourth periodic report of Jamaica (CERD/C/JAM/21-24).

Presentation of Report

OLIVIA GRANGE, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica and head of the delegation , said Jamaica had a long history of strong advocacy in the fight for the elimination of racism and racial discrimination globally and domestically. Jamaica was a State party to seven of the nine core international human rights treaties.

Jamaica was grappling with the socio-economic impact of unaddressed historical crimes against its people; the economic plunder of the country; and the underdevelopment of the majority. These were all legacies of colonialism and slavery. The 2011 census recorded that the population was 92 per cent persons of African descent, six per cent mixed race, and the remainder a plethora of minority ethnic groups. The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms explicitly stated that all persons enjoyed the right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinions.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness established at the beginning of this year a new Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs. This new arrangement was a boost to the work of Ministries with portfolio responsibilities for justice, security, education, health, housing, labour and social security.

Jamaica had confronted its own actions that had negatively impacted its valued cultural communities. On 3 April 2017, the Prime Minister gave an unprecedented apology to the community of Rastafari concerning the Coral Gardens incident. The Government had established a Coral Gardens Trust Fund, which had over 132 million dollars to date. Seven lots at Howell’s Pinnacle had the designation “National Monument”. The Government had funded an Interim Elder Care Facility for survivors most in need of shelter and medical support.

The Government engaged with Rastafari on intellectual property issues through the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office. Safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage of Rastafari was also a focus. Funding support of significant celebratory events continued, and the Government had recognised Leonard Howell, posthumously, awarding the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer for pioneering the development of Rastafari in Jamaica. At the time of the 2011 census, Rastafari accounted for one per cent of the population, yet this cultural community continued to have a remarkable global footprint.

Support was given on an annual basis to the Maroon communities of Jamaica in support of their festivals and development initiatives. This year, the Government honoured two outstanding members of the Maroon community who promoted and preserved Maroon heritage with National Honours. The Government had secured inscription of the Maroon Heritage of Moore Town to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s List. The Blue and John Crow Mountains, site of memory and ritual spaces of the Maroons, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2015. All culture agencies maintained a strong relationship with both the Maroon and Rastafarian communities – both of which were indigenous cultures.

The Government had established and promoted “Taino Day” throughout Jamaica and passed legislation exonerating the Freedom Fighters, a previously oppressed people. The National Council on Reparation pursued the reparatory justice mission. A Reparation Policy was also being developed. The National Council had developed a webinar series facilitating global conversations on race with experts from across the world. Similarly, the Ministry of Justice was conducting island-wide sensitisation on restorative justice and legislation, and the Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs would be launching on Human Rights Day a public education campaign heightening awareness of rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

The Office of the Public Defender offered support to those seeking redress from the Government where they considered that they had been wronged. Legal aid assistance was available to citizens who were in need of such aid.

Education on civics and the teachings of Marcus Garvey had been introduced in schools. The celebration of Jamaica Day and Africa Day in schools and nationally reinforced the primacy of self and cultural identity. During Heritage Week, the Government promoted diversity and inclusiveness as core values of society.

Significant strides had been made to enfranchise the vulnerable through the work of the National Housing Trust. Housing stock had significantly increased from the time of the formation of the Trust in 1976. Financial support had been provided for access to housing for all strata of society, particularly the most vulnerable. The New Social Housing Programme launched in 2019 provided housing solutions for the most vulnerable citizens at no cost. The National Land Agency corrected the legacy of informal arrangements regarding land. The Land Administration and Management Division addressed issues of tenure and regularisation of land.

Questions by Committee Experts

FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said racism and racial discrimination were products of slavery, colonialism and apartheid. Both the perpetrators and victims of slavery, colonialism and apartheid had been affected, albeit differently. Racism and racial discrimination could only be addressed effectively if their existence was acknowledged.

Had the State party invited civil society organizations to make submissions on the State report? Why had they chosen not to submit reports? Grounds of “descent and ethnic and national origin” were not mentioned in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of Jamaica or in domestic legislation. What measures were in place to ensure that all grounds of discrimination in the Convention were included in legislation?

The Committee had received numerous reports with allegations of racial discrimination, particularly based on ethnic or national origin and skin colour. The Committee was concerned that the State party had not followed the Committee’s recommendation to adopt legislation on comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation containing a clear definition of racial discrimination in line with the Convention. The Charter did not cover direct and indirect forms of discrimination. What progress had been made in adopting a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that addressed both direct and indirect discrimination? Would the State party consider amending the Charter by repealing the savings law clauses which unduly limited the rights of citizens? Had there been progress on enacting the occupation safety health bill?

What measures were being taken to re-examine and withdraw the State party’s broad reservation to the Convention? What were examples of the practical implementation of the Convention? Could the Convention be directly invoked in domestic courts? Were there any examples of such cases? There was a concerning absence of court cases on direct and indirect discrimination based on race, colour or national or ethnic origin. Were there examples of such cases in which the Supreme Court made orders, issued writs or gave directions? What remedies were granted by the Supreme Court in racial discrimination cases? What non-judicial mechanisms and procedures were available to victims of racial discrimination? The Public Defender had received no complaints about the violations of rights on the basis of race. What measures were being taken to popularise the office of the Public Defender? What was the mandate, budget and composition of the Public Defender?

The State party had expressed reluctance to adopt legislative or other measures to prevent hate speech. Would it reconsider this position?

The common core document of Jamaica had not been updated since 1997. When would the State party draft a new common core document with updated population demographics? The Committee reiterated its recommendation that the State party collect disaggregated data on the demographic composition of the population. The State party had also not established a mechanism for systematic and consistent data collection, based on the principle of self-identification, to assess the socio-economic situation of persons or groups on the basis of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. Would the State party consider establishing such a mechanism?

SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI Al-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the Committee was concerned that the State party had not yet established a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. No government entities were held accountable for human rights due to the absence of this institution. Why had there been a delay in establishing this institution? When would it be established? Ms. Al-Misnad called for civil society to be involved in the process of creating such an institution.

Jamaica had not provided information on efforts to raise awareness of the Convention. What measures were in place to sensitise Government officials and make the general public aware of the Convention and remedies and protections against violations of rights?

The Committee commended Jamaica on efforts to address discrimination in school activities and its curriculum. What measures had the State party taken to promote education on human rights, discrimination and the Convention? How did school textbooks promote respect, tolerance and understanding of different ethnic groups in the State party? Did textbooks cover the history of different ethnic groups in the State party, including the Maroons, Rastafaris, the Tainos, and their contributions to building the country? How were teachers and school staff trained to promote tolerant behaviour and attitude? The Government had been gradually lifting restrictions on the wearing of hair locks and hairstyles in schools. However, some schools in Jamaica reportedly still prohibited the wearing of locks, knots, plaits and other hairstyles which were part of the culture and beliefs of minority groups. How did the State party ensure that school policies did not violate the rights of minority students?

GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-Up Rapporteur, said that Jamaica had not submitted a follow-up report to concluding observations issued by the Committee in 2013. Mr. Kut called on the State party to submit follow-up reports in a timely manner. The issues raised following the previous concluding observations were the State party’s broad reservation to the Convention. Why did the State party have this reservation, if it did not change the State party’s obligation to implement the Convention? The second issue raised concerned the establishment of a national human rights institute. What progress had been made in this regard?

A Committee Expert said that although the murder rate in Jamaica had halved, there were 258 cases and 406 police activities against people, but very few inquiries on these cases had been conducted. What investigations had been carried out? Did the State party intend to adopt a law on the protection of human rights defenders?

Another Committee Expert welcomed the entirely female delegation, which was very rare. Legal aid was granted to all persons who did not have the resources to access the justice system. How did the State assess whether persons could access legal aid? Why did legal aid cover? Were interpreters provided in civil courts?

One Committee Expert cited the State report, which said that racism pervaded economic relationships and uneven distribution of wealth. Was race a factor in the distribution of wealth in Jamaica? Were social rather than racial considerations important?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guaranteed the right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour and other grounds. While there was no explicit definition of discrimination in the Constitution, legislation sufficiently prohibited discrimination. Every citizen of Jamaica had the right to vote in free and fair elections. The national policy on poverty included principles on the respect for human rights and equitable access to goods and services. A dedicated unit had been established within the Public Defender’s office to protect the rights of children. Complaints of discrimination could be heard by courts. Convention rights and obligations were guaranteed under the Constitution. If a Convention provision went beyond those of the Constitution, the Convention did not apply. The provisions of the Convention needed to be incorporated in domestic law to be invoked, as Jamaica had a dualist system. Jamaica did not intend to withdraw its reservation to the Convention. Courts could take judicial notice of international legislation such as the Convention.

An aggrieved person could lodge a complaint with the Public Defender regarding abuse by public authorities. The Public Defender was charged with providing advice regarding legal representation to such persons. The Public Defender had 28 staff, who were appointed by the Office of the Prime Minister.

Jamaica disseminated information on human rights. Ministries worked to enhance public knowledge on areas under their purview. In 2022, a sensitization programme on the laws of Jamaica had been developed. This programme extended to educational institutions and Government agencies.

The protection of human rights and the rule of law were priorities of the Government. The police public interaction policy and use of force policy, and the code of conduct for the judiciary were examples of policies that protected human rights.

The occupational health and safety bill required revision, and that process was ongoing.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had approached civil society groups to make submissions to the State report. However, they had not done so.

There were several State agencies involved in public education programmes. The Ministry of Education was responsible for the reintroduction of civic education. State curricula addressed discrimination and promoted non-discriminatory practices. “Jamaica Day” was celebrated at schools, as was “Taino Day” and “Indian Arrival Day”. The history curriculum recognised the harms of Jamaica’s colonial past. The State also addressed the atrocities that it itself was responsible for through education.

The Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations was appointed by the Governor General. The Commission conducted investigations concerning actions by agents of the State that resulted in the death and injury of citizens.

The Government recognised the importance of the discussion on hair styles and dress in schools, and was addressing the issue. Wide-scale consultation on the issue had been conducted.

Establishing a national human rights institute was an important objective for the Government. The Government was studying different approaches taken in other States, and had assessed costs required for establishing the institution. It was expected that a policy position on the institute would be finalised by March 2023.

There were textbooks in schools that addressed the colonial era and reparatory justice. The Government sought to retell the story of the State and redefine its identity. Textbooks would incorporate the various elements of the Convention.

Interpreters were provided in both criminal and civil proceedings when requested.

Questions by Committee Experts

FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that there had been no action on implementing comprehensive legislation on discrimination. Even if Jamaica was a dualist State, it was obliged to adopt legislation that would give effect to the Convention.

What measures had been taken to make people aware of the Public Defender and increase trust in its office?

The Committee expected the State party to adopt legislation on hate speech, not legislation that would infringe the right to freedom of expression.

SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI Al-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked whether the latest census would categorise the population according to their ethnic background. The black community had been described as “chronically underdeveloped” by the State party. What did this mean?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that there was no specific legislation to give effect to article four of the Convention, but there were several pieces of legislation that addressed various forms of discrimination, including the Public Broadcasting Corporations Act. Under this Act, persons were prohibited from promoting the killing of or acts of violence against individuals or groups of persons on the Internet or through other media.

The Government was on track to complete the census in 2022. The issue of the inclusion of data on ethnicity from those who self-identified was a subject of national debate.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert said that the State’s reservation to the Convention had been formulated in a general way. What was this reservation and how should it be assessed by the Committee? What proof was there that victims of racial discrimination had access to remedies?

Another Committee Expert said that since the establishment of the Independent Commission of Inquiry, there had been a significant decrease in abuse of citizens by the police. Were any measures envisaged to allow the Commission to initiate prosecutions, to further decrease cases of abuse?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that there was a national standard curriculum, which served as a foundation on which school curricula were developed. The national curriculum included provisions promoting tolerance. The civics curriculum included themes that encouraged intercultural understanding and understanding of different religions.

OLIVIA GRANGE, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica and head of the delegation , said that Jamaica would refer the matter of remedies for victims of discrimination to the new Ministry of Legal Affairs, the fulcrum of Jamaica’s human rights reform.

Issues in Jamaica were indeed more social than racial. There were social issues that affected the prosperity of citizens, but the Government was working to address these.

Questions by Committee Experts

FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that children were exposed to religious education at school. Which religions were covered in the curriculum?

Ms. Tlakula said reports had been received of “colourism” where lighter skinned persons were favoured in areas such as employment. Reports stated that significant advantages premised on race, skin colour and class persisted and remained barriers to the full realisation of rights, including beach access. These reports also stated that the Colonial Beach Control Act of 1956 was still in place. The act restricted the right of ordinary Jamaicans, who were mainly black, to access beaches. What measures were being adopted to address socio-economic differences reportedly present along race and skin colour grounds, in particular regarding income, education, employment and standard of living? What measures had the State party adopted to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination? Would Jamaica consider repealing the Beach Control Act?

Jamaica had indicated that it had no population considered as indigenous; however, reports had been received which stated that Maroons, Taino and Rastafari rejected this claim. How did Jamaica apply the principle of self-identification to the different ethnic groups in the country, including those that identified as indigenous peoples? Had the State taken any measures to engage in open discussions with different ethnic groups regarding self-identification? What measures had Jamaica adopted to prevent and combat multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including against Maroons, Rastafari and Tainos? What mechanisms of redress were available for victims, including those belonging to these communities?

The Committee had received reports that members of the Rastafari community were subject to discrimination in housing and employment; and of police forcibly cutting their dreadlocks, which were an expression of their faith, while in detention. The Committee also received reports of the economic exclusion of the Rastafari and the dispossession of Rastafari families’ lands, including access or takeover of the Bob Marley Beach. Was there a government policy that addressed discrimination experienced by the Rastafari community, including the wearing of dreadlocks, as well as to protect their cultural rights and cultural sites? What measures were being taken to sensitise various institutions of government to protect the Sacramental Right of the Rastafari, which included the right to grow locks? Could an update be provided on the payment of the compensation of United States dollars 78 million for the establishment of the Rastafari Trust Fund? Would representatives of the Rastafari community be involved in the management of the Pinnacle Heritage site and in the Rastafari Trust Fund?

What measures had the State party taken to prevent racist violence against members of the Maroon communities and to investigate and sanction those responsible and provide adequate reparations for the victims or their families? What measures had Jamaica adopted to promote the participation of the communities affected by the bauxite mining activities in Cockpit Country, including Maroon communities, in the development of this project? What was the status of the Maroon Treaty of 1738? What measures were being taken to prevent and combat racism against non-nationals, including through the Internet and social media? What progress had been made on the repeal of obsolete legislation that criminalised irregular migration? Could the delegation provide an update on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers five years ago?

SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said the Committee commended the State party for the compulsory education law, adopted in September 2022, which would increase the access to secondary education, in particular for children of minorities and low-income communities. Despite the fact that secondary education was free, it was still difficult for minorities and low-income families to pay for school expenses; what efforts were being made by the State to help these students to attend secondary education without discrimination? What efforts were being made to ensure that children from the poorer communities had access to good quality secondary education? What measures were taken to address access to education in the pandemic?

What steps had been taken to provide all migrants and asylum seekers arriving to the country with sufficient procedural guarantees to consider their applications for international protection? The Committee commended Jamaica on the provisions in the refugee policy of 2009 that waived all work permits for persons who had been granted refugee status. Could information be provided on steps taken to ensure that employers were informed of this policy?

What was the impact of the amendment to the Trafficking in Persons Act and the penalties for sex trafficking on combatting trafficking of persons in the country, especially among migrants and refugees? What services were provided for victims, including legal, medical and psychosocial services, as well as shelter and education? Was training provided to police prosecutors, and judges on human trafficking and on victims-centred procedures? Were there public awareness campaigns on human trafficking and its impact? What tools were used to identify trafficking victims?

What measures had Jamaica taken to protect the rights of the most vulnerable groups in the country, in terms of access to medical services, and economic and employment assistance? What measures were adopted by the State party to protect migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from the negative messages on social media where minorities groups were portrayed as not following the rules during the pandemic, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19?

A Committee Expert congratulated Jamaica for acceding to the Convention on the reduction of statelessness in 2013. Had Jamaica adopted a national plan for the eradication of statelessness? How large was the stateless population in Jamaica? Did they have the right to any status?

One Committee Expert asked what lessons the authorities had learned regarding practices during the pandemic?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said much of the information recounted by the Committee included inaccuracies and even disinformation. It did not consider some of the nuances within Jamaica and the questions should be recrafted. The delegation was concerned with how the process had been conducted and encouraged the secretariat to rethink the format of the process. Appropriate questions would be responded to in writing.

The delegation said the Rastafarian engagement with the Government was cordial. The Government enjoyed a close relationship with the Rastafari communities. At present, there was no one umbrella group which spoke for all Rastafari. This had been attempted but owing to internal dynamics had not been sustained. The Government was instead engaging regularly with the seven groups. The notion of locks being confined only to the Rastafarian community was a misnomer; many of those not of the Rastafari faith did wear locks, while many Rastafari chose not to. The Government was pursuing the required land for Pinnacle. The Beach Control Act dated back to 1956. A beach policy was being developed, which stated that Jamaicans had access to the foreshore and floor of the sea.

One particular Maroon community had filed a claim to the Supreme Court which raised several issues which had been brought to the floor by the Committee Experts. Therefore, the delegation wished to abstain from commenting on these questions. The relationship between the State and the majority of Maroons was positive and collaborative. There was no discrimination of the Maroon community; they were considered to be Jamaican and voted in elections, attended Jamaican schools and held Jamaican passports. The Maroons had benefitted from Government support over the years and were included in the Jamaican census. The Maroons were not separated from the people of Jamaica. To provide relief to the Maroon communities during the pandemic, a six-month project geared at supporting Maroon traditional practices had been implemented. Trainings on crafts were delivered by elders of the region, providing a heritage overview. A report identified training and access to capital as areas of focus for the Maroon community, and as a result of the findings a workshop was hosted with over 300 residents attending. Twenty members of the Maroon community were then trained in small businesses and tourism operators as a result of the workshop.

Colourism was perceived to be an issue relating to economic advancement. The notion of colourism in Jamaica was a derivative of the country’s colonial past. Based on Jamaica’s educational system, the issue of colourism was not a bar to attaining educational advancement in Jamaica. In Jamaica, education was free from pre-primary to secondary level, and was heavily subsidised at the tertiary level. The Government aimed to ensure that at least 80 per cent of people who qualified for tertiary education had access to it. All persons in Jamaica had the opportunity to access education and achieve upward mobility.

The delegation said the State had not reduced funding for any citizens, including Maroons. Government officials should not engage in any entity which claimed to be a separate government within the territory of Jamaica. Therefore, the Government would not support claims of sovereignty by any group residing in Jamaica. The Government maintained there were no indigenous people remaining in Jamaica, but acknowledged the historical and cultural impact of the Tainos, who were the first people on the island. The contribution of this group had been well documented in history. There had been no discriminatory actions or omissions against groups which had declared their indigenous heritage. Jamaica always sought to ensure that the history and culture of all Jamaicans were protected, including the Tainos and Maroons.

The Aliens, Immigration and Citizens Act and the Aliens Act were currently under review. All non-nationals could apply for refugee status and there was no discrimination in the process. All non-nationals were entitled to legal aid. Jamaica had a comprehensive refugee policy which met all requirements of the Convention.

The national taskforce against trafficking in persons was established in 2005 and continued to operate, focusing on the prevention of trafficking. The taskforce had always been active in promoting public awareness campaigns against trafficking. An anti-child trafficking manual was developed for the education system. Jamaica had also ratified the Palermo Protocol, the United Nations protocol to prevent and punish trafficking. The Trafficking in Persons Act provided protection to the victims and in 2021, an amendment was introduced to the act to remove fines and allow for prison sentences only for perpetrators. Law enforcement officers received targeted capacity training to secure perpetrators, and training was implemented within the curriculum of the National Police College. Over 70 judges had been trained in anti-trafficking in person measures.

The delegation said the National Council for Reparatory Justice sought to identify issues in Jamaica which related to any form of discrimination in communities. This related to the issue of colourism, hair straightening and skin bleaching. This was a symptom of the colonial past and was hereditary; if they were addressed now, they would be able to be solved in the future.

During the pandemic, Jamaica had developed an emergency education plan with curriculum modification. Lessons were facilitated by television, radio and YouTube and continued to be provided during lockdown. During the pandemic, the Government provided packages to students who were learning from home to facilitate their work.

The issues of legislating racial discrimination beyond the Constitution would be further considered. The Cabinet had approved the setup of a Constitutional reform committee, which would begin consulting with the Government and other actors. A review of chapter three of the Constitution would be looked into, and the Government would await the recommendation of the committee. The committee would also identify any existing gaps.

The delegation said a web-based system was being created to integrate all courts on a single platform; this would allow information to be more easily obtained and enhance the efficiency of the courts. The number of prosecutors had been increased by around 50 per cent in the past four years, allowing the office to prosecute more cases involving negative police interactions with the public. Access to legal aid was determined based on an individual’s resources. While there had been a disparity in the distribution of wealth among different ethnic groups in Jamaica for centuries, measures had been put in place by the Government to ensure the advancement of Black people.
Questions by Committee Experts

FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said the questions asked were standard questions put to every State party to the Convention. Information was also collected from other sources, and no judgement was made on that information. In the interest of transparency, those questions were put to the State party to give them the opportunity to respond. The State party’s responses to the questions had been satisfactory. Did the Beach policy address some of the challenges in the Beach Control Act? Was the Council engaging with the Maroons open to discussions on self-identification?

SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said the State report denied the existence of the indigenous population. If the Maroon, Rastafarian and Taino communities were not indigenous, who were they? Why was there denial in the State report? Did the protected national heritage territory include land that was in dispute with the Maroons? What was the ratio of minority groups participating in secondary and tertiary education?

FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about the status of the 1738 Maroon treaty?

A Committee Expert asked if there were any specific measures suggested during the dialogue which would improve the working style of the Committee? Could information be provided on the independent Commission of Enquiry on Police Violence?

Another Committee Expert asked if there were more languages spoken beyond Patois? Was Patois spoken by all Jamaicans or one community? What could be done to give it official status?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the Government was aiming to expand access to the foreshore and the floor of the sea in the new beach policy. Human rights defenders benefitted from the same protection as all citizens in Jamaica. There had been no complaints regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation or on race. Religious education was one of the components of the national curriculum.

Patois was called the Jamaican language. In addition to this, the Maroons spoke Kromanti language, and the Cocongo language was also spoken; both were examples of African retention in Jamaica. The Government had launched a programme during the pandemic which saw 40,000 student receiving tablets in an effort to bridge the technological divide and ensure that students who needed it were able to learn. A member of the delegation said that being able to wear his locks as a government representative illustrated that whatever your beliefs, you had your place in Jamaica, and locks could be worn freely. If people were more narrowminded, this was being addressed by the Government.

The delegation said that Pinnacle lands were being declared under the Jamaican Protective Trust Act as a heritage area. All Jamaicans spoke and understood Patois.

Questions by Committee Experts

FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that there had been no complaints on racial discrimination; had there been complaints on colourism as it related to access to opportunities?

SHEIKHA ABDULLA ALI AL-MISNAD, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked what the Maroon and Rastafari were called if not indigenous and why they were they not mentioned in the report?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said these groups were recognised as indigenous cultures and there was no issue with how people self-identified. The nuances in Jamaica regarding indigenous persons were different, compared to countries like Australia. There had never been a complaint regarding colourism or skin colour.

Closing Remarks

OLIVIA GRANGE, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica and head of the delegation , expressed gratitude to the Committee for its engagement with Jamaica. The Government remained resolute in its commitment to the implementation of the Convention and to fulfil its human rights obligations to the people of Jamaica. There was no tension between the Maroon, Taino and Rastafari peoples and the Government, and they were recognised as indigenous cultures. Jamaica looked forward to receiving the Committee’s concluding observations.

FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, thanked the delegation of Jamaica for the dialogue. The elimination of racial discrimination was always a work in progress. Ms. Talakula wished the delegation a safe trip back to Jamaica.

 

Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.

 

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