Jamaican senate approves bill to absolve national heroes from criminal liability

Marcus Garvey

KINGSTON, Jamaica — History was made in the Jamaican Parliament last week when the Senate approved the Bill entitled, ‘The National Heroes and other Freedom Fighters (Absolution from Criminal Liability in Respect of Specified Acts) Act, 2017’.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, who piloted the Bill in the House of Representatives, said it aims to absolve National Heroes, the Right Excellent Sam Sharpe, the Right Excellent George William Gordon, the Right Excellent Paul Bogle, and the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey as well as their supporters, sympathisers and participants by association, and other freedom fighters, from criminal liability arising from their participation in “acts of liberation with moral justification.”

In a remarkable show of unity both sides of the Senate agreed — with just a few amendments — to approve the Bill and send it to the Lower House for final approval.

In a presentation led by the Leader of Government Business, Kamina Johnson-Smith, Senators endorsed the recognition of the acts carried out by national heroes and other freedom fighters, saying that it was right and fitting to clear the historical records that had, up to now, designated these ancestors as criminals, rebels and rabble-rousers.

In passionate speeches, senators said they were proud to have been part of such a momentous occasion in Jamaican history.

Listening keenly to the debate was former Senator, Grange, who had brought the resolution to Parliament in October 2017.

“I am so proud to have been the right person at the right time,” said Grange.

“The struggles of our ancestors to free us from the bonds of slavery and bring us to where we are today as a proud people, must never be forgotten. Our children must know that it was not an easy road that has given us the freedoms we all enjoy today. The young people must know of the bitter battle that was fought by all our heroes and freedom fighters, a battle for which they suffered imprisonment and death.

“Their stories must be protected and celebrated by us, and the generations to come.”

Other noted speakers were Government Senators Don Wehby, Pearnel Charles Jr, Kavaugn Gayle, Ruel Reid, Kerencia Morrison and Opposition Senators Donna Scott-Motley, Lambert Brown and Floyd Morris, who added a request that freedom fighter, Tacky, be added to Jamaica’s roster of national heroes, echoing a call made earlier by St Mary Member of Parliament, Robert Montague.

The Bill will return to the Lower House for consideration of the amendments.