My highlights: History, Education, and Policing

March 1, 2013 in Blog

The week of 18 February 2013 offered many opportunities for reminiscing, reflection, critical analysis and for planning collective action on a number of fronts, history, education and race and policing and community security among them.

On Wednesday 20 February, Global Hands and DeMontfort University, Leicester, hosted a one day symposium on Police Reform and Developing the Community Security Sector in the Emerging and Developing World, looking at police practices, community policing, non-state policing and policing and national security in Britain, Nigeria, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

My contribution to the symposium was ‘an overview of policing and human rights issues in the developing and emerging world’.  In that presentation I examined a number of issues that are common to Britain, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, to name but a few.  Age old notions such as policing by consent and the centrality of public confidence in the police and in the structures that hold them accountable for their actions are under serious strain in many countries.  This is a consequence of police routinely abusing their power without being held to account, as well as weak government and compromised politicians being seen as incapable of protecting the citizen and upholding the rule of law.  Read the rest of this entry →

The Grenada massacre: Lest We Forget!

October 19, 2012 in Blog

Another anniversary, another series of events to mark the brutal execution of the Prime Minister of the People’s Revolutionary Government of Grenada, Maurice Bishop, several members of government and of his Party, another year of not knowing where the bodies of Maurice Bishop and his comrades were buried.

In Grenada, as in previous years, representatives of the Government will join the Maurice Bishop and Martyrs Foundation in conducting a modest ceremony of remembrance in the place on Fort Rupert (renamed Fort George) in St George’s, the capital of Grenada, where on 19 October 1983 Maurice Bishop, Fitzroy Bain, Norris Bain, Evelyn Bullen, Jacqueline Creft, Keith Hayling, Evelyn Maitland, Unison Whiteman, were summarily executed. Remembered, also, will be: Andy Sebastian Alexander, Simon Alexander, Gemma Belmar, Eric Dumont, Avis Ferguson, Vince Noel, Alleyne Romain and Nelson Steele who were killed on the Fort that fateful day.

On 25 October, a public holiday in Grenada which some ruefully call ‘Emancipation Day’, more elaborate ceremonies will be held, topped by church services attended by members of the government and other civic leaders, to ‘give thanks’ for ‘Papa Reagan’ and the ‘liberation’ of Grenada from the Revolutionary Military Council and the remnants of the leadership of the Grenada Revolution! Read the rest of this entry →

Gus John pays tribute to Bob Marley & The Wailers

September 27, 2012 in Blog, Speeches

Credits: Félix Foueillis/ United Reggae

Professor Gus John delivers his feature address

On September 8th, Gus John attended the Bob Marley & The Wailers Heritage Blue Plaque Commemorative Unveiling Ceremony at 15, The Circle, Neasden and paid his tribute to the reggae legends with the following feature address:

It gives me great pleasure to be able to make a contribution to this historic event today and I want to congratulate Delroy Washburn and his team at Reggae Focus – ”Sounds of Jamaica’‘ for their hard work in getting this plaque created and making it possible for us to be present here for the unveiling of the plaque.

Let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to Mr and Mrs Atkinson, whose home this is, for allowing us to acknowledge for all time through this plaque fixed to the house they now own, the historical record of the fact that Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and other members of their band lived in this house in 1972 and off and on in the years following.

I am old enough to remember the influence of Ska, Rock Steady and Blue Beat, musical genres originating in Jamaica and bursting onto the British scene in the middle 1960s onwards.  I was a theological student at Oxford and a Dominican Friar, but I managed to frequent parties organised by Jamaican nurses at the Radcliffe and Churchill teaching hospitals in Oxford at which we danced to Jamaican music, Ska especially, as if we were in Kingston.  That was interspersed with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and other musical giants from the USA, West African ‘high life’ and calypso from Sparrow and Kitchener… In other words, music with its roots in Africa and the Global African Diaspora. Read the rest of this entry →

Bob Marley & the Wailers: Blue Plaque unveiled in London

September 27, 2012 in Blog

I was happy to be able to accept an invitation from the Federation of Reggae Music (FORM) UK and Brent Council to attend the Bob Marley & The Wailers Heritage Blue Plaque Commemorative Unveiling Ceremony at 15, The Circle, Neasden NW2 7QR on Saturday 8 September 2012, and to open the proceedings by pouring Libation to the Ancestors.

The Blue Plaque Ceremony was the first in a series of Reggae Focus ‘Sounds of Jamaica’ events to honour the lives and careers of iconic Reggae artists and promote Reggae to global audiences. The prestigious Blue Plaques will be unveiled in Brent districts including Harlesden, Neasden, Willesden, Cricklewood and Kilburn.

Invited Guests to the event included the Mayor of Brent, Councillor Michael Adeyeye, the Leader of Brent Council, Cllr Muhammad Butt, FORM Chairman Delroy Washington (who also lived at 15 The Circle with Marley and co.), Cllr Lincoln Beswick, a long serving Brent Councillor and Dawn Butler, former Brent MP and High Commissioners from various Caribbean countries.

The event formed part of the Reggae Focus ‘Sounds of Jamaica’ Initiative – a 3 year marketing and PR type strategic campaign to create awareness of Reggae and its significance to African-Caribbean and global culture. FORM is seeking to regenerate the UK Reggae sector and has a focus on the Borough of Brent in the first instance. Read the rest of this entry →

Gus John criticises Wildman’s assertions about Jamaican judges

September 13, 2012 in Blog

Photo credits: Print screen from “The Gleaner”‘

Hugh Wildman, a former senior prosecutor who has served across the Caribbean, asserted earlier this month that judges in Jamaica and the rest of the region are not capable of delivering judgements that are on par with their British counterparts. Professor Gus John reacted to his remarks, saying:

Hugh Wildman is not only making some very backward assertions about intellectual capacity and skills in jurisprudence, he is failing to ask the right questions about the way our court system in the region operates to the disadvantage of the poor who cannot afford top notch lawyers.

There is a glaring ‘inequality of access to justice’ issue which runs throughout the Caribbean and which every single government ignores, especially as the apparatuses of the State (police, army, unofficial militia of senior politicians) are themselves typically responsible for the denial of the basic human rights of citizens. The issue of extra-judicial killings (police executions) in Jamaica, for example, and the intimidation of Human Rights lawyers and activists is what makes the population thankful for the existence of the Privy Council, despite the fact that the majority of the population do not have access to it for want of the cost of hiring senior lawyers, not that they consider that lawyers in the region lack the competence of Privy Councillors in Britain. Read the rest of this entry →