Holness: Gov’t using authority to muzzle society

KINGSTON — “Recently we noticed a trend whereby civil society is being attacked by the Government (and) the most recent was a resolution seeking to further regulate civil society,” Holness told guests at the Rotary Club of Kingston luncheon at the Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston.

Holness, in an apparent reference to the recent stand-off between Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna and rights group Jamaicans for Justice over the need to address various issues relating to children in custody, said it is dangerous for democracy and the first step in trying to create a totalitarian mindset.

“If civil society [groups] cannot speak their mind or criticise the Government without fear [and] that Government uses its authority in legislation to indirectly muzzle them… this will effectively lead to a breakdown in our democratic traditions,” Holness said.

Holness, who accused the Government of wanting the country to follow one mindset, said although the Government has to implement austerity measures, it is always important that there are voices that will not only hold them accountable but that can also point out alternatives.

Alternatives, he said, should be presented to the Government on the cutting of public sector expenditure as well as the cutting of teachers’ leave entitlement as this was not the best way to go.

“Government has to be very careful that in trying to cut cost you don’t cut motivation and productivity. All it takes is for a group to become frustrated and the very results that you need for a productive labour force, you could see your education results decline,” Holness said.

A better policy, he said, would be to improve the systems of accountability.


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