Weak and Disunited Opposition May Result in Government Tyranny, says Ronald Thwaites

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Ronnie Thwaites, former Central Kingston MP, says the large majority of seats won by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), is perilous for Jamaica as the Opposition is now puny and almost ineffective.

According to Thwaites, the island now has a “weak and disunited Opposition” and a very weak media, some of which may be supporting political parties for monetary gain or favours, and at present, Parliamentarians and the executive arm of the Government, are mere front-men and women proxies for special interest groups.

“Watch out for the measures soon to come to a lop-sided Parliament, whereby the spectre of a fascist police state will be advanced by provisions for preventive detention outside of a state of emergency  – done under the name of fighting crime,” he warned.

Thwaites said it was evident that the government has, in the recent past, pandered to the “special interests” of banks, which he cited as an example.

“How else could the rejection of Fitz Jackson’s mild effort to protect the public from usurious bank charges be explained, other than that they pandered to the “special interests” of a sector to whom they are beholden?” he said, in a recent newspaper column.

Thwaites who is also Catholic deacon, also argued that increasing voter disinterest can be the environment for what he described as “creeping authoritarianism”.

“Diminution of people’s rights can come not only from official action or corruption, but from the distraction or ignorance of those themselves being taken advantage of,” he said.

He cited the recent ruling by Supreme Court judge Justice Bertram Morrison last week that the detention of five men under states of emergency as unlawful, as a decision to be celebrated as it gave a clear indication that the Andrew Holness administration had already started to behave in a authoritarian fashion.

“Just as happened with a bad NIDS law, absent data-protection complement, the striking down of the ‘executive detention scheme’ by Justice Bertram Morrison should be welcomed by every freedom-loving citizen,” he said.

Justice Morrison, in his decision had said that keeping Everton Douglas, Nicholas Heat, Courtney Hall, Courtney Thompson, and Gavin Noble in custody was a breach of not only their constitutional rights, but the Constitution itself.

He had also said using detention orders for criminal offences was a breach of the separation of power doctrine and cannot be tolerated.

Some of the men who were held captive under SOEs in Kingston Eastern, St Andrew South, Westmoreland, and Clarendon, were in custody for more than a year without being charged with any crime.  They had subsequently filed a habeas corpus application challenging their detention.

Thwaites said having gone through the judge’s ruling, by his first reading, the entire practice of arbitrary detention with no recourse to a court has been adjudged unlawful, meant he was right all along about the SOEs which he has over the years argued was an “unconstitutional, dribbling, semi-permanent, stand-alone recourse to violent crime”.

“This is supported and defended by this Government and weakly acquiesced to by the majority of the Opposition over the past two years.   Face the terrifying truth of those who you elected advancing the proposition that while one policeman could lock you up indefinitely during a state of emergency, it was not within the unlimited jurisdiction of a single Supreme Court judge to determine the liberty of a citizen under a democratic Constitution,” he said.

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