KINGSTON, Jamaica - Prime Minister Andrew Holness, leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) debated Opposition leader of the People's National Party, Portia Simpson-Miller, in the Jamaica National Leadership Election Debates 2011 on Tuesday, December 20, 2011. Both parties fielded questions on everything from debt management, growth strategy and poverty to education, corruption and homophobia.
The question which has 'taken the cake' and has increased the concerns of Jamaicans is that posed by Dionne Jackson-Miller (Television Jamaica - TVJ) to the parties.
Following the debate, JLP candidate for West Portland Daryl Vaz said he has received death threats after asking the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) to state whether it has got funding from the international gay community.(jamaicaobserver)
The debate has also lead Bishop Herro Blair to warned that Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller's pledge to review the buggery law if her party is elected to office on Thursday could lead to the legalisation of same-sex marriages in Jamaica.(jamaicaobserver)
The homosexual debate before Jamaicans also comes on the heels of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron in October threatening to withhold UK aid from governments who do not reform legislation which bans homosexuality.(bbc)
There has also been an announcement by the Obama administration on December 6, that the United States would use all the tools of American diplomacy, including the potent enticement of foreign aid, to promote gay rights around the world. In a memorandum issued by President Obama in Washington and in a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton here, the administration vowed to actively combat efforts by other nations that criminalize homosexual conduct, abuse gay men, lesbians, bisexuals or transgendered people, or ignore abuse against them.(nytimes)
Jamaica National Leadership Election Debates 2011 ~ excerpt
"Mr. Holness, Jamaica has an international reputation for homophobia. What do you think of former Prime Minister [Bruce] Golding's statement that homosexuals were not welcome in his Cabinet, and do you share that sentiment?"
"The challenge that Jamaica faces is that in the modern world there are minimum standards of human rights which we must - must "debate" and Jamaica has done so, on all occasions. However, as a society we have to determine, what our civil rights are which slightly "differ", we have taken steps in our Parliament with a bill of rights, which is an advance in the right direction. We are an open society, and the issues that are difficult, uncomfortable to discuss, as the society progresses these issues are being discussed. People are entitled to their opinion, as well as I am entitled to mine, but as leader of the country, I have to respect everybody's opinion and make sure that the institutions of freedom are well in place so that the debate can continue."
"Our administration believes in protecting human rights of all Jamaicans. No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Government should provide the protection, and I think that we should have a look at the buggery law, and that members of parliament should be given the opportunity to vote with their conscience on consultation with their constituents, but for me I do not support the position of the former prime minister, because people should be appointed to positions based on their ability to manage..."(interrupted by time keeper)
Dionne Jackson-Miller (follow up question)
"Mr. Holness, do you share the sentiment that you don't what any homosexuals in your cabinet?"
"My sentiments reflect the sentiments of the country. The prime minister has a discretion, but that discretion can not be exercised in a vacuum."
I certainly do not pry, or do I have any intention of prying in the private business of anyone. I would appoint anyone with the ability, capacity, and the capability to manage in my cabinet."