We must be responsible in exercising our rightsThursday, July 29, 2021
This is to address key points we have learnt from Shaquille Higgins, the rather bold man who, like others before him, was daring enough to go on social media to ridicule Prime Minister Andrew Holness and got caught almost instantaneously (I wish the police had that almost instant reaction in apprehending criminal gangs).
Shaquille Higgins of Moneague, St Ann, decided to make a same-day fool of himself by directing choice expletives at the prime minister and identifying himself by name, making it quite easy for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to locate him. This wasn't a smart move by a man said to be under investigation.
The first takeaway is that he was wrong to use indecent language to express his disagreement with the prime minister's new curfew measures. While the reasons for his disagreement with the measures may be shallow (such as going to a party), he could have used the platform to make his opinions known in a civilised manner.
The second takeaway comes from Dionne Jackson Miller's review of the Town and Communities Act on the 7 o'clock news in relation to this incident. Based on her analysis, I have come to the conclusion that the Act should be amended to remove section 9(c), more colloquially known as the 'bad word' law, because even though it is designated as an offence to use expletives in public spaces, it is not enforced; no one is charged for it, and everyone disobeys it in one form or another.
The law has even been disobeyed in the Jamaican Parliament, where, for example, Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson dropped the F-bomb on Senator Lambert Brown and former People's National Party President Peter Phillips showed his middle finger in a vulgar gesture, displayng complete disregard for the very laws they have created and passed in the House.
The only reason this particular incident with Higgins got coverage on the news is because it was directed at the prime minister by an average citizen who probably has no knowledge of his own rights to due process and freedom of speech, as well as the responsibilities that accompany said rights.
My third takeaway is in regard to freedom of speech. While the words he used may have been unsavoury, as long as he didn't threaten the prime minister, he is well within his rights to express how he feels.
He also has the right to demand a warrant from the police to show that they have just cause to arrest him based on the results of their investigations against him, and not because of the social media post. This is still a democracy, albeit a fledgling one. We have not yet become a dictatorship.
My fourth and final takeaway is that the three videos of Higgins being circulated on social media — the one disrespecting the prime minister, the one showing his capture, and the one showing his apology — should be removed. His foul-mouthed opinions in the heat of the moment should remain among his circle. Neither his capture nor his apology should have been posted on social media.
He should be processed for any crime in which he is a suspect, but also given a stern warning that, while he has the right to freedom of speech, he must use his words responsibly, especially when speaking on a public platform, because there can be harsh consequences for doing otherwise.
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