Monday, 15 December 2014

Language and Communication: The Social Class Divide

Jamaica is truly a beautiful and comical place to live, work and raise families.  The ongoing Tivoli Commission of Enquiry bares testimony to this fact. Among the suggestions emerging from last week’s proceeding is the suggestion from a university lecturer that language interpreters maybe necessary at the ongoing Tivoli Commission of Enquiry to ensure that the lawyers clearly understand the witnesses as well as for clarity for the witnesses from counsel. As Jamaicans we all are familiar with and indeed speak two languages. Jamaica English or Patois and Standard English are the official languages of Jamaica. The suggestion that interpreters maybe need in order to decipher or decode what the witnesses at the Enquiry are saying belittles our rich culture as well as highlights the fact that we are not really one despite what the Jamaican Motto says. Social class prejudice and discrimination are very much alive and well in 2014.
As far as I am aware all the lawyers at the Enquiry are Jamaicans. As a result they are all capable, familiar with and competent to speak and understand the language of the people. Interestingly, the Chairman of the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry, Sir David Simmons is not a Jamaican and he appears not to have any problems understanding the language of the witness. As a people Jamaicans we are very versatile and witty. Why is it that the lawyers at the Enquiry cannot speak in a manner that the witnesses will be able to understand? Is it that the lawyers are beyond code switching in languages ? Included in the terms of Reference for the commissioner to examine are the reasons and circumstances for the declaration of a State of Emergency in Western Kingston and related areas in May 2010, as well as, to ascertain the conduct of the security forces during this period.  As a nation we deserve to know what really happened in May 2010 regarding the incursion of the security forces in Tivoli Gardens. The people of Tivoli Gardens need closure so to the society. Those who suffered injustices or those whose rights were violated by the State should be compensated by the State.  

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com