KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s police force is rejecting a statement made by a senior police commander portraying homosexuals as the primary organizers of lottery scams, said the Caribbean’s island’s top cop.
Commissioner Owen Ellington expressed regret “for any concern, anxiety and any appearance of unfair labeling which may have been construed” from Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey’s assertion on a TV news program last week that young homosexual men were often behind the criminal scams.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force “has no policy of singling out any particular social grouping for special police attention,” Ellington said.
Dane Lewis, head of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, commended Ellington for the retraction.
He expressed hope that the police force “will use this experience as an opportunity as a guide to how it frames issues” regarding gays, “especially those who are victims of crimes and are at risk of violence.”
Lewis’ group and others called Bailey’s statement earlier this week incendiary and said they feared it could perpetuate prejudice, harassment and violence against gays.
Earlier in the week, Bailey told RJR News that he felt no need to apologize, asserting his statement about the lottery schemes was based on fact.
Gays and their advocates say Jamaica is the most hostile island toward homosexuals in the conservative Caribbean. They say gays, typically those in poor communities, suffer frequent abuse but they have little recourse because of rampant anti-gay stigma and a sodomy law banning sex between men.
Many in this highly Christian nation perceive homosexuality as a sin, and insist violence against gays is blown out of proportion by activists. Some say Jamaica tolerates homosexuality as long as it is not advertised.