The leader of the Jamaican opposition, Andrew Holness, has asked Prime Minister Portia Simpson to hold a referendum in 2015 on the legality of homosexuality. According to Holness, there are “uncertainties” in the public’s mind about the controversial Buggery Act that carries a maximum penalty of ten years’ hard labour for miscreants.
Mr Holness said, ‘Prime Minister, there is great uncertainty in the LGBT community and amongst ordinary Jamaicans alike about your promise to review the Buggery Act. The issue is very sensitive, of course, I am sure you will agree that more Jamaicans, in general, and interest groups are more open to discussion on the matter. A way to finally bring some certainty to the matter would be to put it to the people.’
Mr Holness would also like the referendum to focus on a number of other pressing issues: the liberalisation of Jamaica’s marijuana laws, the Caribbean Court of Justice’s role as the final appeal court and whether or not the Queen of England should remain as Jamaica’s Head of State. ‘I am sure Jamaica could have our own queen, if we placed this on the referendum,’ Mr Holness said.
The referendum would have the advantage of being cost-effective, so Mr Holness’s supporters argue, and would prove that Jamaica is a truly democratic nation that listens to its populace at the grass roots level.
“Ganja liberalisation” has been a hot topic for decades in Jamaica. There is no consensus between the mainstream political parties and a growing lobby has been campaigning for the right of the Jamaican people to decide on this issue for themselves.