25 May 2011

Racism is Unacceptable - when directed at a Minister

I am reposting a blog which appears on isthisjersey.com. It is written by someone else, but I feel it merits reproduction here:
Chief Minister, Terry Le Sueur, rightly denounced the racist abuse targetted towards
Planning and Environment Minister, Freddy Cohen -
but where is the Discrimination Law that had been promised?

Racism is nothing new in society. What matters is the relationship between racist sentiment and the state.

When Mikhail Gorbachev heard that the Ukraine, a Soviet Republic was separating from the union to form an independent state, his skepticism was expressed with his remark that they would probably return to their old ways, best summed up under the slogan, “Death to the Jews and the Poles”.

To listen to the Chief Minister give a sanctimonious speech about racism in the States today, showed, once again, the gall of the Jersey political elite. One of his ministers, Senator Freddy Cohen, had received racist communications, including a death threat. Interestingly, BBC Radio Jersey journalist, in her report of the day in the States, could not bring herself to call the beast by it true name. Anti-Semitism is not in the vocabulary of our Liberal minded radio station.

When one of the Ministers is subject to anti-semitic abuse, the Chief Minister makes a statement, yet for years the racism experienced by Poles, Romanians and Portuguese, never gets a mention. Not that government is going to do anything about it – like introduce laws against discrimination or racist activity.

Racism is frequently encountered at all social levels in the island. It is of course something that those with right-wing opinion hold close, and not surprisingly it is very prevalent. It is the Poles and especially the Portuguese, who somehow rank lower in the racist hierarchy, that are singled out because they form significant minorities. In the nineteenth century it was the French immigrant workers that were the subject of racist abuse. The “Mafeking Riots” of 1900, led to violence in French Lane (Hilgrove Street), necessitating the use of troops from the garrison to maintain order, as a patriotic mob attacked persons and property.

Twice a year our rulers pay lip service to memory of the victims of militarism and fascism in the form of Holocaust Day and the Liberation Day remembrance for forced workers at Mount Bingham. Many wreaths are laid by Ministers and dignitaries but none speak about the need for legislation to protect human rights and protect citizens against discrimination based on race or colour.

14 May 2011

When is a Police Officer not a Police Officer?

'The problem with constables sitting in the States is that they are police officers-there's a possible question over the fact that 12 policemen make up a quarter of the States'
-Former Bailiff, Sir Peter Crill
On 3rd November 2009, Deputy Martin of St. Helier asked the following question: 

Given that on 6th October 2009 the Chairman [of the Comité des Connétables] advised the Assembly that several of the Connétables, to his knowledge, still held warrant cards, could he state who they are, why they hold them and which of these Connétables, if any, served time in the Honorary Police in another capacity? 

At the time, Constable Vibert did not have the information to hand, but on the 17th November (2009) he gave the folowing response:  'I now wish to advise Members that at present the Connétables of St. Brelade, St. Clement, Grouville, St. John, St. Mary and St. Peter hold a warrant card.  The cards were issued to these Connétables as a proof of identity, should it be required.  Of these Connétables, only St. John and St. Peter have served in the Honorary Police in another capacity.'

Ken Vibert, Chairman of the Comité des Connétables,
 revealed that 6 of the 12 Constables carry cards that identify them as police officers
Since this date, I emailed PPC (Privileges and Procedures Committee), the body which is responsible for States procedures, discipline et cetera and suggested that all States Members should be issued with an ID card, if they wanted one. This has subsequently be implemented.

In the light of this, I will be asking the following question at Tuesday's States sitting:

  “Further to his response to a question on 17th November 2009 when the Chairman told the Assembly that the Connétables carried warrant cards for means of identification and in view of the fact that ID cards have subsequently been made available to all States members, is there now a need for Connétables to carry warrant cards? "

The underlying issue is, of course, not the card itself, but what the card implies. The only people who carry warrant cards are 'active' policemen, but the Constables claim time and time again that they are not involved in policing activities. Indeed, the dictionary definition of a warrant card is 'proof of identification and authority carried by police officers.
It is also my understanding that police officers (States Police or honorary) have to resign before they can take up the position of States Member - or indeed run for office (I have copied the SG into this for him to comment).

It is completely innappropriate, therefrore, in my mind - and hopefully that of the States Assembly, that any States Member should be in possession of any card which bestows upon them an autority that is not legitimate.
Now of course, we get in to the realms of technicalities, because as we know, Constables are police officers (remember the words of the late Sir Peter Crill and more recently by our own SG/AG). It is a historical quirk which has yet to be regularized. However, the practical reality, which we are interested in as States Members is that the Constables are not involved in active policing duties, by their own admission. It therefore seems an entirely reasonable request for the States to make to ask them to surrender their cards which bestow on them a power which is not appropriate in this day.

It will be interesting to see how long this anomaly is allowed to continue, particularly at a time when the Dual (Triple) rôles of the Bailiff and other Crown Officers are under under renewed and intense scrutiny.

10 May 2011

McDonald's: Proud Sponsors of ... St Helier

For a long time now, I have been pushing for Jersey to introduce on street, separated recycling bins I was very pleased, then, when I saw for the first time in Jersey a similar one in the High Street, here in St Helier

It was only the next day that I realised, much to my displeasure, a big, golden 'M' on a bright red background on either end. The bin was sponsored by McDonald's!

One of the new bins outside of La Petite Baguette

Only last week in the States, I raised concerns about going down the route of having all of our public services 'sponsored', rather than paid for by public funding, be that in the form of taxes or rates. I did not see this as a real risk, but after visiting Malta for two days over Easter and noting that their road signs were sponsored by HSBC, I cautioned that I, for one, did not want to go down the route where the whole island has become 'one big advert'. Sure, corporate sponsorship has a place  - but normally this is restricted to charity events (the 'round the island' walk or the Dragon Boat Race) or commercial events, such as Jersey Live. 
The Constable of St Helier: In future his
wages may be paid for by corporate
sponsorship, rather than by the taxpayer
Some readers may of course welcome such initiatives: after all, the money for those bins is not coming out of the parish rates, so in that sense there is no cost to the parish. So the other consideration, is the appropriateness of the sponsor. Below is an open letter I have sent to the Constable of St Helier, expressing my concerns and asking him ten questions. Here is the e-mail. I will post his response when I get it.


Dear Simon,

First of all, let me congratulate you on the appearance of the first 'separated' waste/recylcing bins in St Helier. I know we have spoken about introducing these in the past and I am glad that St Helier has taken the initiative (which I hope will be followed by TTS).

What I am concerned about is the issue of Sponsorship: I am concerned on two levels. (It is perhaps slightly ironic that during the Freedom of Information debate, I warned of going down the Malta route, where even their road signs are sponsored by HSBC). I would question whether it is appropriate at all to have these sponsored, but putting that concern aside, I am concerned about who the sponsor is. You will be aware that Jersey has particular problems when it comes to (childhood) obesity and diabetes. Whilst I am sure that McDonald's offer some healthy items on their menu, it seems to me that traditionally their offerings have been high in sugar, salt and fat.

I have the following questions that you might be able to answer:

1)         At what level was the decision to have  these bins sponsored made?
2)         At what point was McDonald's chosen to sponsor this initiative?
3)         Who approached whom?
4)         Did any consultation occur with parishioners as to this decision?
5)        Did any consultation occur with the Health Minister or the Medical Officer of Health?
6)       What is the overall amount of Sponsorship received from McDonald's for these bins?
7)       How many bins are there of this nature?
8)       Do you think that the new bins will encourage    
                                                        (a) greater recycling?
                                                        (b) more people to eat at McDonald's
                                                        (c) both
                                                        (d) neither?
9)      Were any homegrown/local businesses (such as Jersey Dairy or Jersey Telecom) approached to provide                     sponsorship?
10)    Is the sponsorship permanent. If not, please provide details.