JFJ split widens – Long-time members demand extraordinary meeting as human-rights group seems
Recently appointed executive director of Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), Kay Osborne, and other members in the leadership of the human-rights group seem set to being kicked out as the bickering in the organisation intensifies.
With the long-time faces of JFJ, Dr Carolyn Gomes and Susan Goffe among four persons who have walked away from its board recently, indications are that a bitter battle is brewing between the ‘old guard’ and newer members of the 15-year-old internationally acclaimed body.
The Sunday Gleaner has confirmed that persons in the group, described as the ‘old guard’, have demanded an extraordinary members meeting and indications are that getting rid of Osborne and other members of the ‘new guard’ could be high on the agenda.
Osborne not daunted
That meeting is set for Tuesday, July 29, but Osborne is not daunted and, late last week, she told our news team that she would quickly pack her bags and go, after just four months in the job, if that is the request of the majority of the membership, which Sunday Gleaner sources say amounts to 41 persons.
“I would leave with pleasure, because my goal in going there was to serve my country. There are many other ways to serve my country well,” declared Osborne in response to queries as to whether she would see calls for her removal as an affront.
Osborne, who took up the position as executive director of JFJ on April 1 this year, has seen her tenure rocked by the sex-education children’s home scandal. The programme was conceptualised and implemented in October 2013. Although she was not with the JFJ at the time the programme was implemented, she has taken her fair share of criticism for the back-door deal.
JFJ board chairperson, Lisa Lakhan-Chen, last week confirmed that some members have requested the extraordinary meeting but offered little on what will be discussed.
“They want to speak about the situations in the media,” was as much as Lakhan-Chen would volunteer.
Goffe, for long a leading voice of JFJ, and who remains a member despite walking away from the board, offered a tad more information.
“There are a number of members who have expressed concerns over a period of time, and some of them have made a request for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss with the board a number of issues arriving out of the current situations,” Goffe told The Sunday Gleaner as she admitted that there is a split in the core of the organisation.
“I think that it would be a reasonable conclusion to draw that having had four members resigning from the board, there are differences of opinion. I have made it clear that there is a difference between my own thinking on certain fundamental issues and that of other members of the board,” said Goffe.
“I’ve said quite clearly that those differences regarding approach and some of the decisions that have been taken by the board are things that I have not supported, and that it has become clear to me that some of these are fundamental differences around the principles on which I believe the organisation was founded and on which it stands,” added Goffe.
However, she rejected claims that getting rid of Osborne is one of the issues to be discussed by the members.
“No, that certainly isn’t the intention of the meeting,” said Goffe in response to questions that a no-confidence vote would be moved against Osborne who, despite being executive director, is not a member of the JFJ board.
That is something Osborne has accepted, but does not agree with.
“I assumed when I took the job, because the title says executive director, my assumption was that I would have been a member of the board of directors,” Osborne disclosed.
“I didn’t probe it, but that was just my natural assumption, but it turned out not to be so, which was surprising to me, to tell you the truth; but I work with it.
“I didn’t go there because I was going to be a member of the board, I went there as my contribution to my country, so if you don’t have a role for me on the board, that’s fine.”
But, according to Lakhan-Chen, Osborne’s take on the executive director being appointed to the board is a misconception.
“The ED (executive director) of JFJ does not sit on the board. Based on what the article states, the executive director is not a board member,” said Lakhan-Chen.