Editorial

Traffic fine amnesty symptom of bigger deeper problems

Friday, November 03, 2017

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Jamaicans do have a habit of 'tekking serious tings mek laugh'.

Given the stresses of everyday life, that's not all bad. Nonetheless, the feeling is inescapable that the tendency — at individual, community and national levels — to treat important issues in a frivolous and dismissive manner has hurt nation-building in many respects.

Take the traffic ticket amnesty, which ended this week, as an example. Readers would mostly have chuckled on digesting Miss Racquel Porter's story on calls by some motorists for an extension. Her description of one taximan “clutching a pile of papers” being told that he owed $100,700 possibly elicited guffaws from some readers.

Yet, this is no laughing matter.

Many outsiders will probably wonder how it was that the Jamaican authorities allowed unpaid traffic tickets to reach in the region of billions of Jamaican dollars.

The short answer is slackness born of an inadequacy of serious endeavour and capacity, which plagues structures of authority in this country. Knowledge of that absence of rigour, allied to the tendency by many individuals to try to beat the system no matter what, explains traffic ticket delinquency.

Simply put, down the years many Jamaican motorists have found that they can ignore traffic tickets with no negative consequences. And even if something goes wrong they are convinced that 'Anancyism', 'ginnalship' and 'straight up' bribery will get them out of trouble.

We recall the complaint from Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake earlier this year that in one case a motorist had accumulated 1,402 traffic tickets since 2006. There were other cases of motorists having piled up over 1,000 tickets yet they continued to hold drivers' licences and receive motor vehicle insurance, Mr Blake said then.

That so many have come forward over the three-month amnesty period — we are now hearing that in excess of $470 million has been collected by tax authorities are perhaps a sign that a considerable number of habitual delinquents now believe those in charge are finally getting serious.

Hopefully, any such recognition will translate to improved behaviour on the roads by those motorists — not least drivers of public passenger vehicles — who often seem to believe they are a law unto themselves.

Of course, there are many other areas of obvious social delinquency with which national and local authorities should treat. Not all can be easily addressed.

Surely, though, the illicit dumping and littering of garbage are matters the authorities, with the help of the police, should see as priority. Laws and penalties governing such offences are perhaps not as strict as they should be. The trouble, we find, is that such offences are perceived as minor — not worthy of time and effort from law enforcement.

Yet building a culture of law and order in Jamaica can't just be about reducing murders, robberies, rape, and so forth, absolutely critical though that is.

The truth is that Jamaicans and their Government will never be able to deal with the big problems of law and order if they can't resolve the small ones.

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