Columns

Equity and justice: The elusive crime factor

BY Andrew G Tucker

Thursday, July 18, 2019

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Jamaica has the unenviable record of being one of the most violent countries on the planet. As a relatively young country, we have mastered the art of snuffing out the lives of our denizens. Unfortunately, a large portion of our population has become totally desensitised to the senseless slaughter that has bedevilled our society since gaining political independence from Britain.

Undoubtedly, the deep vestiges of slavery and colonialism continue to wage its hideous tentacles on our collective psyche. Amidst the usual cacophony of meaningless chatter, devoid of a pragmatic approach to curbing our crime monster, stony-hearted hoodlums lurk around wreaking havoc on a powerless populace.

Who will defend the fundamental rights of ordinary Jamaicans? Has the Government ceded political power to the criminal elements in our society?

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared in recent times a state of public emergency for the St Andrew South police division, which has witnessed a flare-up of murders. The prime minister has lucidly intimated an established fact known to everyone: “In St Andrew South the main cause of death is caused by gangs. Violence is at epidemic proportions in Jamaica… the main cause of death is gangs, dons, and guns.” ( Nationwide News Network, July 8, 2019)

What our beloved prime minister seems to have forgotten to divulge is the Government's historic complicity in empowering said gangs.

Crime in Jamaica, therefore, is a political child – nurtured and protected by powerful elements in our society. Now that the child has morphed into a barbaric adult, the parent (the Government) is bereft of the requisite authority to tame this hideous monster. Had the “gangs of Gordon House” — an appropriate metaphor for our politicians — heeded the biblical instruction, “Train up a child in the way he should grow, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” I guarantee anyone, with the wisdom of Solomon, that the Jamaican society would not have sunk into a dark alley of no return.

To add insult to injury, the prime minister posits a rather disturbing fact, published on the Nationwide News Network website, “The truth is that the level of crime is above the capacity of law enforcement to (effectively) respond. There have been 11, 000 murders in the last eight years, and we do not enough investigators,” avers Holness. ( Nationwide News Network, July 8, 2019) So, violent murders continue unabated in Jamaica, and Holness, head of an impotent government machinery, does not seem to possess neither civil authority nor State power to curb this decades-long social malady.

What is the prime minister implying when he postulates that “the level of crime is above the level of law enforcement”? Is law and order outside of the remit of our Government? Have our legal and judicial institutions ceased to function? Should the people of Jamaica, therefore, take the law into their own hands? What is the role of the army in a seemingly declared war (by marauding ruffians) on the State? Holness has opened up a whole can of worms that might prove difficult for Jamaicans to swallow.

Truthfully speaking, Prime Minister Andrew Holness's Administration lacks the moral resolve and the political tenacity to attack manfully and frontally our notorious homicide rate. Holness views his principal agenda as that of securing economic prosperity for Jamaicans. Thus, he will not be sidetracked from this illusive, pie-in-the-sky dream. I believe all patriotic Jamaicans share Holness's ambitious prosperity plan; however, the notion of a prosperous Jamaica can only be achieved in a safe and productive environment. Consequently, the prime minister should divert his attention to the creation of a super ministry of law and order — a basic tenet of all civilised nation states.

Jamaica is currently at a crossroads — enmeshed in a ferocious war over the capacity of the State to efficaciously execute her laws or allow a flood of anarchy and mayhem to lead us into a condition of complete paralysis. There is no doubt that if the present homicide crisis is not attacked judiciously and urgently Jamaica's hard-earned democracy will melt like ice in a jar of hot water.

The prime minister's asseverations with regard to investigative studies on crime are, at best, spurious, and misinformed, at worst. Jamaica is not short on scholarly studies aimed at demystifying the burgeoning murder rate in the country. From my vantage point, I believe the intellectual investigations have been done; it is now high time for the reigning political administration to implement the prudent strategies advanced by said erudite scholars.

Furthermore, the prime minister might need to solicit the aid of The University of the West Indies' pre-eminent scholars on crime, as Holness needs professional advice — rooted in logic and common sense. Ours is a proclivity to talk about our problems with great eloquence, but we seldom are disciplined enough to devise effective tools geared at eradicating the social ills that plague modern Jamaica. The aforesaid cultural debility must be seriously confronted if we are to arrest earnestly the metastasising cancer of crime.

Corruption and lawlessness engender crime. In the January 29, 2019 edition of the Jamaica Observer came screaming resoundingly the following news heading, 'Jamaica moves down on Corruption Perception Index'. While Holness and his Administration ought to be commended for their laborious efforts at cauterising corruption, the reality, on the ground, often conflicts with reports published by these international agencies. How do these organisations measure corruption? Is the information tainted by political grandstanding? Indisputably, the Jamaican political landscape is inherently corrupt; it is a part of its DNA constitution. Effective laws, with teeth, would, therefore, stand as an antidote to our home-grown corruption — the root cause of homicide.

Thus, delinquents — in all shapes or form — must receive the full blunt of the law, irrespective of their class, race, religion, or political persuasion. Equity and justice ought to be the mantra of a lacklustre judiciary. A social revolution looms on the horizon as things are rapidly falling apart. The centre is bleeding profusely.

Andrew G Tucker is an educator and foreign language expert. Send comments to the Observer or agtuckerus@gmail.com.


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