'Boko Haramisation' of Jamaica

Monday, June 09, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

In 2012 I was confronted with the dreadful reality of missing children in Jamaica. Between July 22 and August 30 of that year, 28 children were reported as missing via the Ananda Alert system. My Internet search back then revealed that no less than 15 Ananda Alerts were raised per month. These statistics point to the dire state of affairs.

My initial outrage subsided, mainly due to the weight of it all and the soothing escape brought on by a heavy dose of denial. But then I had a recent re-acquaintance with the family of a missing child, coupled with the horrible news about the abduction of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls; the emotions came flooding back.

Are we seeing the 'Boko Haramisation' of Jamaica when it comes to the abduction of our children? If so, where is the outrage that translates to the creation of twitter hashtags, declarations by prominent leaders, the mobilisation of church communities and civil society, and, importantly, the establishment of resourced law enforcement units dedicated to making an impact against this scourge? Consider the families, the mothers, the siblings who must carry on without knowing what has become of the children. No funeral service to aid closure, no police updates, no news. Just unspeakable pain and untold suffering.

As citizens of this country, we have a right to wonder aloud about the action plan of the authorities to address this situation in its various dimensions. Law enforcement must do the work to determine if this phenomenon is being driven by organised crime, human-trafficking syndicates, or spontaneous, brutish and sadistic impulses of adults scattered across the several towns of our beloved island home.

Perhaps, we can unleash the power of the many to accomplish what we cannot accomplish on our own. Perhaps we can leverage social media and effective crowd-sourcing techniques to launch a grass-roots effort to find and recover these children. Every owner of a bar or cookshop can check to make sure they have no child workers in their establishment. Every farmer and market worker can do the same. Every taximan and bus driver can take an interest in their underage passengers who may seem frightened or scared. Every principal and teacher must assure themselves of the bona fides presented by the guardians of their pupils. Every nurse in a clinic, every doctor and health-care professional must be acutely observant of their patients who are children. And every minor that gives birth must be appropriately interviewed to learn the circumstances that resulted in a crime being committed against her. Every pastor and church member must look around and take note, too.

The suggestion is not for citizens to become spies or for the unleashing of Gestapo tactics on each other. Rather, we need to confront the situation. It deserves more than nine-day talk. We need action. We need to find our children and bring them home.

Christopher Pryce






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