The case involving three prominent Jamaicans that has taken centre stage is much more important than it might appear, given the salacious and sensational nature of the story.
This is not your ordinary case – in fact, such cases are rarely publicised in Jamaica, and none that I can remember involving any prominent citizen, let alone three of them at one time.
Last Monday, MP Daryl Vaz, businessman, Bruce Bicknell, and Senior Superintendent of Police, James Forbes, were all charged in a case in which it is alleged that police sergeant, Jubert Llewellyn was offered $2,000 by Mr Bicknell after he was stopped for speeding. Mr Vaz and Supt Forbes allegedly tried to quash the matter. The reports say that Sgt Llewellyn decided to stand his ground, resulting in the case being referred to the director of public prosecutions who instructed that criminal charges be levelled against the trio. The three men appeared in court on Wednesday, August 22.
The sum of money involved may be insignificant, but this case is monumental. The images of a politician, a businessman and a senior police officer walking together to face the court on criminal charges has never been seen before in Jamaica, to the best of my knowledge.
What Jamaicans have become accustomed to are the constant cries of police corruption. The tales of cops asking for and accepting bribes from citizens have been never-ending, coupled with the sporadic pronouncements from senior officers about cleaning up the force and weeding out the bad guys.
As a former talkshow host, I was constantly bombarded by groups and individuals shouting, “Police corruption”, and nothing I could say could dissuade people from holding on to their views. Because I had spent a considerable amount of my time working with men and women in the force, who I felt were good and decent officers, I felt that it was important to try to impress upon the public that not all cops were bad.
One of the examples I would use was my work in the Grant's Pen community of Kingston with “unattached” men, a project that won the World Bank award for best practice in the region. The project was successful only because of the active participation of the police.
It was community policing at its best. Training workshops were held in the community centre located inside the police station and the internal internet café utilised for computer education. The commandant made himself available for all the orientation sessions, and rankand-file officers were all introduced to the young men in the programme.
One memorable occasion was when a police officer spontaneously took to the stage to perform at a peace concert in the park opposite the police station. It drew wide applause from the packed audience of children, parents and rival gang members who united for peace that night. At the end of the performance, the police officer publicly told the youth how much he loved them and that he was prepared to be their friend and supporter. The point I wish to make here is that there are in fact police officers with integrity within the JCF, and Sgt Llewellyn is proof of that.
Sergeant Llewellyn must be congratulated for his bold stance and for the courage and perseverance he has exhibited. I felt compelled to seek him out to ask him why he had done what he did. I was taken aback by the simplicity of his reply, “I was just doing my job, Ms Blaine.”
While it is clear that it is the court that must decide guilt or innocence, it seems to me that a moral verdict has already been delivered.
The stance taken by Sgt Llewellyn is in and of itself a victory and a turn in the right direction for a country labelled as one of the most corrupt small nation states in the world. Rev Martin Luther King Jr would have described Llewellyn as a “hammer” and not an “anvil” – a “moulder” of society and not one “moulded” by society. King asked, “Who doubts that today most men are anvils and are shaped by the patterns of the majority? … Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion.”
I suspect that King would also label Sgt Llewellyn as a “non-conformist” – someone prepared to challenge “our stale conformity”. King in his book, Strength To Love, encourages us to “look at the life of Jesus Christ, the world's most dedicated nonconformist, whose ethical nonconformity still challenges the conscience of mankind.”
I would expect that Sgt Llewellyn must be constantly plagued with thoughts of whether or not he did the right thing, especially when the cameras captured pictures of the powerful support convoy accompanying the accused to court. It might seem to him that it would have been easier to do the wrong thing – after all, that's what Jamaicans have become accustomed to.
Like Moses in the Bible, it is important that those of us who are committed to the principles of honesty and integrity help hold up the arms of Sgt Llewellyn, lest he grow weary, and remind him that righteousness not only exalts a nation, it also exalts an honest police officer.
It seems to me that this is the ideal time for us to reflect on the words of our national anthem, “Justice, truth, be ours forever”.