Columns

Sister P, just say when

Jean LOWRIE-CHIN

Monday, February 10, 2014    

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YOU sit up and take notice when someone like Dr Henley Morgan speaks about our beloved Jamaica. Last Wednesday, as we were reeling from the brutal murder of eight-year-old Celeena Edmore from the district of Top Hill in rural St Thomas, Dr Morgan shared a diagnosis on Jamaica's crime problem in his Jamaica Observer column. He wrote: "At the recent highly successful Unite for Change: National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, put on by the Ministry of National Security, a leading epidemiologist, Dr Gary Slutkin, called on the Government to treat crime as if it were a disease."

Extending the metaphor, he called for the same urgency that we would apply if a dangerous virus had surfaced in the country: the quarantining of victims, the purge of crime-ridden political tribalism, the rooting out of the truth. He is so right. Anyone who could attack a beautiful young child so violently is sick to the core.

This column has explored the topic of crime from many angles. In last year's GraceKennedy Annual Lecture, Dr Anna Perkins spoke about the country's 'Moral Dis-Ease', resulting in "Jamaica's Moral Degenerative Syndrome -—- MDS". Later in the year, Professor Kwame McKenzie, a distinguished Canadian scientist with Caribbean roots, outlined the factors which cause schizophrenia. Speaking at the annual symposium of the Medical Association of Jamaica, Dr McKenzie said that schizophrenics are not only those with a family history of the disease, and shared these other factors:

* Persons who smoked 50 joints of cannabis before 18 have triple the risk.

* Children who were separated from their parents for one year or more before the age of 15 had a similarly dramatically increased risk.

* Being born in the city and raised in a stressful environment

* Social adversity and bullying in childhood

These are the conditions under which most of our inner-city children live, and we have heard a great deal about the plight of our 'barrel children' from the extensive research done by sociologist Dr Claudette Crawford-Brown. She cited 'the absent mother' as a recurrent factor in the lives of juvenile offenders. We have all the facts, all the research, and tragically, too much proof that these studies are correct.

We heard the passionate condemnation by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller of the murder of little Celeena, as the PM, her ministers and supporters gathered last Wednesday to celebrate her 40th anniversary of public service.

We congratulate Mrs Simpson Miller on her amazing achievements, culminating in her becoming the first woman prime minister of our country. Having heard of the tendency to regard women as the 'gophers' of politics, she must be a person of exceptional courage and determination to have achieved these heights. So now, we believe she could cement her legacy by ensuring that our national policies address the factors that have made us a nation weighed down by collective grief.

I cannot think of one person in Jamaica who has not been touched directly or indirectly by violence. If PM Simpson Miller, with her will and charisma celebrated in Desmond Allen's Jamaica Observer series, would lead the charge for a return to respect, decency and discipline, she could supersede even her current position to become Jamaica's second national heroine.

In a vigorous discussion on Cliff Hughes' Impact on the proposed legislation to ban violence-inciting lyrics, dancehall artiste Ninja Man proffered that it was not necessary to legislate. "Call a meeting, instead of blasting people," he advised.

I believe that if 'Sister P' called such a meeting, and rolled out a collaboration with church, civil society, government, and private sector to restore good order to our society, it could happen. It would mean that she would have to reject, outright, all forms of political tribalism and convince the Opposition to do the same.

Imagine, for a moment, our prime minister helping us to fulfil those powerful words from the Book of Micah: "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

So we plead with our prime minister to initiate the end of Jamaica's 'tribal war' as George Nooks sang: "We nuh want no more o' that." We beg her to keep that image of little Celeena as her inspiration to stay strong and resist the arguments of political thug-huggers. We assure her that such a move will not cost her a cent; rather, it will bring a wave of investment, like a welcome rain on our dry economy.

There will be hundreds of thousands of investors in this new peace. They are the decent Jamaicans who are still in the majority, imprisoned behind the burglar bars and grilles of their homes, ready to emerge and play a part with any leader who will once and for all tell the political thugs that our leaders have no use for their

weapons. Then we can expand confidently the programmes of empowerment for those young people who may have been looking to gangs for their salvation.

Dr Henley Morgan has rolled out such a programme in Trench Town, where hundreds of inner-city residents now set out to work every day, either at various factories, at his greenhouses or in music studios. If our leaders are serious about emancipating our people from mental slavery, let them adopt Dr Morgan's model, so that he does not have to subsist on four hours of sleep and be a voice crying in Jamaica's wilderness of grief and violence.

As our Cabinet ministers enjoy the perks of safe homes, ever-present security, SUVs to negotiate our bad roads, we ask our prime minister to remind them of the uncomfortable Jamaican taxpayers — even a phonecard attracts a tax — who make their comfort possible. We ask our PM to rouse the consciences and the hearts of her fellow parliamentarians so they become true partners in Jamaica's progress and conduct all their dealings in the bright light of day.

Jamaica has the richest group of national heroes and top achievers to inspire us. In Marcus Mosiah Garvey we have one of the greatest philosophers of our time who stood for dignity, diligence and discipline. Our leaders do not have to go far to find exemplars on whom to pattern courageous leadership. Sister P, just say when!

Our Jamaica bobsled team

Jamaica's enthusiastic bobsled driver Winston Watt and brakeman Marvin Dixon are training well as they prepare to compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics. It seems that the other bobsledders are grateful that the Jamaicans are competing. ESPN reports: "Although they're long shots to medal, the Jamaicans, whose inspiring journey to the Calgary Games in 1988 was told in the film Cool Runnings, have helped pull the spotlight toward bobsled."

On being asked by ESPN what the great Usain Bolt's prospect in the sport would be, Watts noted, "He would be a very good pusher, but he's not a person who likes cold. He's said that. It would be awesome to have him on my team because, a strong guy like me and him, could you imagine that?"

'Cool runnings' and good luck to our brave bobsledders!

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com

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