The tragedy of poor governance
"Mama!" We hear the scream of the child as the thug reaches through the window of her house, grabs her by the hair, puts a gun to her head and orders her family to open the door or they will blow her head off. We hear her cries as she and four family members are dragged to the open lot and brutally violated. Now the tiny eight-year-old is wracked with pain of body and trauma of spirit. The mother, also a victim of the attack, weeps by the side of her child's hospital bed, fearing for her future.
"One of my officers broke down and cried," said a senior police officer from the Granville Police Station in St James, after they had visited the house in Irwin. They had seen the man of the family who was not at home when the horror unfolded last Monday, sitting on the steps of his house weeping in despair.
As we consider these unspeakable deeds, we ask ourselves how this little island could breed such wickedness. Over the past 14 years, we have had an average of 1300 murders per year, a total of over 15,000 people cut down under various circumstances, leaving tens of thousands of Jamaicans in grief.
Last year, when a mother and daughter were beheaded in Lauriston, St Catherine, we waited and waited for condemnation of this horrendous act by leaders of both political parties. If memory serves me right, and I would be happy to be proved wrong, all we got was silence. Was it fear? Was it too delicate a time in the political campaign that had been circling the island to speak out? Whatever the reason, evil must have been emboldened when no expression of shock or sorrow came.
Some have asked: What is the point of dressing in black and marching in Half-Way-Tree? What is the point of observing silence? We do this for the same reason that we attend funerals to mourn with the bereaved. We do this for the same reason we go on our knees and try to find the faith, hope and courage to continue our fight against the unrighteousness in our land.
And then what? you ask. And then let us dust off the pages of the years of research done by the Claudette Crawford-Browns and the Herbert Gayles of our country and use it to inform our social planning. Dr Claudette Crawford-Brown has repeatedly pointed to the recurring decimal of the absent mother in cases of juvenile delinquency, yet many of our children are still being raised by remittance. I saw a play on television staged by primary school children about wicked relatives who live high off remittances while the young beneficiaries are given the crumbs.
In an annual Cobb Lecture entitled, "The Potholed Road Ahead", Dr Herbert Gayle appealed for targeted assistance to poor mothers. These mothers, uneducated and victimised by a string of men, have children they cannot afford to maintain, continuing the cycle of grinding poverty that would shock those who have never ventured out into an inner-city community.
There are so many agencies, NGOs and do-gooders in this country and yet we have not been able to make the change we so desperately want. It is heartbreaking to see police officers struggling out to community centres after a hard day's work to mentor young people while some civilians sit idly at home cursing them out for the ills in the society.
If only our Social Development Commission could harmonise the efforts of various NGOs, so they do not trip over each other in well-meaning but unproductive efforts. Our government agencies need to sharpen their act if they are to carry out their mandate.
With all the starving children in Jamaica, I know of a Canadian couple who have been waiting for over a year to adopt a Jamaican child, and still no word. We have to improve the calibre and accountability of those who manage our social services. We should not be squandering scarce funds marked for welfare, chatting and shuffling paper while the country goes to hell in a basket.
Working to prevent environmental crisis
After a world conference on the planet's environmental crisis in Copenhagen in December 2010, Professor Anthony Chen, member of the 2007 Nobel laureate team and his colleague Ambassador Anthony Hill wrote in the Jamaica Observer, "In Jamaica we face a myriad of threats ranging from sea level rise and droughts to increased incidence of diseases (See, for example, http://www.america.gov/publications/ejournalusa.html#0909). These threats will increase in proportion to the increase in global warming which in turn depends on the increase in quantity of greenhouse gases emitted by man-made activity. The greatest harm will come to the poor and underprivileged who are less able to adapt to these threats."
Valentine Fagan, vice-president of Generation Expansion at the Jamaica Public Service, was guest lecturer last Tuesday for the ninth in a series organised by Professor Chen and the Physics Department, UWI, on the Climate-Energy Nexus. Mr Fagan acknowledged that high energy cost linked to the fossil fuel we import, was a barrier to economic development and our social well-being. However, he warned that the JPS alone could not finance an expensive LNG plant and that for a consortium to come on board to do this, "You need stability, certainty" in our economy.
Meanwhile, 30 small-island developing states in the Caribbean, Pacific, African and Indian Ocean have decided to take their environmental future into their own hands by forming SIDS DOCK with the support of several international partners and funding from the Danish and Japanese governments. This collaborative institution is promoting the use of renewable energy sources, so abundant in the islands. Their 25-50-25 plan will see an increase in energy efficiency and conservation by 25 per cent, a minimum of 50 per cent of electric power from renewable sources and achieve a 20-30 per cent decrease in conventional transportation fuel use by 2033. We can wait no longer, as glaciers and polar ice melt, putting our vulnerable shores in jeopardy.