The truth at any price
TIVOLI, OH TIVOLI: Will there ever be a day when the community of Tivoli Gardens in Western Kingston can be associated with the humdrum ordinariness of other places? It is almost certain that no other community in this country has ever been in the spotlight as much as this one -- and for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately.
Wars and rumours of wars have come to be accepted as life in Tivoli, even though there are law-abiding people among the extraordinary there. They have been fiercely loyal to their community and have remained there through the many years of turmoil.
After the incident of all incidents, the Dudus affair of 2010, Tivoli is being swept back into the limelight again. The community and its residents will be placed beneath the microscope one more time by way of a Commission of Enquiry, seeking truth at any price.
Residents of "Tiv" have already set their price of reparation... nothing less than $1 million each. A community of new millionaires will be brought into being if they have their way. Saints or sinners? That is what the commission will have to determine.
Did the security forces really deal unfairly with innocent persons, gunning them down mercilessly, even pillaging and plundering like invaders of old, or were they the victims of the community's rage? All this will have to be determined and the truth of Tivoli revealed once and for all.
An early testing of the public waters is revealing that many persons are declaring no faith in the outcome of any enquiry. The shadow of Manatt-Dudus still hangs over the nation. Already we're hearing words like "circus", "foolishness", "waste-a-time". The strongest response is "waste-a-money".
Burdened with the knowledge of our slender resources and with hard times already pinching, people are convinced that the millions — or billions — which a Commission of Enquiry will cost, could be better spent. Then, there are those who say that even if we have to sacrifice to get to the truth about those fateful days of 2010, it will be worth it.
Mr Seaga, Grand Patriarch of Tivoli, which he moulded and shepherded as their longest-serving member of parliament, is warning the Government that it had better be clear in its objectives. So far, we haven't heard a full definition of the expectations.
What we want to know at the end of the day is, who did what to whom, and what is the truth. Nearly three years after the events of May 2010, there will be questions about whose memory will we trust, whose testimony will we believe?
To say that we are already divided is the biggest understatement. Which residents of Tivoli will dare speak in corroboration of the word of the security forces? Can they convince anyone that the soldiers in particular went in to destroy, not save?
As to the selection of the commissioners, already the call is being made for imported expertise. We trust nothing "made in Jamaica". We may have to search the world for honest people to lead the probe. The more foreign, the better -- hang the cost. It would surely be exciting if we could get a couple of those nice old English judges who still wear wigs. Then the world will know that we're really serious!
AS FOR THE REPARATION, evidence will be required for verification of what has been lost. What kind of proof will be provided? This is not asked with malice aforethought, but as a practical item of housekeeping. It is quite ironic that this new drama should have been started in the regime of one political administration but the cost will have to be paid by another, at a time when every dollar counts in our cash-strapped nation.
Even more than the money, there is the constant battle which we fight every day. If it is not one thing, it's another. We hardly have time to recover from disagreement when another turns up. Very little of our creative energy is being spent on anything positive. It is conflict all the way.
If the Tivoli Enquiry can bring answers to satisfy everyone, if the cost can be covered without demanding any more sacrifices of the people, if it "all comes out in the wash" as my dear Prof would have said, if it all ends happily ever after and peace and tranquillity can be the new way ahead for Tivoli and the rest of the nation, then it would not have been in vain... don't it? Until that paradise is found, we must struggle on.
WE CELEBRATE Mother's Day this Sunday with all the warm, fuzzy feelings which the image of motherhood evokes.
One writer, in extolling its virtues, describes it: "A good mother gives her children a feeling of trust and stability. She is their strength, the one that they can count on for the things that matter most of all — their food and their bed, their health and their shelter. There is no substitute for her. Mother is food, she is love, she is warmth, she is earth. To be loved by her means to be alive, to be rooted, to be at home."
I have been wondering about another kind, one for whom there is no special Hallmark card. "Ode to the teenage mother". The current condom-in-schools debate has to go beyond a campaign against teenage pregnancy and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. We need to try to reach the girls who confuse infatuation with love and the delusion that making some boy happy means enabling him to be a father when he can't even pay bus fare.
Instead of giving in to the condom argument, why not try to encourage more rational thinking to hopefully reach our youths, to encourage them to make decisions for their future, if not for the short term, for the long haul.
Suggestion: How about a campaign aimed specifically at girls, who pay the highest price through pregnancy? Persuade them to be the advocates of "No motherhood till I'm ready... Sex can wait... It will still be there after I'm qualified for a career. I don't want to end up ketching hell like my mother".
Use the example of our young female athletes, who protect their bodies, letting no intrusion deny them success on the track. Talk more of the fulfilment of girls in the arts, who respect their bodies, delight in their trim figures and are not ready for "the belly".
Young men will have to do better. They, like girls, will have to learn to avoid decisions which they will regret later. It is not a bad lesson to learn that love is like bamboo fire..... Quick to blaze, quick to die out.
What we need is not just the easy fix, but a challenge to our young people that becoming parents too early is foolishness. Condoms are a quick way out, but it will not solve everything. Give the youths room to share their views. Let them be the agents of change.
To all mothers of young adults trying to set their own compass, nuff respect and courage for the journey as you seek to guide your children into a safer harbour.