Mr Bunting's dark night of the soul

Thursday, April 18, 2013

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MR Peter Bunting, the national security minister, might have used his "dark night of the soul" description out of the true context meant by 16th-century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic, Saint John of the Cross, whose poem of the same title speaks of the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God.

But the reaction, some might say overreaction, to his speech is not about his wrong use of the term. One gets the sense that there is some baying for political blood in some quarters of Jamaica and, in that context, we suspect, there is a bit of overreaction to Mr Bunting's statement to the 13th Annual Prayer and Thanksgiving Service for the Security Forces of Jamaica at the Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville.

Having read the full text of the minister's statement as published in yesterday's edition of the Observer, we think it is clear that Mr Bunting was not waving the white flag of surrender to criminals, as some have accused him.

In fact, his suggestion that divine intervention was necessary for solving crime in Jamaica is something that many Jamaicans, especially those who subscribe to Christianity, have been saying for the longest time.

Of course, had he not explained what he meant by divine intervention, we would understand the consternation being expressed by those who believe that a minister of security ought not to appear to be giving up to criminals.

The minister said: "...I think that after 15 months I am convinced that the best efforts of the security forces, by itself, will not solve the crime problem in Jamaica. But it is going to take divine intervention, touching the hearts of a wide cross section of the society and using as the instruments of divine intervention the Ministers' Fraternals, the academics, the business community, those persons who work in the NGO (non-governmental organisation) community, those of us who are in political service — all to try to make an impact, to touch the hearts and minds of our fellow Jamaicans."

It's no secret that the police alone cannot solve the crime problem that we face. A former official of the United States embassy in Kingston is noted to have quoted the Economist magazine, in a report to Washington, as listing Jamaica as the "most murderous country in the world" in 2008, and concluding in a 2009 article "that the nation has an unfixable" crime problem.

That may have been a tad exaggerated, but it certainly shows the kind of perception that others outside of Jamaica have about our crime problem.

Mr Bunting was carefull to stress that "the best efforts of the security forces, by itself, will not solve the crime problem in Jamaica". We don't know of any Jamaican who understands the situation who will disagree.

He also spoke to the many fatalities caused by persons known to each other and sometimes in the same family, to make the point that "it would be virtually impossible for the security forces, unless we had 100 times the numbers, to have prevented (that)".

Might we suggest that the reaction to Mr Bunting could have something to do with a growing perception that he may be out of his depth with the crime situation, especially coming after the unfortunate incident in San San, Portland, where a villa at which he was staying with friends was hit by armed robbers.

The minister might want to do his own soul searching.




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