The price of our freedom


The price of our freedom


Sunday, January 12, 2020

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The year 2019 has ended and murders have increased. A great opportunity to criticise each other now presents itself. We will blame our minister of national security, our police commissioner, our Government.

This is the game we like to play. Well, why don't we blame them for the foul weather in December and the fact that cocks crow too damn early? They are probably within the same framework of reason.

The murder rate is where it is because of many things. Some date back to the mid-70s, some the 90s, and a few other things since the start of the millennium. None of the reasons for this increase occurred because of decisions made in 2019, so stop attacking the ambulances; they did not cause the injuries. They are just doing what they can to save lives.

Lives were lost because of decisions taken by others a long time ago. The previous year was characterised by parochial states of emergency (SOEs), introduced as a response to a spike in murders and shootings.

In St Catherine North (Spanish Town), the states of emergency were a success story. The murders committed in the 10-month period after the SOE reached a number similar to those committed in the 10 weeks prior. Can you imagine if the SOE had not been imposed?

In St Catherine South the murder toll was halved in the 100 days following the imposition of the SOE versus what was committed the 100 days before. On behalf of Portmore's citizens, 'Thanks'!

Similar circumstances existed in Clarendon and Montego Bay. St Andrew South was an anomaly in this regard, but let us not forget that it was a 200-to-300 murders-per-year division before Superintendent Hewitt and his team got it under control. Now he is gone and the team is a memory. It is now just simply water finding its level. You want the water redirected? Then re-form a team.

In every other division where it was used, the SOE cut the rate of murder from what had existed in the weeks or months before its introduction. The national murder rate did not benefit from that, however. The murders simply increased in other zones.

The solution to me seems obvious. We need the whole country to be under a state of emergency. But firstly, is it possible? I think it is, it has been done before. Secondly, will it help? I know it will, because although the security forces do not have the personnel to impact presence and operations islandwide, they will have the power of detention that is the real weapon! Thirdly, is it moral? Ask the mourning relatives of 2019's victims.

Drastic steps require drastic preparation. We really will need emergency detention facilities; we do not want a rerun of the Constant Spring lock-up tragedy of 1992.

Putting a countrywide SOE in place, though, would be a restriction of our freedom and also means the surrender of parts of it. It is a hard pill to swallow. Bogle (Paul), 'Busta' (Sir Alexander Bustamante) and many others fought so that we could not just be thrown into prison. But we have surrendered our rights before from 1974 to 1993 when we repealed the Suppression of Crime Act.

However, when we repealed it, crime virtually doubled in three years. I guess we are still surrendering our freedom in some way, but this time the soldiers wear no uniforms.

The creation of the Act was an educated and informed reaction to the threats that presented themselves in the 1970s. The People's National Party (PNP) knew what was needed, that is why they created the Act. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) knew also; that is why they maintained it.

The introduction of the use of criminals to settle political differences was a State-altering decision. The restrictive laws were required to combat its residue. Something major is needed to battle its culture.

A national imposition of a state of emergency will result in a reduction of murders to under 1,000 per annum within two years. But we would have to surrender freedoms that took centuries to achieve.

We will likely choose freedom. And the price of that freedom is, frankly, a lot of gunmen's lives. But it will also cost the lives of innocent people. This will include women and even children. Is our freedom worth the life of a child? Is our freedom worth the life of your child?

Some would say I am wrong. They would maintain that a national state of emergency would not impact the number of murders that will be committed this year, or any year. Well, let us try it. If I am wrong, I am wrong. But, nothing else is working.

Our solution needs to be criminal-centred, however. That means no early closure of businesses and no barring of entertainment. The solution must exist to combat gangs, not the law-abiding citizens of Jamaica.

The freedoms guaranteed to us in our Constitution make it impossible to fight gangs this large, this well-armed, and this well-funded by extortion and the American narcotics trade.

If the political parties do not like the ramifications of combating the gangs tough. They should have thought of this before they created the problem over 40 years ago. Now it is a runaway train. It is going to take sacrifice to derail this train.

The price for that sacrifice will be our freedom.


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