An inefficient system breeds an undisciplined people

Thursday, October 24, 2019

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Dear Editor,

It has been some weeks since the Criminal Records Office has been relocated, understandably bearing some inefficiency and confusion. A day after the new office was opened I applied for a record and paid for the five-day service. The line to make the application was a mental and physical marathon, the sun was spiteful, and the wait was jeering. I broiled.

Once inside, however, the process took some time, but was okay since there was air conditioning now and a water cooler — which would have been more useful outside than in.

My five-day record was to be collected in 10 days. No complaints, they were still finding their feet — completely understandable. On pick-up day, October 22, there was still no shelter for customers outside the glass-walled building which reflected the sun's antisocial rays back on to the unusually quiet and compliant Jamaican queue. I mentally adjusted to being told it wouldn't be ready, just as I had seen happen to others on the day I applied, and allotted two hours to this possibility — reasonable for anyone who has ever had to do business with underpaid public servants.

The overcast morning at 10:30 am soon became a searing noon. Fortunately, two whole weeks after people had been complaining about the horrid conditions a tent was being erected. By this I was already two minutes past full cooked approaching burn. Three hours passed, four hours passed. All this time there was sparse communication with the customers waiting, while some people were walking in and getting through as they came.

After some more time passed the uncomfortably compliant line broke rank, and people became belligerent and stormed the door. Any passer-by at that point would snarl at the indiscipline among Jamaican people, while being completely unaware of what encourages it — a broken system.

After five hours waiting staff were seen leaving with their bags. People who had come subsequent to me were being processed before me. This was no longer a matter of new office with big problems, it wasn't even the wait anymore. It is at this point where the average Jamaican must be saying I'm an idiot for standing quietly in the line this long, especially since people were being told to come back at another time. At five hours I was still not certain whether I was going to be successful. Thankfully, eventually I was. My back sore from my flat feet and my body faint from the wait, I hobbled on my way.

Upon hearing in the news that a man got shot after I left, I was disturbed, but I imagined that his belligerence was not trivial. If one simply says it is because he refused to wait, then I rebut. Not a single person should have to wait that long under those horrid conditions in the first place with the possibility of being overlooked.

Shame on him for assaulting the officer, who rightly protected himself. Yet circumstances made the perpetrator what he was.

These are the lapses in the system that foster indiscipline, which in turn fosters corruption and crime. A pervasive problem that can be found from the Supreme Court to the cook shop; divorce fraud to line skipping. In the end it is a virtuous cycle: A slack system encourages indiscipline, which breeds crime, which causes corruption and slackens the slack system.

If Jamaica is to improve, fix the darn system!

Dave Richards

d1darichards@gmail.com


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