A plan to be human

JASON
McKAY

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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The “rape of Nanking” is a term you may have heard before. It is the term used to describe the massacre of about 200,000 captured Chinese soldiers in the city of Nanking between 1937 and 1938 during the second World War. The dates are correct.

The World War, contrary to popular belief, was being fiercely conducted before Germany invaded Poland in 1939. People tend to only remember the European part. However, it was in fact the Asian theatre of the war that would eventually force the United States of America to get involved, not the activities of Adolf Hitler in Europe.

This disgrace and stain on the Empire of Japan occurred because of hate, evil, and the norm of victors — all of which factored into the decision to engage in this conduct.

But oddly enough, it was the swift surrender of the Chinese military that actually brought on the decision to execute so many prisoners of war. There was simply nothing in place to house or care for prisoners of war in such large numbers. The proper planning of any police or military action must first include the management of the obvious.

However, to the Japanese, soldiers surrendering is not accepted in their army. So they did not expect it with the enemy. The result was a disgrace that is still remembered by the Chinese today and living proof that the Japanese never really planned to even be human in this era of their history. So let us get to our state of emergency (SOE) and examine how equipped we are to house our prisoners.

Firstly, let me categorically state that I support the SOE. This I say with pride. I also believe, with the strongest conviction, that only gang members are being detained. However, there is a need to expand our detention facilities if the SOE is to be an even greater success.

Remember, we really have not opened a facility for this purpose. When we opened Horizon Detention Centre we changed the remand centre on Metcalfe Street to a juvenile facility. The current one being used at Tamarind Farm was already a prison that was in use.

We need a facility purposed for the detention of the uncharged and unconvicted. The standard of living needs to be better than prisons that house the convicted and charged. This is the true sense of justice and logic.

If uncharged detention is as bad as charged, then you will not care if you are charged. This extends to convicted people also.

Once you are convicted, your circumstances need to really be at a different level, or at least change. I remember we had a detention centre in use in the 70s during the then SOE. Do you think we can get it back?

Frankly, I believe that at that time it was used for political repression, but this time there would only be criminals in it. The lack of space, if not looked into, will result in one of two things: the catch and release of men who need to be in custody, or some crisis that occurs due to overcrowding.

This could range from the outbreak of illnesses to prison revolts. We have some history of this. In 1992, three men died from suffocation in the Constant Spring lock-up when 19 prisoners were put in a cell intended for four.

Lack of oxygen resulted in the deaths, and the shame on all of us still lingers. This occurrence was the result of lack of planning for a national police operation geared to target the escalating crime rate. There is no necessity to learn from our own mistakes.

We can learn from those of others. In this case we actually have some experience with poorly planned detention arrangements. So let us move fast to make this an expanded effort that will save lives at every level. It needs expansion.

There needs to be more killers in custody. But if one man dies in custody because of an ill-planned detention arrangement, we will never be allowed to do this again. We are giving up a lot for this SOE.

Our freedoms that we enjoy today came about because of several national heroes in post-slavery Jamaica. Paul Bogle and Alexander Bustamante quickly come to mind, but there were, of course, George William Gordon and the hundreds who died in the Morant Bay Revolt.

The State of Emergency Act was in fact used to detain Bustamante during World War II for his local labour activities, so its use needs to gain us a tangible result. Its very existence disrespects the memory of the men who fought the English so we could enjoy our freedom. But I think it is worth it.

Our murder rate will drop by over 100 this year. I see it happening. And I know Busta, Bogle and Gordon would agree. These men fought oppression. The nationality or colour of the oppressor would not matter to them. And we are a nation oppressed by these gangs for far too long.

Feedback: jasonamckay@ gmail.com


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