Silence, shifting, sex, and strife

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Silence, shifting, sex, and strife

When will Jamaica learn the ways of success

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, November 29, 2020

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When the mother goat breaks into the yam store her kid watches her. — Igbo proverb, Nigeria

Today is seven days since 81-year-old Iciline McFarlane and her granddaughters, 10- and six-year-old Christina and Mishane McFarlane, were executed by fiendish predators at their Tryall Heights home in St Catherine. The absence of condemnation from certain sectors of society, civil society groups in particular, is both deafening and frightening.

The murder of McFarlane and her granddaughters is one of the most heinous in many years, yet not even a peep has come from the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC).

Stand Up For Jamaica is stonily silent.

I have not heard a word from Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ).

And mum's the word from numerous other civil society interests and spokespersons who usually emerge with lightening speed, and with predictably fiery and condemnatory press releases, when the security forces are involved in shootings which result in the death of alleged gunmen.

Has the 'me in my small corner' mentality totally gutted the 'it takes a village' cultural traditions and orientation?

Civil society is a critical pillar of the democratic process, particularly so in developing societies like ours. I contend that civil society begins to lose its savour when it is pigeonholed, or worst insular.

As I see it, one of the major hindrances to collaring our long-standing crime problem, particularly our abnormally high murder rate is unenlightened self-interest. This malady feeds into the suffocating 'informa fi dead' culture which permeates Jamaica.

When civil society neglects to speak out against foul deeds, like the two triple murders last week, the constricting force of the stifling 'informa fi dead' culture metastasises.

One traditional news outlet reported last Tuesday that 18 Jamaicans had been murdered over a mere five days.

According to police statistics, 1,179 Jamaicans have been murdered up to last Thursday. The country has not even heard a murmur from the JCC, JFJ, or the numerous other civil society groups on this slaughter of Jamaicans. Why?

Do they need another 1,000 murders like that of Iciline McFarlane and her granddaughters, or even more unspeakable cruelty, to realise that our society is being ripped to shreds at the very core?

I accept that modern societies are fuelled largely by specialisations and divisions of interests. There are, however, certain universal interests which constitute the glue of modern societies. One of these is the preservation of life; all life.

To me, all life is precious. I get the impression that some of our civil society groups are concerned solely with the preservation of the lives of those who are alleged to or who have been convicted for running afoul of the law.

Some seem totally preoccupied with the cares of a new heaven and Earth, while others somersault over realities which are blindingly obvious.

The brutal killing of police Constable Kirkland Plummer by gunmen at an illegal party in Harwood near Sanguinetti in Clarendon, three weeks ago, for example, did not trigger a hum or even a mere public whisper from most of our civil society advocates.

Recall, Constable Plummer was shot dead at a dance. He disarmed a gunman and the gunman was shot. “The angry patrons shot the policeman and bashed his head in, a police source told, Jamaica Observer Online.” (November 8, 2020)

Other media reports say patrons assisted with the transportation of the gunman to hospital, while some blocked the path of those who attempted to help the policeman to medical help.

I think the selective silence of many of our civil society groups and advocates is serving to embolden callous lawbreakers among us. They interpret reticence as support for repugnant deeds.

A national fight against crime and violence has to be a totally unified action.

The criminals are unified in the unleashing of indiscriminate terror upon our young, old, and those betwixt and between. The moral outrage of law-abiding citizens cannot leave any grey areas for miscreants, dons, 'donettes', and super-spreaders of crime and violence.

I am not in any way proposing to set the agenda for civil society groups. I am merely interrogating a particular aspect of their modus operandi.

It is public knowledge that some of these groups benefit from very generous tax exemptions and handsome government subsidies. They are not private clubs, or sacred cows.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang said Iciline McFarlane and her granddaughters' murders were likely reprisal killings carried out by contract killers. Chang, in a media interview last Monday, said that contract killings are now “a growth area in the criminal underworld”. This is chilling.

We must push it to the periphery and over the precipice. Silence is not a viable option. We are all in danger.

Paradigm shift needed!

Last Monday, Opposition People's National Party (PNP) spokesperson on national security, Fitz Jackson, asserted that the absence of a crime plan was responsible for the spike in murders. This is now a formulaic response from Jackson.

As recent as last month, Dr Horace Chang made these remarks about the country's crime plan:

“ 'Secure Jamaica' will prioritise three critical areas for the medium term, namely, the expansion, reorganisation and increased capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force; the modernisation of the legislative framework; and redirect and mainstream social intervention.

“ 'We are implementing evidence-based approaches, embedding continuous monitoring mechanisms, with clearly defined, time-sensitive outcomes. We are repositioning citizen security in a modern, transparent way, so that our citizens can hold us accountable. That is our commitment.' ” ( Jamaica Observer, 'Plan 'Secure Jamaica' to restore citizen security — Dr Chang', October 15, 2020)

We have had dozens of crime plans stretching across both Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and PNP administrations, yet murders continually increase, so too the barbaric nature of the killers and killings.

We have in this country a veritable assembly line of social conditions which feed the development of criminal behaviours. Rhetoric and half-hearted measures do not achieve seismic shifts.

In recent times, except for periods when several parishes were blanketed by states of public emergency (SOEs), crimes in general have increased. According to Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) official statistics, Jamaica has had over a 1,000 murders every year since 2004. Crime plans, and indeed successive administration's policies in general, have not rapidly translated into tangible and measurable results which impact especially the lives of ordinary folks in a very personal and long-term way.

The last Administration, for example, allocated one of the largest budgetary allocation to national security in many decades. Massive investments were made in training and equipping of the security forces. Yet, there is only a minuscule lowering of our murder figures.

Paradigm shifts are what Jamaica needs. We have been going around in circles, mimicking the actions of the proverbial dog chasing its tail.

I refuse to believe, however, that it is beyond us to tame the crime monster. Jamaica is not afflicted with some antediluvian type of an Abrahamic curse. Our spectacularly abnormal murder rate is not inevitable.

I think some who constitute the powers that be do not sufficiently understand that the best deterrent to crime is the certainty of being caught. It is widely known in our country that if you commit a crime, you have slightly more than 50 per cent chance to get away scot-free. It is not rocket science; therefore, that our crime rate is one of the highest in the world.

Some of the powers that be do not sufficiently understand that security of citizens and property is the primary purpose of the State. This is a constantly evolving activity.

A State which cannot adapt fast enough to honour this primary function creates a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Easy peeps?

Some years ago I came upon this term – easy peeps — in a Newsweek magazine article. If my recollection serves me right, it was used to describe a primary reason for the abuse of minorities, owing to their lack of economic power.

I think the term 'easy peeps' can also be applied to the unfair treatment of countries like Jamaica, which are economically fragile.

This banner headline: 'World pressure — Int'l community criticises Jamaica on buggery law, death penalty' ( Jamaica Observer, November 13, 2020) could alternatively be 'Easy peeps'. The item said, among other things: “Calls for the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations and the abolition of the death penalty were high on the list of recommendations put to Jamaica on Wednesday during the third review of the country's human rights record by the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group.”

Why is similar and/or the same pressure not unloose on certain countries in the Middle East, for example. They are not easy peeps.

I do detect a tyrannical rush to force Jamaica to abandon specific laws which some countries, especially in Europe, do not like any more. The irony, of course, is that these very laws were given to us by Europe. These European countries went through hundreds of years of social, cultural and political evolution before they eventually repealed laws related to buggery and the death penalty.

Consider this from the British Broadcasting Corporation ( BBC): “In 1533 Henry VIII introduced certain legislations to make certain sexual activities between males punishable by hanging. In 1885 the UK Parliament, via the Labouchere Amendment [name after Henry Labouchere], extended the list of illegal homosexual acts.

“In the 1950s Britain instituted an even more stringent sexual offences Act which resulted in a clampdown on gay activities. Police frequently raided clubs, pubs, etc. Things did not change until 1967, Britain's new sexual offences Act decriminalised homosexual acts, but only if they took place in private between consenting adults over 21. In 2000 the age of consent was lowered to 16. In 2014 same-sex marriages became legal in England and Wales.”

It took Britain 481 years to evolve to where they are today. Jamaica is 58 years old this year, having got political independence from Britain in 1962. There was a time in Jamaica when homosexuals were scorned, stoned, and there is anecdotal evidence; homosexuals were even killed in Jamaica because of their sexual orientation. There was a time when numerous dancehall artistes openly advocated the killing of gays, and politicians openly used anti-gay epithets to win votes. That is yesteryear.

Jamaica is evolving many times faster than Britain did. Homosexual lobbyists should allow Jamaica to evolve and make up her own mind.

The easy peeps strategy will not fast-track cultural, social, and political evolution in Jamaica.

Peeping through people's keyholes to discover their sexual activities is not a State function. Sexual acts between consenting adults behind closed doors is private.

Countries that support the repeal of laws against homosexual acts and the death penalty should not, however, bully and force their timetable and agenda on sovereign states.

Team of rivals

These news headlines suggest that many in the People's National Party (PNP) need more than a generous dose of emotional intelligence, political common sense, and humility.

1) 'PNP in disarray from personalities of the destructive kind' ( Jamaica Observer, November 25, 2020)

2) 'PNP cracks on show — Firebrand Councillor Venesha Phillips slams new president' ( Jamaica Observer, November 24, 2020)

3) 'Ian Hayles blames PNP insiders for election loss' ( The Gleaner, November 22, 2020)

4) 'Golding demands respect — Unity team formed to heal old and new wounds in PNP' ( The Gleaner, November 22, 2020)

5) 'Phillip Paulwell denies involvement in plot to remove Mark Golding as PNP president' ( Nationwide News Network, November 23, 2020)

6) 'Political commentators say the PNP is still at war' ( Nationwide News Network, November 20, 2020)

Two Sundays ago I noted, among others things, in my The Agenda column: “A sure way to silence or at least bring some level of quietude to the warring factions in the PNP is to win the upcoming local government election, or at least achieve a draw. If Golding fails at both I think there will be another leadership challenge before 2023.”

The evidence is clear. The PNP is a team of rivals. Norman Manley's party is split right down the middle between those who branded themselves 'Risers' and 'OnePNP'. Within those cliques there are subgroups of rabid traditionalist and reformers. Of course, too, there is a coterie who believes that a capitalist should not lead a socialist party. And, not to be outdone are those who are convinced that Mark Golding's colour disqualifies him to hold the keys to 89 Old Hope Road.

Until they taste of the fruit of political victory, atrophy in the PNP will continue.

Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com


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