Columns

Enough is enough! Or is it?

Al Miller

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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When will enough be enough to move us, as a nation, to take the kind of radical action needed to tackle the perceived number one problem — crime and violence? Perhaps the question should be: How much is enough? It would appear that what is enough varies from group to group or with different social classes or levels in our society.

Our history has shown that enough begins to be enough when crime hits uptown and a certain class of people and their associates become victims. Then it is too close to home and man start shake. Enough begins to be enough when it touches the tourism sector, then we have squeals for a while. Enough begins to be enough when the upper class business community feels it is affecting them. Enough begins to be enough when election time comes and it forms part of the content of platform speeches and promises made to the roars of support from the specially bussed-in, assembled crowd — the same crowds filled with many, many of the perpetrators of crime who just happen to be critical community leaders and workers close to the Members of Parliament and councillors.

Whenever any of the above happens, enough begins to be enough and plenty talk goes on around it for weeks. The popular radio talk shows juice it, and the police get extra active for a while, but soon all returns to normal.

It might be very revealing if we were to engage research to see the correlation between the timing of the announcement of the multiple crime plans, strategies and clampdowns, and the time of the outcry from any of the upper echelon groups mentioned earlier.

The horror of crime

Once again, in pain, horror, anguish and tears I watched the news of last Monday night about the ongoing tension in Rockfort caused by opposing factions. Mothers crying and complaining about the fear gripping their family members, especially the two-three-year-olds. They sometimes spend countless nights sleeping under their beds and they described the tension in the community during the daytime.

On the same newscast, three women were shot in Maverley, molotov cocktails were thrown in a number of houses causing fires; another community under siege and tense for months. There are also problems in Jarrett Lane and neighbouring communities. Similar flare-ups in other inner-city areas and I have not touched out of town — May Pen, Spanish Town, Westmoreland, Hanover, and Montego Bay. This monstrous scourge is growing!

I am tired of it!

I am angry. I am sick and tired of it. These situations are not strange to me, I have lived with them and heard of them for many years. Almost daily I hear the cries of agony, fear and hopelessness of our inner-city people. Nobody, absolutely nobody should have to live under these conditions constantly; the relentless barks of gunfire, wondering a “who dat” and thinking “it could be me next”.

My fellow Jamaicans, it is not right or fair that any citizen of this nation should have to bear such injustice and wickedness as an almost daily diet! How much is enough? The people of our inner cities have suffered these living conditions for decades. It has only got worse. Many have moved to squatter settlements for temporary relief. The majority try to insulate themselves and bear it the best they can.

When will the rest of us join in and make our voices heard shouting “enough is enough”. When will we, by our actions, demonstrate that enough is enough! Isn't it time we demand change from the very root of the issue?

How can we allow this?

We must begin to believe and truly feel that this kind of evil and injustice to one Jamaican citizen is injustice done to all. We must be our brother's keeper; if not, how dwells the love of God in us?

It is only last week that the funeral for Arnett Gardens resident, Mickolle Moulton of Meadowbrook High School, was held. Just in case you have already forgotten, she is the little girl shot in her sleep because she allegedly refused the sexual advances of some men in her community. Although this has been denied by some community members as the motive, tensions continue to be high in Arnett Gardens and surrounding areas.

Are we content with these situations for our fellow citizens? Try to imagine with me living, even for one night, under the conditions I briefly described earlier, or what you have seen on TV, read in the newspaper, or heard through the grapevine.

Imagine living with the constant fear of being shot. Imagine having to release your adolescent daughter into the sexual claws of some 'don' or 'shotta'? Imagine your precious children having to come home to that kind of atmosphere everyday; the dons, gangs, the oppression of police, scarce social amenities and services.

How do our children, under those conditions, even get a passing grade in school, much less excel. How do they find hope where only hopelessness abounds? How do they prosper, where prosperity is daily killed, raped, and ripped from their hands! Welcome to daily inner-city life.

Listen carefully, I beg you

It is horrible and cannot be allowed to continue while the rest of us in our society go home, grill up, lock up, and let go the dog or wake up the security guards and arm the alarm system.

While we are asking when is enough enough, the people of our inner cities have been crying “enough is enough” for years now. “It is more than enough,” they cry, “we are dying, screaming, but no one is hearing.”

[But] If you listen carefully now you will hear

This could be the first trumpet

Might as well be the last

Many more will have to suffer

Many more will have to die

Don't ask me why. — Bob Marley

My moral and spiritual compass has indicated that the worsening current conditions echo 'enough is enough'. Many of you know that I have spent a lifetime engaging in practical and public outreach to inner-city communities. Over the last few years I have pulled back and worked quietly behind the scenes in a few situations. I must re-engage fully and help defeat this monster. It is time you do the same.

Every able citizen must come to the aid of our countrymen. We must declare enough is enough and work towards the transformation of our nation. We must begin to make it happen now!

The seedbeds of crime cannot remain

We must be honest, open and face the truth. We must call a spade a spade and deal with this evil and horrible injustice from the root. Crime and violence, and these evil acts of oppression of our people, come from a seedbed that causes them to flourish. The bed was deliberately prepared and the seeds planted and they are now producing a forest.

Bob Marley conceded defeat and sang: “...many more will have to suffer, many will have to die...” But I declare, THIS MUST NOT BE ALLOWED!

At 55, it is time to break the cycle of defeat and conquer this monster! I will not be defeated in my resolve. Neither must you be!

While we apply various methods, at various levels, if we leave the seedbed in which crime and violence flourish it will continue to reproduce. While the bed remains, no serious or lasting change can come, and no crime plan will be successful.

The seedbed is made up of tribal politics, garrisons and the donmanship culture. In the last few years we have not heard or talked about these three issues. We have, instead, pretended as if they had gone away. It is either we no longer consider them a factor or we have accepted that this is how things are and so we work with it and build on top of it. Neither approach makes sense!

Either way is dangerous and offers no freedom from this bondage. From where I sit the environments in which the seeds germinate and flourish must be confronted and dealt with carefully and strategically if we are to see a new day and a new Jamaica.

A Jericho wall of crime

The seedbeds have become like huge mounds of mud that have hardened and formed an impregnable 'Wall of Jericho' around the city of Kingston. The wall now seems deeply planted for over 30 years, but enough is enough!

I challenge these walls and their creators and I believe I can confidently speak on behalf of 95 per cent of the citizens in every garrison. We declare these Jericho-like walls must come down! Enough is enough! It is time to free the city and country to truly grow and prosper for everyone, not just a few!

We challenge you!

We challenge the leadership of both the People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party to accept that we are closing the chapter on hostile divisive politics; it is time they publicly declare this and make it so. It is wrong. It is not part of our 'Jamaican gene'. They must show that their declarations are sincere by ensuring that they do not replace the current representatives of garrison constituencies with people of the same old mindset.

We declare that going forward we are no longer warring factions devouring each other; instead, we are 'out of many, one people'. We are a thriving, vibrant democracy that will have contending views with diverse plans and programmes and different abilities and methodologies to deliver and manage the plans but we will no longer war and devour.

We, the out of many one people, reserve the right to have choices and arguments presented to us and the right to decide who will best deliver, keeping Jamaica's best interest first. But the warring and devouring done! So, Mr Politician, get in line or get irrelevant.

We challenge the donmanship culture. It is wrong and not sustainable, Mr Don. You can no longer godfather whole communities; you are unable to do it and you know it. The system that started and created your seedbed and enabled you to flourish is over! You know, because 'money nah run like one time', the illegal way and negative culture is not an option anymore!

We declare that the way for the people's survival is legal private enterprise, private initiative with government facilitating our entrepreneurship with good bureaucracy for success and social intervention initiatives to temporarily bridge a gap when there is failure. Church and NGOs will continue with social interventions and join with civil society and the media to play their part upholding moral guidance, conscience and accountability and by keeping us aligned and united. Education, good character and hard work will once again become the catalysts for best results.

We challenge current MPs and caretakers of garrison constituencies. Truth is, you either built it or inherited it. Either way you are part of the evil, corrupt system. You have to share the collective responsibility with your party and predecessors and you now have the individual responsibility to either maintain or transform it. Which will you choose?

We declare that the only acceptable option is to transform it. If you cannot transform it, leave it. Any new representative of a garrison constituency must be confident in his or her ability to transform the community or else don't touch it. What those who were before you did and got by will not work in this new Jamaica era.

Current leaders of garrisons must have both the commitment and ability to change it. If ability is absent, for any reason, then get the help. We have to accept the reality that both the new era prime and the new leader of the Opposition lead garrison-type constituencies.

I am not too troubled by this as I am confident that they both are intelligent enough and have realised that garrisons are part of the old system that must be dismantled for real progress and prosperity to take place. Neither they nor we can do anything about the past, but we can determine the future by what we do today. In the new Jamaica let us judge them by the state of the constituency they lead.

Leadership must be influential

I am a firm believer in the power of influence from leadership. If leadership cannot influence those being led for good, then the leadership is questionable. People still follow and reflect their leader. Our new era prime minister is the leader that carries the awesome responsibility to steer our nation toward dismantling the Jericho-type walls so we can take the city for growth and development.

We are not nave to think that it will happen in a day, but it certainly does not need a year and a day. The conversation must begin, the related actions must start. The conversation has to be driven with the full support and authority of our top political leaders, caught by our pastoral, police and civil society leaders and continued in every community and on every corner.

In addition, it cannot happen in isolation to the wider national security plans and our present inner-city realities. Let me explain:

The trust problem

On the same newscast with the atrocities taking place in Rockfort, the police were bemoaning the fact that citizens in the area knew the people involved and were hiding them. The police said they should not do so but should instead give information to the police about the perpetrators. This sounds like wise advice. However, if you would get to know the inner city realities, as some of us do, you would realise that our police are as much a part of the problem as the warring gangs and 'shottas' are.

Inner-city citizens do not trust the police. They live in fear of the gunman within, and equally in fear of the police from without. So the expectation that they should cooperate with the police cannot be realised. We have heard of reports of the very police informing dons as to who in the community gave them information. In fact, our police high ranking officers would probably admit, if asked, that police officers have even called bad men and alerted them to an impending police raid.

Problem cyaan solve problem

Our own police are therefore part of the problem and you cannot use a problem to solve a problem. No citizen of our free, independent and God-fearing nation should have to live in such debilitating conditions. Our top leadership must urgently tackle the issue of the integrity and credibility of the police force. We will not solve the crime problem without doing so.

That is the crux of the conversation that must begin in earnest with a view to really finding solutions before this monster that has been bred, this almost impenetrable wall that has been built, causes the kind of social implosion and societal collapse that will destroy us all.

This is what many of us have foreseen and, as a result, have been working assiduously for years to avoid. That which has overtaken other countries must never happen in this Jamaica, land we love. Enough is enough!

Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or pastormilleroffice@gmail.com.

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