Fed by greed, Jamaica continues to bleed


Fed by greed, Jamaica continues to bleed

Richard Blackford

Sunday, December 10, 2017

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According to Jamaica's Statistical Institute, the parish of St James has a population of 186,000, and its capital, Montego Bay, has a population of 111,000. As at Monday of last week, St James recorded a year-to-date murder tally of 330 Jamaicans killed — for a murder rate of 177 per 100,000 of population. Its capital, Montego Bay, which accounts for approximately 80 per cent of these murders, records a murder rate of 239 per 100,000 of population. And, on a per capita basis, not only ranks as the most murderous city in the world, but has a murder tally that is 38.2 times higher than the global murder rate of 6.2 murders per 100,000 of population.

Compounding the problem was news of the interception by US Customs officials, in Miami, on November 13, 2017, of a consignment of 177 assorted firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition destined for where else but Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The idea that Jamaicans resident in the USA or elsewhere would ship implements of death to their island home may appear callous and unfeeling to well-thinking Jamaicans anywhere, but that is our current reality. Jamaicans have been killing Jamaicans with impunity for decades, and the fact that more than 90 per cent of these murderers get away scot-free is garlanded by the reality of the conviction rates of a shambolic justice system buttressed by a police force incapable of producing winnable cases — ie cases supported by airtight investigations — for the prosecution offices.

The toxicity of this mix is driven by a political system that has, for decades, demonstrated its own disinterest in either pushing or promoting legislation designed to meaningfully address the malaise that has birthed and nurtured the crime and murder scourge.

Over the last 30 years, more than 35,000 Jamaicans have been sent to early graves by murderers, at a rate of 1,166 per year, or 41 deaths per 100,000 of population. These numbers are approximately seven times above the acceptable global murder numbers for countries not at war, and the stratospheric numbers have over time become a norm for Jamaicans who it appears now accept 1,300 and 1,400 murders per year as the new normal.

Whether we like it or not, the aforementioned arms cache intercepted in Florida last month is confirmation of not just what we already know (that our borders are porous), but that there is clear complicity among the membership of our Customs clearance community in the passage of caches of weaponry into the island. After all, no 'lickle barefoot man or woman' would arbitrarily ship nearly 200 guns into Jamaica from anywhere without prior arrangements to ensure their free passage through the receiving port. This is in addition to the already known fact that the drugs-for-guns trade between Jamaica and Haiti adds to the havoc being created by the local criminal community.

When one takes into account the volume of barrels of food and grocery items that are shipped daily from the USA , and the history of Customs officers who look the other way (for pre-arranged fees), it should not be difficult to appreciate the gravity of our situation.

Crime and corruption are established bedfellows, and in Jamaica, and for too many, it is “money that run things”. We need to accept that there are many Jamaicans among our numbers that care little about the rivers of blood that their greed causes; greed that is bred from the long-deteriorating domestic economy and the lack of investment in social infrastructure. This is what has succeeded in creating the current environment.

Case in point is the current lotto-scamming activities. In the late 1970s it was our tribal politics that cultivated the demand for firepower. In time it became the ganja trade, and later the 1980s narcotics trade that warranted weaponry. With each passing decade the demand for implements of death has emanated from our love of guns and the need for protection by the muscle involved in our underground economy. Our political system, by its misadventures over the decades of the 1970s and the 1980s, and its inactivity in later years, has been complicit in getting us to where we are at present and the majority of us by allowing ourselves to become hinged to one or the other political tribe sucking the milk of either side's political rhetoric, which kicks the blame from one side to the next but never coming together to find solutions.

The solution to our problems lies with us, the members of the Jamaican public at home and abroad. It is up to us to demand an end to the corruption and to equally demand the accountability from our law officers as well as a responsive justice system. Crime is only deterred by the surety of interdiction, the swiftness of conviction, and stiffness of punishment. Applying this at every level, regardless of the status of the culprit, is the only way sforward.

Richard Hugh Blackford is a self-taught artist, writer and social commentator. He shares his time between Coral Springs, Florida, and Kingston, Jamaica. www.yardabraawd.com Send comments to the Observer or richardhblackford@gmail.com.

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