The bull sleeping in the china shop is awake

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The bull sleeping in the china shop is awake

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, December 08, 2019

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Do not kill a snake and swing it around; the ones inside the holes are watching you. — Tsonga proverb, South Africa

 

The crime situation in Jamaica appeared to have a switch, where you can turn crime on or off and this switch needed to be discovered.” These are the words of one of our former police commissioners. I believe there is tremendous merit to his proposition.

Evidently, those who control the crime switch turned it up last week. A news report at the start of December indicated that there were as much as five murders a day, and declaring November as being on par with June as the second-bloodiest month of the year with 127 murders.

For me, all murders are heinous and must be condemned. Yes, I recognise that some murders are reprisals, others domestic in nature, etc; nonetheless, murder is murder. We should not spend valuable time in the diminution of the hideousness of murders that are committed in particular locales, circumstances, or those which involve individuals from certain social strata. It perpetuates what some psychologists called “otherness”.

Recall on the heels of the murder conviction of dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel a woman mouthed in a media interview that she did not understand why folks were upset about the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams, since he was not a doctor, lawyer, or some “big tapanaris [person of importance] in di society”?

This kind of thinking — if you can call it thinking — is still rife in our society. It is reminiscent of a time when differences were 'legally' cultivated as a method of division.

Willie Lynch, from as far back as 1712, promoted difference as a means of controlling slaves on sugar plantations. It is very sad that many are still trapped in this mental warp.

We need to focus like a laser beam on the capture and conviction of all murderers, indeed all lawbreakers. Those who earn their livelihood from the ever-expanding crime industry in Jamaica are not fools. They notice that the society, by and large, places a different weight on the murder of individuals from uptown versus those from downtown. The continuation of this flawed differences approach, in my humble view, is merely facilitating fiends like contract killers.

I heard a high-ranking policeman on a radio programme, last week, saying there is a noticeable increase in contract killings in our country. This must be halted quickly. Studies have shown that the greatest deterrent to crime resides in lawbreakers knowing they will be caught. In our country, those who commit certain crimes have more than 50 per cent chance of getting away scot-free. Additionally, there is the reality that our police force has too many criminal elements among its ranks who leak information to the underworld. We must cease the adding of the combustible mixture of differences in how we investigate crimes and treat with lawbreakers.

Lawbreakers are just that — lawbreakers. I believe the buying of additional surveillance aircraft, ships; putting more boots on the ground; making greater investment in areas like forensics; and increased training will not have the desired impact of putting a bigger dent in the criminal ecosystem unless, among other urgent things, we eradicate the Willie Lynch-type focus on differences with which we treat lawbreakers.

We have dozens of good policemen and policewomen — that is not the crux of the challenge. Our primary problem is that the force itself is not yet fit for purpose. It is common knowledge that there is also a great trust deficit which needs to be fixed. It exists even at some of the highest levels of our police service.

Recall this headline: 'Chuck claims police told suspect about criminal report he made'. The news item said, among other things: “Being a Member of Parliament (MP) or even a minister of Government in Jamaica does not prevent the police from being reckless about sharing information that one gives to them on criminal suspects, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, says he has found out.” ( Loop Jamaica, November 14, 2018)

 

Jackson's awake? Or is he?

Fitz Jackson, Opposition spokesperson on national security, would do well to understand the applicability of what the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, 1996-2007, meant when he famously said, “You can't fatten the pig on market day.”

I believe Fitz Jackson has a Caliban-like trait. Caliban, is a bad-tempered and sulky character in William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

We had not heard from Jackson for quite a while. It seemed he was in some kind of political hibernation.

This newspaper reported, among other things: “The People's National Party's (PNP) shadow minister of national security, Fitz Jackson, says more needs to be done to halt the country's 'worsening crime crisis'. Jackson's comments were triggered by the recent murder of a Westmoreland businessman and his wife in the tourist destination, Negril.

“Jackson, in a statement from the PNP, said the 'gruesome and barefaced murders' have heightened the crime crisis and brought with it a new fear into a community which depends on tourism.

“Forty-nine-year-old Osbourne Richards and his wife Patrizia Richards were murdered last week, during an apparent burglary and robbery at their West End home in Negril.” ( Jamaica Observer, December 2, 2019)

All life is precious, whether you live in Cherry Garden, below Torrington Bridge, or in a shanty in deep-rural Jamaica. Numerous murders had been committed and were splashed across the pages of both daily newspapers in the days immediately prior to this monstrous killing in Negril. Why did Jackson remain silent? Is it because Negril is in the constituency of his parliamentary colleague and former Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill? Is it because of special consideration for the tourist industry? Why was Jackson suddenly ignited into action after days of political dormancy?

Curiously, Jackson has not publicly said a word about this heartbreaking news item: 'Three generations dead — Triple murder shocks St Catherine residents.' ( Jamaica Observer, December 3, 2019)

The story said, among other things: “At least one Waterford, St Catherine, resident thought explosions that rang out in the Clandon Road area of the community on Sunday night were firecrackers. However, the reality soon became clear when piercing screams told another tale.

“Three members of one family — a mother, daughter and grandson — were gunned down in their home.”

The J amaica Observer news item also noted that the victims are related to the Jamaica Labour Party's caretaker for the Waterford Division in Portmore Krisho Holmes.

I hope we have not descended to the point at which murders are now being weighed on a political scale. There are no green and orange lives, no People's National Party (PNP) or Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lives. We all bleed. All life is equally precious.

The PNP repeats almost ad nauseam that it wants a Jamaica which works for all Jamaicans. As I have pointed out, with specific references in previous columns, their actions on every major economic, social and political front betray their words.

This newspaper in a report published on December 2, 2019 quoted Jackson in a release as saying: “What more evidence does the Government need to be convinced that their SOEs crime-fighting policy is only worsening the country's crime situation, and that there is an urgent need for change.”

Then, I heard Jackson on a radio programme pontificating that the states of emergency (SOEs) are “worsening crime nationally”. He might not have seen the most recent Jamaica Constabulary Force statistics on murders, which clearly indicate that whereas 132 murders were committed in the Westmorland Police Division in the comparable period last year, 85 have been committed this year. Hanover has also recorded decreases in murders this year compared to 2018, and several other major crimes have registered decreases.

This, of course, is nothing to have a song and dance about. Murders are up in St James and by two per cent nationally for the similar period as 2018. Jackson would doubtless remember, though, that it was the PNP that pulled the plug on the life-saving SOEs in December 2018. Dr Peter Phillips and the PNP withdrew their support for the continuation of the SOEs in St James, sections of St Catherine, and the Corporate Area in the face of 353 fewer Jamaicans murdered in 2018 compared to 2017. Up until when the PNP pulled the plug on the SOEs figures from the Jamaica Constabulary Force showed that murders were down by 22.2 per cent. After the PNP's withdrawal of support for the SOEs gunmen and criminal gang members who had not been killed, incapacitated, or captured, almost immediately resumed their crime spree. Surely, Fitz Jackson, remembers this.

The security forces, as I understand it, are just now recovering the momentum that was cruelly and senselessly interrupted by Jackson and the PNP in December 2018.

Folks are perfectly right to distrust the PNP when it continues to call for the abandonment of the life-saving SOEs, but consistently fails to suggest any viable alternatives to slowing our abnormal murder rate. Some time ago I heard Jackson, on a radio programme, saying that the PNP's 10-point crime plan was not a crime plan, but the PNP's official website simultaneously stated that the 10-point plan is the “PNP's 10-point anti-crime plan”. I believe Jackson is a bull in a china shop.

I am not singular in that view either. Last week, lawyer and public commentator, Clyde Williams, tweeted these:

1. “Let me ask PNP dis, mek mi ask Cdes on this platform dis, an is not a secret suh wedda yuh waah tweet or not it okay. Cdes, unno satisfy wid Cde Jackson ow 'im a deal wid 'im security portfolio? Talk di truth, weh God love.”

2. “PNP caan a seh change di govament for Chang a fail wen, wen wi look is Fitz Jackson dem plan to replace Chang wid. At least Chang seh tings weh wi can dissect, analyze and praise or cuss. Tell mi now, onestly, di God in Eaven 'thruth', tell mi sometime weh Fitz seh weh we can...”

Jackson, “You cannot fatten the cow on market day,” Sir! As a start, you need to do your 'sums' before you make Santa Claus-type announcements — notwithstanding that 'tis the season to be jolly.

Having escaped from his state of political hibernation. Jackson made a humongous proposal last week. He 'reasoned' that the members of the police and other security personnel need be given a one-off payment of $100,000 this month as an incentive for their diligent work. Interestingly, these are the same security personnel who man the SOEs that Jackson says are “worsening crime nationally”.

“You can't make this stuff up,” as Don Lemon, CNN news anchor, said some time ago.

Few would disagree that the performing members of the security forces are deserving of a $100,000, one-off payment this month, but there are also matters of common sense and fiscal prudence. Were the Government to go this route it would have to apply a similar treatment to all teachers, nurses, civil servants, etc. Anyone with even a basic understanding of politics in this country would have realised that Jackson was attempting to curry favour with the security forces.

It is still believed by some that any party the majority of the security forces supports wins a general election. Jackson better update his antiquated thinking on that score.

Jackson was asked on Nationwide News Network last week whether he knew how much his suggested incentive would cost. This is what he said: “Ahhmm, put it this way, it's a manageable amount using the $90,000 that was given before.”

When pressed to give a specific cost this is what Jackson said, “I don't have the actual calculation at my fingertips now, and I don't want to quote it, but I can give you before the day is out.” This is basic mathematics for any primary school student. “You can't fatten the pig on market day,” Jackson. It does not work that way.

 

Coup d'état or no?

A reader of mine sent me a missive last Tuesday. She strongly objected to me having written this in my Sunday, November 17, 2019 The Agenda column 'Know when to 'pack you bags and go!' ':

“In recent weeks, for example, we have seen the dangerous results of an obsession with political power play out in Bolivia, Lebanon, and other countries. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales presided over many social and economic improvements, but tried to overstay his welcome. He started to adopt dictatorial tendencies. People said no, and he was forced out. Last week he had to flee to Mexico.”

She said what took place in Bolivia recently was a coup d'état and gave the usual socialist defences of external forces interfering in domestic affairs, etc. I disagreed. Here is why: Morales presided over economic growth of five per cent for nearly a decade. I recently read two articles in The Economist magazine which noted that Morales did a lot through legislation and via economic and social improvements to bring respectability to the indigenous peoples who were discriminated against for decades — albeit that many Bolivians feel he drove a wedge between western Bolivians [in the highlands], and eastern [on the lowlands].

Morales' decision to scrap presidential term limits in 2016 was the beginning of bad times for him. He took the matter to court. A court packed with his loyalists ruled that it would be against his human rights if he were not allowed to stand in a future election.

I heard a BBC programme recently which noted that by the time 80 per cent of the votes had been first counted in the most recent general election in Bolivia the results indicated that Morales was losing heavily.

Then all counting suddenly stopped.

When the full count was tallied, Morales won an outright victory.

That was when widespread unrest started.

An article in The Washington Post noted that many Bolivians feared Morales was taking the country down the path of Nicolás Maduro's Venezuela.

They chased him out. That ain't no coup d'état!

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


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