A 17-year-old cry as relevant today as it was then
Most Reverend Charles H Dufour (Photo: Observer File)

An impassioned appeal made by a distinguished clergyman almost two decades ago for Jamaicans to assist the police, as failure to do so could help criminals destroy the country, still, unfortunately, has great relevance today.

At the time the priest, Charles Dufour, was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Montego Bay. He was delivering the homily at the funeral of slain businessman Mr Maurice Azan.

"We must reclaim our neighbourhoods and help the police. Let them know they are not alone in the fight against crime. Each of us must be the eyes and ears of the police. If we don't assist the police we are helping the criminals to mash up Jamaica," Bishop Dufour said.

He noted that the more than 600 people murdered up to that time that year were from various social backgrounds — rich, poor, educated, and uneducated.

Civil society, he argued, must rise and challenge the criminals.

"Every Jamaican," he insisted, "can make a difference to help clean up Jamaica. Everyone should leave here resolved that they are going to do something decisive to bring about a change."

Mr Azan, who was 70 years old, and his stepson, Mr Lloyd Phang, 50, were gunned down during a robbery at Azan's wholesale and supermarket in May Pen, Clarendon, on Saturday, May 14, 2005. Mr Azan died that day. Mr Phang died two days later.

Their murders sparked a lockdown of businesses in May Pen and Old Harbour in St Catherine in protest against spiralling crime.

Similar shutdown of businesses islandwide was planned by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica. Additionally, private sector leaders were scheduled to meet separately with Government and Opposition politicians on the issue of crime.

On the same day this newspaper reported Bishop Dufour's appeal we published a story on the Jamaica Employers' Federation (JEF) stating its willingness to work with the security forces and urged other Jamaicans to support the nation's crime fighters.

"As employers, we are all aware of the impact that this monster of crime is having on our business. The JEF stands ready to work with the security forces in their effort to deal with this serious problem and we urge all our members, and indeed the entire Jamaica, to join in this fight. It's a fight that we cannot afford to lose, it's a battle that we have to win," Ms Audrey Hinchcliffe, the then JEF president, said at the opening session of the 23rd JEF Convention in Ocho Rios.

Fast-forward 17 years and we are still grappling with this problem.

As we have pointed out before, the crime plaguing this country is not a recent phenomenon. It has been slowly mushrooming over many decades, growing worse with the introduction of firearms and the ease with which guns and ammunition come into the country.

There are, of course, many contributory factors to crime, and our efforts to deal with the problem must, as we pointed out earlier this week, include a holistic approach embracing not just law enforcement but integrated social intervention at all levels.

Overcoming the problem is not easy, but if all law-abiding Jamaicans heed that call made by then Bishop Dufour, and echoed by so many other people over the years, we can make this country a much better place.

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