If we had a dictator...Sunday, October 24, 2021
I often hear persons say 'We need a dictator to run this country.' This is usually relative to a crime discussion.
As a traveller and a student of history, I cannot say I totally agree.
I am biased because I have felt the fear as a visitor and observed the trepidation of the citizens who live in controlled societies, whether it is Russia, Vietnam or certain countries in the eastern block particularly prior to 1988.
However, sometimes I must confess that I have entertained the idea when I have visited crime scenes where violence is inflicted on the young, the elderly or the innocent in general.
So I decided, let us look at what a dictator could accomplish that our current democracy cannot.
First, we have to look on what we need to make the killing fields a thing of the past.
In a nutshell, we need an internment Act: No bail for guns, 20-year minimum sentences for gun possession and a functional Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) auxiliary.
A dictator could certainly institute an internment Act. He would have to change the constitution though, as the exceptions that were removed to allow us to be a signature to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms resulted in there being no tools to establish an internment Act.
He could remove bail as a right in gun cases, but again that right exists constitutionally and repealing the current Bail Act will require constitutional change.
The creation of a JCF reserve does not require a dictator; it requires vision and understanding, which a dictator may have. But he could certainly get it done.
He is, after all, dictating anything he likes in this fantasy, similar I guess to Russia's Stalin, Vietnam's Ho Chi Min and Cambodia's Pol Pot.
So firstly, would these changes work? A resounding yes, but they would come at a cost.
Internationally we would be a pariah if we were a dictatorship.
The very vocal populace would ensure the larger countries take action, and they would.
Well, I know most Jamaicans have a zero-tolerance stance to being bullied by foreign nations and would say 'Mek dem guh weh'.
That is because they think it is just the handouts we would be missing.
Most do not think of large countries barring sale to us of arms and ammunition. Nor do they think of the barring of remittances. This would cripple us.
We need that money from the workforce we trained and allowed to emigrate without paying us back for the free education we gave them.
Secondly, do we really need a dictator to effect these changes?
Our present prime minister can impact constitutional change if he so desires. He controls almost all of Parliament. Or does he?
We know his party holds almost all the seats, but does he really control the parliamentarians in his party? I am not sure he does. Nor am I sure he should. They are bright people, not brainless pawns.
So he could adjust The Bail Act from right to privilege. This would allow us to keep the gun offenders and killers in custody until they are tried for their case. But this would require constitutional change, as would the 20-year sentence for gun offences.
For this to hold up he would have to separate us from the Privy Council as our highest court because they would simply reduce the sentences.
He could set up a functional JCF auxiliary and he could allow for police officers to work overtime. He does not need to wield his awesome power to make this happen.
Dictating, though, is not his style, nor does he have the power base in his party. So, the aforementioned issues will not be happening.
Let us look back on modern history for a bit. Edward Seaga had a one-party Parliament for over six years between 1983 and 1989.
Dictating was certainly his style. So did he take any of the measures that I mentioned earlier? No, he did not have to.
He already had the Suppression of Crime Act, bail was not treated as a right for every crime, and the Gun Court would put you away for a really long time for gun possession.
The reality of this discussion is that everything that a dictator could do to stem crime includes measures that have already been taken.
Also, they could be done by the present Government based on the existing parliamentary allocation. However, only if we are willing to change the constitution.
The Seaga Government of the 1980s was, to a large degree, an improvement on the 1970s in the area of homicide statistics, but it truly was not a controlled environment.
The hooliganism and lawlessness of Lester Lloyd Coke, o/c Jim Brown, and his gang laid the foundation for the fall of that Government and the gang rule that was to follow.
Dictatorships work largely because of suppression and oppression. This country has fought autocratic conduct throughout its history.
Whether it was slave owners, Governor Eyre or Edward Seaga, we do not like being told what to do. We do not like being intimidated. We do not stand for it.
The changes we need to be better will require popular support, not dictatorial imposition.
We need a separation of criminal from citizen. We need to look on them as separate entities from the rest of us.
However, we need to take the drastic measures required to prevent their creation before we plan their destruction.
There needs to be a programme that highlights social intervention activities which target, while they are still toddlers, those most likely to be criminals.
We need to shower them with opportunity. If they still become what we have tried to prevent them from becoming then we need to use the awesome power of an internment Act and a court system that puts them away for their useful life.
What we do not want is a return to the era of Governor Eyre to fix our issues.
We just need the whole country to unite behind a strategy that targets criminals, not citizens.