Of constitutions and conflicts they createSunday, June 13, 2021
The Constitution of the United States of America (USA) was signed in 1787 in Philadelphia. It is the most revered document in that country.
It was written by a number of men in that era, who had been exposed to the State's excesses and their obvious concerns, in fact, their experiences, are reflected in the final product. It literally frames the document to ensure that the State can never impose tyranny upon its citizenry.
Well, the creators of the document were white men, quite a few of whom owned slaves. Their lack of experience dictated by their gender, race, and age resulted in the document not really taking into account issues impacting women, native Americans, and black Americans, who at the time were slaves.
The result is that the issues and the lack of protection for noted groups caused the need for amendments to be made to the document.
The end result is a document that provides for equal rights for all regardless of gender or race. It even has an amendment that allows for its citizenry to bear arms with an aim to overthrow the Government.
The brutality of the British in avenging the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865; the arrest of Sir Alexander Bustamante in 1944; and the general conduct of British imperialism, both pre and post emancipation, all influenced the final product. This, like the American Constitution, protected the people from the State.
There were exceptions in the Jamaican Constitution that allowed for acts such as the Suppression of Crime Act to be passed. This was a tool of oppression in the seventies and was used along with the state of emergency to oppress political opponents.
Experiences of these excesses in the seventies influenced constitutional change decades later. The end result is a constitution that allows us to be a signature to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms and one that will make the nightmare of the seventies impossible to occur again. It also is one that makes any Government, PNP or JLP, literally impotent in combating the current crisis of organised crime.
You see the same way that the American Constitution could not have made provisions for free blacks as there were so few, as slavery was still legal in 1787, the creators of our constitution knew nothing of Jamaican transnational gangs as there was nothing in our history that resembled what we now have. What makes us different from them is that as the need arose, historically, the Americans made amendments to accommodate those needs.
So, if it is obvious that our current document does not allow for crisis measures to be introduced, other than the state of emergency that kills the economy, then why can't we change it? It is just a piece of paper, it is not your God. It is a document written by people who could not have predicted that a few thousand young men were going to become the enemy of a few million citizens.
To be fair, the people behind the removal of the exceptions should have known better. However, they were looking at the big picture of joining an international community that recognises everyone's rights and freedoms.
I respect that, but love, like, or dislike it, we are toothless to take the immediate steps required to bring a short-term solution to the killing epidemic. Something has to be done.
In 1974, the Government of the country introduced an Internment Act to save lives. It was abused, it was used politically, but it did save some lives. The Edward Seaga-led Government of the eighties kept it despite criticising it when it was introduced in the seventies. Why? Because he knew it was necessary. It is necessary now.
Between 13,000 to 16,000 Jamaicans will be murdered over the next 10 years. The entire Northern Ireland conflict, over a decade, claimed 3,000 lives. Yet, they introduced an Internment Act.
Is it that they valued the lives of their young more than we value the lives of our poor?
The constitution needs reform in keeping with a country in a state of war. This killing epidemic must come to an end, by any means necessary, no matter what document you have to adjust, rewrite, or 'dash weh'. All that matters is saving lives.
No document is worth the life of one of my children. No document is worth the life of one of your children. This needs to be the mindset of Government.
The end result of constitutional reform needs to be internment of the killers. I believe this will save the lives of 1,000 people per year, if done properly.
I agree, this is not a long-term solution. There needs to be drastic long-term measures that identify the at-risk youth that are likely to be the killers of the future and govern their socialisation and exposure.
What I speak of is a drastic and monumental programme that involves busing the at-risk youth out of their community from three years old and micro managing their development by giving them the best education, mentoring, and exposure that is available. Cauterise the creation of the next generation of gunmen. But, in the meantime, cage the ones who are killing us now.
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