The rights of victimsSunday, November 21, 2021
Hugh Lawson Shearer was an amazing contributor to Jamaica. His roles varied from trade unionist to politician to social activist.
Despite his enviable resume, I believe his greatest contribution was his call for peace in his parliamentary address during the run-up to the 1980 General Election.
The speech was not terribly long or articulate. It was a simple call for peace.
However, it demonstrated that we were all sheep being led to perform acts of violence against each other by wolves. He stated that the members of the political parties were friends, that they eat lunch together and buy each other drinks.
This was a solid statement at a time when our people were killing even old people and children in the name of politics. It was brave, selfless, and not politically beneficial. Why? Because this was an era where terror and fanatics determined winners.
As a young person, it was a memorable speech. I recall my father saying, “Those words just changed the election.”
When I heard Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the press conference last Sunday asking, “What about the victims' rights?” it brought back memories of the day Hugh Shearer asked us to stop killing each other in their name.
Prime Minister Holness's statement was made in response to a question by a journalist, who asked if the newly announced state of emergency could be considered to be ill-timed, given the recent case challenging the legality of the use of detention before the Court of Appeal and recent judgements on the constitutionality of the use of states of emergency.
His response came at a time when it is not popular or trendy to choose a victims' rights over a criminals' rights.
I do not blame the journalist for asking the question because it is relevant. However, it demonstrates the mood of our media and our activists as it relates to victims' rights.
Note, prior to the announcement the prime minister detailed the level of bloodletting that had been conducted by the very men the state of emergency would impact. Yet someone from the press still found it reasonable to be concerned over their rights.
Now, I don't believe in minimising human rights. It is those rights that stop that knock on your door in the middle of the night and your husband and son from never being seen again.
But, when will the victims and potential victims' rights become so important that we are willing to take a chance that the Government will not abuse its powers and will focus its efforts on the killers and not on political opponents? I think that time is now.
If we cannot trust this prime minister, this minister of national security, and this commisioner of police, then we may never trust anybody.
Now, the learned journalist highlighted, as I said, the constitutional challenge to the use of states of emergency and its legality. This was addressed by Attorney General Marlene Malohoo Forte.
I can recall from the time the attorney general was a judge that she possessed a unique ability to communicate complicated issues in a simplified and easy-to-comprehend manner, a skill that few have in the profession.
She made it clear that states of emergency are not and have not been deemed illegal or unconstitutional.
There was a challenge to how a particular one was implemented and issues related to the use of the penal services and conditions relating to remand.
To understand my joy at a leader finally putting victims' rights where they belong, you have to understand our modern history.
In the early 1990s a movement was started to vilify our armed forces. Wheteher it was fair or deserved is the subject for debate. However, it was effective.
This is how marketing works. If you tell a big enough lie and tell it often enough it will be believed. Those are not my words, but those of Joseph Goebels', the propaganda chief for the Nazi party in Germany.
This movement of anti-police/anti-military would have become anti-State had the Government not jumped on the bandwagon.
So leader after leader repeated the rhetoric and jumped on for their political survival.
Last Sunday could represent a change.
Maybe this leader cares less about re-election, international awards, and our economic progress, and for once, more about our lives.
I say so because, let me tell you something you may not know, the leader who breaks the back of these gangs will be unelectable.
He will have to remove bail for gun offences, institute decades-long sentences for gun crimes, and likely alienate himself from inner-city communities with dons.
This would be political suicide. Or is it? Let us discuss.
He may lose the garrison seats and the economic fallout from handouts and other internationally related benefits. But I think most of the voting population has had it. We are tired of being afraid. We are tired of worrying about our children. We are tired of burying our family members and friends.
This could be the beginning of the end of gang domination, or it could be the beginning of the end of Andrew Holness as prime minister.
The human rights lobby is incredibly powerful and will likely destroy him if he does all that is necessary to save us from gang domination. Either way, it feels good to know that for once, our lives matter.