The tragedy of crime in Jamaica continuesSunday, April 04, 2021
The tragic death of 20-year-old Khanice Jackson two Wednesdays ago was not an oddity. We have travelled this ghastly road before. The horrible death of Khanice Jackson should be a blot on our collective consciousness. I am not confident it is.
Last Tuesday, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in Charge of Crime Fitz Bailey revealed on Nationwide News Network that, on average, 126 women/girls had been viciously murdered in this country between 2011 and 2020. He said some 160 females were brutally killed in 2017. Invariably, we come upon the ghosts of our own creation.
In all likelihood there will be more Khanice Jacksons. Why? We tolerate the awful conditions and very weak institutions which foster these horrendous recurrences.
Sadly, also, far too many among us have fallen into convenient and myopic traps which cause them to believe that what happened to Khanice Jackson can never visit their protected doorsteps. They are dead wrong!
The rot that started decades ago is metastasising. While the aggressive cancer of crime continues to affect and infect nearly every nook and cranny of Jamaica, some among us — who are or have been placed, by virtue of numerous circumstances, in positions of significant power, authority, and/or influence — continue to fiddle with transient optics, shadowy appearances, and trinkets of political correctness that are imported from elsewhere.
It's just about 90 days into 2021 and already over 250 Jamaicans have been slaughtered. Our murder rate exceeds that of some war-torn countries, such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Libya. In our undeclared civil war, the motives for the wanton waste of precious life are not rooted in ethnic differences, upheavals historically located in border disputes, a struggle for exceptionally valuable mineral deposits, or quest for religious supremacy.
The findings of numerous studies have reiterated why Jamaica has remained in the inglorious spot as one of the top five most murderous countries in the world for the last 20 years.
Jamaica has had over a 1,000 murders every year since 2004, according to Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) official statistics. Yet, some among us pontificate that just over 1,000 murders per year is a great achievement. The folly of their thinking should be obvious to all. Obvious, too, is the fact that crime plans, and indeed successive administrations' related policies in general, have not rapidly translated into tangible and measurable results which impact especially the lives of ordinary folks in a very personal and long-term way.
We do not need any more studies to tell us what we already know. And we do not need more conferences on crime, or more commissions of inquiry, to recognise that we are all sitting on an active powder keg.
One of the things we do need to do urgently, if we are to begin to defuse the bomb, is to cease, on all fronts, the politicisation of murders in this country. I think this is one of many crucial steps forward.
That critical step forward, however, will be thwarted if, among other things, Jamaicans succumb to what sociologists call the herd mentality. Even a cursory look will reveal that it feeds on political theatre, likes, retweets, the shiny light of the television cameras, and the seductive pull of sound bites.
I quite understand that it is the human thing to crave the 'video light'. The 'Drum Major Instinct' — a seemingly inexorable pull to be noticed, to be first, to be recognised, to be on stage — is well documented by noted psychologists.
Millions of years of human evolution, however, have taught us that our innate human proclivities often have to be suppressed in order for the human species to be preserved. Many who relentlessly pound the pavements of the political and public arena seem not to understand this critical point. Hence, for reasons of political correctness, they separate out the killing of women and children from the general state of murderousness which walks our land, doubtless because they believe it will win them personal political accolades. This is wrong!
Those who jump on transient bandwagons, while the country at large continues to be ripped to shreds by murderers, miscreants, predators, and corrupt fiends must not be greeted with the waving of palm fronds.
Last week, a lot of time was devoted to talking about violence against women and girls. Consider this: “The minister on Tuesday lamented the number of women and girls who have been killed in Jamaica.
“Along with Khanice Jackson, whose case has gripped Jamaica since last week, she remembered several other women and girls killed, including Ananda Dean, an 11-year-old student who was abducted and killed in 2008; Jasmine Deen, who has been missing since February 2020; Sharon Cole, a 61-year-old woman murdered on February 15; and Imani Green, an eight-year-old killed in Duncans, Trelawny, in January 2013.
“Miss Grange expressed sadness and called for various organisations, especially the Church, to get involved in the fight against gender-based violence.” ( Radio Jamaica, 'Special programmes being introduced to tackle gender-based violence, says Grange', March 30, 2021)
Radio Jamaica also reported that several other Members of Parliament also spoke out against gender-based violence in the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon and expressed outrage at the killing of Khanice Jackson, the 20-year-old accounting clerk who was murdered in Portmore, St Catherine.
And there was this: “The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) wants stronger measures and social intervention to protect women and children. The calls follow last week's murder of 20-year-old accounting clerk Khanice Jackson. She was found dead near the Portmore Fishing Village on Friday, two days after she went missing.” ( The Gleaner, March 29, 2021)
Many who jumped on the galloping horse of violence against women and children in Parliament and elsewhere last Tuesday afternoon might have been drawing the covers when DCP Fitz Bailey noted in the mentioned radio programme that over 1,000 men were murdered each year in the period between 2011 and 2020.
Bailey's revelation did not come as a surprise to me. I was not surprised, either, by the frenzy to politicise murders in our country for the umpteenth time. In my The Agenda piece on January 10, 2021: I noted, among other things: “Invariably, nowadays, when we hear about “the vulnerable”, particularly in public fora, women and girls are referenced. It is blindingly obvious to me that men and boys, for reasons of political correctness, have been largely eliminated from the designation of vulnerable. This is a colossal mistake.”
It is obvious why some folks continue this craziness of pigeonholing murders in Jamaica. When will they recognise that the aping of everything which is fad in America and some other places has not borne good fruits for Jamaica?
As I see it, many of the society's power brokers, institutional heads, legislators, captains of industry, and numerous other categories of leadership are obsessed with ephemeral political correctness, optics, and feeble appearances. This is one of the biggest hindrances to a necessary appreciation of the great urgency that face us all.
The entire society is being ripped to shreds by the monster of crime. Women, children, men, all classes of Jamaicans are being murdered 'left, right and centre'. For those who need more convincing they can try and excavate into this: In 2005 our murder rate was 64 per 100,000 — one of the highest in the world. In 2017 Jamaica's homicide rate was 56 per 100,000. In 2018 the homicide rate dropped to 47 per 100,000; then it was three times higher than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2019 our murder rate was 47.4 per 100,000; and, in 2020, 46.5 per 100,000 — the region's highest homicide rate.
If we are going to begin to really tame the monster of crime in this country we need to dispense with the robotic politicisation of crime and violence and, instead, focus on being tough on crime and the causes of crime, as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once recommended.
In my column on January 10, 2021 I also noted: “I have been saying in this space for a very, very long time that we have in this country a veritable assembly line of social conditions which feed the development of criminal behaviours.”
Despite whatever criticisms that doubtless will be thrown at me, I will not join the herd mentality of pigeonholing crime and violence in Jamaica.
I believe that much of the public outrage to Khanice Jackson's murder is heartfelt, but I also believe that the country needs to move beyond words, prayers, as well as expressions of sympathy and condolence. There has to be a new national consciousness that we want a different kind of society, followed by a total overhaul of this society. No, I am not talking about Utopia. Other countries have done it.
Our leaders in Parliament must lead that process, not with mere words, pseudo science, stale regurgitations, and submission to fads, but seismic legislations. We must demand these, or be satisfied with the rot and the consequences.
Call to action
At the time of writing 598 Jamaicans had died of COVID-19-related illnesses. And we are approaching 40,000 cases of infection nationally. This is a frightening reality.
Equally frightening was a news report I heard on Radio Jamaica last Wednesday. It noted, among other things: “The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is warning that the critical shortage of nurses it is facing could soon severely undermine patient care and the risk of errors by staff under pressure is increasing.
“This acknowledgement comes from Dr Kelvin Metalor, head of the Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care at the hospital.
“Dr Metalor has been pleading for more nurses and volunteers to tackle the exponential rise in patients at the facility, combined with the loss of staff.
“On Tuesday Dr Metalor reached out publicly to retired nurses and persons with nursing skills to contact the facility immediately to offer assistance.
“He explained that, for the hospital to maintain operating standards, the shortage will have to be filled, or there could be unintended consequences.
“He said the hospital currently needs an additional '60 to 80' nurses.” ( Radio Jamaica News, 'UHWI sounds the alarm; shortage of nurses at critical stage', March 31, 2021)
These details should massively concern all well-thinking Jamaicans because the UHWI is the benchmark for hospital care in the country. I shudder to think what is happening as regard the shortage of nurses at the other hospitals across the country.
In 2019 some 200 nurses from Cuba were injected into our health-care system. I think, based on the mentioned report and my layman's extrapolation of what in all likelihood is happening countrywide, we best quickly send for at least another 200 nurses from Cuba. Or, are we going to wait until we have another round of preventable crises on our hands? Maybe this starting headline will shake some from their slumber: 'Almost 100 nurses resign from University Hospital in 2019' ( Jamaica Observer, January 20, 2020)
Crisis management costs this country dearly. The real tragedy is that the inept actors often escape the consequences of their actions.
Vaccine passport hesitancy
'A nuh guh it a guh, a come it a come.' I said as much several months ago in this space in relation to vaccine passports. Some here on “The Rock”, who cannot or refuse to see farther than their noses, scoffed at my forecast. They and others, doubtless, will be very unhappy with the developments that I have noted herein.
• The [Joe] Biden Administration [in the US] and private companies are working to develop a standard way of handling credentials — often referred to as vaccine passports — that would allow Americans to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as businesses try to reopen. The effort has gained momentum amid President Biden's pledge that the nation will start to regain normality this summer and with a growing number of companies — from cruise lines to sports teams — saying they will require proof of vaccination before opening their doors again. ( The Washington, March 28, 2021)
• International Air Transport Association (IATA) is piloting a travel pass. Seventeen airlines have already signed up for the trial.
• The European Union (EU) is developing its own Digital Green Certificate that will serve as proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from the disease and, accordingly, gained immunity. The Digital Green Certificate will be accepted in all EU member states. — EU Commission
The vaccine passport seems destined to become part of the post-COVID-19 world. We would be foolhardy not to prepare ourselves.
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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