We have a duty to discourage indiscipline

Monday, February 11, 2019

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Lawlessness and disorder are by no means new to Jamaicans.

But even at that, the incident which unfolded in Spalding, a small but lively town on the Clarendon/Manchester border last Tuesday, was shocking.

Video footage, which circulated like wildfire on social media, suggested that a bus driver was arguing with a policeman after the latter had instructed that a vehicle be towed.

The clip showed the lawman being pushed violently in the chest, sending him falling backwards. Following on this the driver was shot more than once, eventually collapsing to the ground.

The incident led to mayhem as anger among transport operators and bystanders spilled over.

Soldiers had to be called in to help restore order. By then businesses had to be closed and a police car was seriously damaged.

We feel for all involved in this awful incident — the gunshot victim, who will hopefully make a full recovery; the police who fired their weapons; and the families, loved ones and friends of the conflicting parties. We can only imagine the horror of those who watched.

We note the assertion by the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) that mental stress caused by difficulties and pressures in the transport industry was the trigger.

“We would like to state without any fear of contradiction that any such attack on any person, especially in this case an armed enforcement officer of the State, is a sign of mental illness,” JATOO said in a release.

The organisation has listed a range of issues which have made the operations and everyday life of its members difficult, including alleged excessive fines, losses, unfair competition, and vehicles being towed for minor infractions.

What Jamaicans also know from long, hard experience is that many transport operators seem to believe that they have the right to breach every traffic regulation to such an extent that many other motorists, legally going about their business, are scared stiff.

Head of the Manchester police Superintendent Wayne Cameron who has said the bus driver will be formally charged has identified disorder and indiscipline among road users in Spalding as a major problem which, he said, will be firmly dealt with.

But as we have said, Jamaicans know that such behaviour is everywhere, and further that the shocking volatility of the type which exploded in Spalding seems never far away.

We are at one with president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Mr Garfield Green, in calling for “all business leaders and law-abiding citizens to identify and discourage indiscipline”.

Behaviour is never easy to change, but it is incumbent on all well-thinking people to show by word and deed to relatives, children, neighbours, friends, business associates everyone that discipline brings benefits and, further, that a quiet word will turn away wrath.

Mr Green made other points that we should not ignore: Firstly, that had the police being properly equipped with what he called “non-fatal” weapons (in addition to their service pistols), the bus driver need not have been shot. Also, that in this instance a body camera would have served to protect the police officer, given the allegations made by people claiming to be eyewitnesses.

Fortunately for the lawman, video images appeared to contradict much of what was said.

As a society, Jamaica really needs to get its act together.


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