Columns

Let's take back Jamaica!

Dudley
C McLean II

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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Jamaica has a crisis of political will to end the murder epidemic unleashed upon the nation by members of the alleged 300 gangs across the island. Of the official gangs identified, some 13 are reportedly aligned to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), 32 to the People's National Party (PNP), and the rest are unaligned. These gangs operate and are based in areas identified as political garrisons.

The parish of Kingston is divided into 39 political garrisons, Spanish Town, 16, and others are to be found in St James, Westmoreland and Clarendon. Political garrisons are usually established in poverty-stricken communities. The majority of crime hot spots across Jamaica are to be found in these communities, and states of emergencies (SOEs), whether short term or up to a period of seven years, will not halt the beast of criminality unleashed upon the nation by these gangs.

The best solution to Jamaica's crime problem is the dismantling of the political garrisons. To date, Parliament has not met to discuss this radical surgery. It was Aesop who said, “The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.”

RJR94 FM news reported on October 13, 2017 that Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said: “The Government has determined that it will be unable to respond to one of the 10 recommendations made by the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry — the dismantling of political garrisons.”

The word “determined” means “having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it”. Hence, the lack of political will to rescue Jamaica from its own creation as political power is more important than Jamaica, land we love.

Chuck further suggested that the “Government was struggling to figure out how to go about tackling the garrison phenomenon, noting that it was agreed that this was a job for the country at large.” The Government, having 'determined' their position, throws in a spanner — “a job for the country” — yet they have failed to have the parliamentary hearings to seek the participation of civil society. He also acknowledged that “garrisons belonging to both political parties have been allowed to become 'states within the state' and used to promote the interests of politicians”. Boom!

The foundation power of the two major political parties are built on the garrisons! That is why in the narrative about the SOEs we hear, “We need to scatter them.” Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang said, “We were looking at disrupting and taking hold of violence producers.” ( The Gleaner, March 14, 2019) These descriptions point to a security policy not designed to arrest and lock away these criminals. Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting was correct when, in opposing the SOEs, he said, “After one year there were still no cases built against them that they could be charged.”

To dismantle the garrison communities will require the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), whose objective is to “safeguard the democratic foundations of Jamaica by enabling eligible electors to elect through free and fair elections their representatives to govern Jamaica”, to redraw the boundaries of these constituencies. The parish of Kingston have been overrun by poverty and is the mother parish with the most garrisons. Kingston is also the smallest of the 14 parishes in Jamaica with the largest population of the poor and working poor. The ECJ needs to reconfigure the present three constituencies (Kingston Central, Kingston Eastern and Port Royal, Kingston Western) to break up the deep political mental slavery imposed on its citizens.

As members of civil society, we need to get the Constitutional Court — and here I wish to invite the chief justice and members of the judiciary in the interest of public safety and safeguarding the constitutional rights of Jamaicans — to examine and rule on the constitutionality of the garrison phenomenon as it, in my opinion, infringes on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, belief, and observance of political doctrines.

Finally, the garrison phenomenon has created and maintained poverty and mental health issues that must be addressed immediately. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs posits that when one's basic needs are not fulfilled one cannot self-actualise. The poverty in these communities is deliberately designed by the political parties to ensure that the needs of constituents are barely met. Garrisons sustain dependency on the parties, or their dons and gangs, with the outcome being the delivery of votes at election time. This is institutional evil personified, and results in dehumanisation, as self-actualisation requires uncommon qualities such as honesty, independence, awareness, objectivity, creativity, and originality — which would derail the egos of the Members of Parliament. We are now reaping its whirlwind as the dehumanisation of our citizens also creates mental health issues. It's too late for the proposed SOE Band-Aids. Let's take back Jamaica and dismantle the garrisons now!

Dudley C McLean II hails from Mandeville, Manchester. Send comments to the Observer or dm15094@gmail.com.


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