Columns

The murder problem — Own it, solve it!

Al Miller

Sunday, August 19, 2018

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The wickedness of the few makes the calamity of the many. — Publius Syrus

On Wednesday last I learnt of another of the regular, senseless, wicked and brutal slayings of innocent Jamaican citizens. Then the shocking lead story of Thursday's edition of the Jamaica Observer — a child murdered and her body apparently dissolved with some caustic substance! When will the horror end? What will you and I do to end it?

The murder of the gentleman on Wednesday is not one in which the excuse can be made that it is gang upon gang, reprisal or scamming feud. This is clearly the wickedness of evil people committed to evil purposes. It may be rumoured that it is a deliberate hit, but does that justify it? Can we be satisfied to allow it?

What is painfully obvious is that a family has been left in mourning and with diminishing hope. We are in serious trouble. It could be any one of us, for any number of unjustifiable reasons. It simply ought not to happen. It should anger every fibre of your being. As it is said you never change anything you're not angry enough about.

We cannot call ourselves a civilised society and be content to allow these senseless murders to continue. Murders and wanton violence have become so commonplace that more of us are becoming numb to them. We are no longer moved, we no longer shed a tear. No longer are we angry, we are instead beaten down to a mute acceptance; a posture that says, “Just another one, me cyaan do nutten 'bout it.”

Where is the care and concern, are we not our brother's keeper? Where is the kind of care and concern that drives action? What is it going to take to move us to serious engagement for change?

Let me remind us that this kind of callous murderous rampage is not a government problem, police problem, or an inner-city problem. We had better begin to own it as our collective problem. Let's be conscious of the reality. Last week it was across town, this week it is down the road, yesterday it was next door, tomorrow it could well be at your house. Your response is your choice. One thing is for sure you had better act while you can.

Own it, change it!

I am a firm believer that you will not be able to change anything for which you do not take ownership and accept responsibility for. It is citizens who have this kind of outlook and attitude who can really build the new Jamaica. We must all take responsibility for the prevailing conditions in our nation and determine to change it.

Those who have one foot in and one foot out cannot change it. Those who have written it off that nothing good can come of it because it is too far gone cannot change it. Those who feel that they have enough and/or can insulate themselves against it cannot change it. Those who are benefiting from the status quo certainly have no interest to change it.

Those who can change it are we who accept that it is what it is but are convinced that it cannot remain as it is and, therefore, own it and take responsibility for it. Such people will have an attitude that says to themselves. “It is mine, I am going to do something about it and act.” Are any such Jamaicans around?

Angry, yes I am, righteous indignation burns within. The situation mentioned at the opening paragraph of this article is of a hard-working citizen not in any known mix-up. He drove into his house in Mona Heights and was pounced upon and shot seven times. His wife was shot in the leg. He is Arnie Francis, general manager of Alliance Investment Limited. A man making a contribution to development.

Yesterday I was driving through Pembroke Hall and discovered another three people had been shot, one fatal, in broad daylight. There is absolutely no regard for human life; no fear of consequences for action. We shoot men as if they are birds. No one is safe or can feel exempt. We have a serious problem that needs collective responsibility for collective action.

I was part of the M.A.N. TING press conference nearly two weeks ago which raised some critical issues for consideration that most of the media houses to date have not effectively carried. In light of the crisis situation I am constrained to raise some of them here and demand a public response from the relevant authorities and to stir public dialogue for collective action.

The nation is in a major social crisis, particularly a 'gun use, murder crisis'. It is time we face it for what it is and deal with it as such. The call is for the Government, with the support of us the citizens, to approach this issue as an epidemic; therefore, taking fast, radical action such as (for a specified period of, say, three years):

1) Zero tolerance for gun crimes and possession of illegal firearms and ammunition. Possible mandatory sentencing to give clear cause for deterrent or pay the consequences. Guns are not like knives to give the excuse that one travels with it to peel orange or cane. Possession reflects intent for evil.

2) Restrict the sale of firearms and ammunition to the oversight of a sufficiently staffed Firearm Licensing Authority or military.

3) Immediately look at legislation linking illegal gun user to illegal gun provider. When an illegal gun is used to commit a crime, and the perpetrator caught, every effort should be made to trace it to the provider/supplier. Then both be equally sentenced.

4) In this social crime crisis, devise a creative, incentivised way to enlist a volunteer police reserve corps similar to the National Army Reserves. These patriotic persons would give 10 to 15 hours a week of their time. This would be at additional cost to the Government yet could double policing presence in short order until societal order is restored. The current temporary reduction in murders could be attributed to the increase police presence in communities by the zones of special operations programme. The police cannot continue much longer at the present pace without suffering burnout.

5) We encourage all citizens to tell what they know. We challenge all citizens to get actively and aggressively involved in an illegal guns and ammunition recovery programme. The guns and ammunition are stashed in communities and the people know where they are. It is time for the 'informer fi dead' culture fi dead! We endorse and confirm the integrity of Crime Stop 311; it works, it can be trusted. Use it!

3 months to higher power

There is another very significant matter mentioned at the press conference directly connected to the campaign for gun and ammunition recovery that we want all to hear. It is both a call and a warning to which the wise should heed: Prayer works, mark my words!

Many of us as leaders of the church with a burden and passion for the nation are making the gun and ammunition recovery and supply a prayer priority for the Church. Therefore, we are boldly saying to those in high places (business, legal, political, religious, etc) who are still involved in the supply of guns and ammunition to desist now.

We understand a lot of what has happened in the old paradigm. It can no longer be permitted. This is a new paradigm to build the new Jamaica.

In keeping with the redemptive nature of our God we are giving those involved a grace period of three months — August to October — to get out of it and remove far from it and never return to it.

Come November we will mobilise the power of prayer for the public exposure of those who continue in the practice to face the consequences of their evil choices. The sceptics, unbelieving, and naysayers may not want to mark it, but the signals will be seen. Don't test it! We are confident that prayer works.

We must give thanks for reduction in the murder rate. This equals lives spared, so it is gain made. However it must not be lost on us, and we must not take too much comfort in the apparent gains. All the measures taken to date are palliative approaches, very necessary for the immediate pain, but they are not curative. Our best days are ahead. We can and will beat the odds. A fi wi country, mek wi buil' it.

Again, I raise in this column the most urgent need for new-era prime minister to put in place a team for national social mobilisation to deal with the mindset and behavioural change that has to be founded on inculcating moral values to curb crime and violence, inspire hope, and facilitate the environment for real economic development towards prosperity. Without transformation at the very base the nation will continue to flounder in the dark, never finding its way to fulfil the national vision and aspirations of its people.

We chide the police when they mess up, let's congratulate them when they deserve it. They have been doing a fantastic job. I believe a fresh wind is blowing in the police force which should only get better. Let's join them in the crisis and overcome the epidemic. It is time to engage so as to slay this gun murder giant. Our future depends upon winning this battle.

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or pastormilleroffice@gmail.com.

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