Monday, July 28, 2008

What about Chris’ rights?

Dwayne "Chris" Maitland at his graduation from Holy Trinity High School

Observer column - Mon 28 Jul 08
Jean Lowrie-Chin

Despite a sad encounter last Thursday morning, we know we have to keep the faith. We drive through Shortwood Lane to save time on our way to work, and also to feel the vibe of Grants Pen, one our favourite places. It is usually pleasant – we see cute little babies in the arms of their Moms and Dads enroute to the clinic, neat children on their way to school, a few lads leaning on a fence. We smile and nod – we’re a part of their landscape.

But last Thursday was different – the yellow police tape, the curious crowd peering down the side street, police officers on their walkie-talkies. We called the Stella Maris Foundation office to check and heard the strain in the usually upbeat voice of manager Omar Frith, “It’s Chris who does bearer work for us – gunmen shot him dead. Imagine, he was just about to sign up for one of our training programmes.”

Never prejudge a murder report. We use our defense mechanisms to interpret every inner city murder as gang-related. From all accounts, Dwayne “Chris” Maitland was a hardworking, gentle person. This is what Foundation director Anne Marie Thomas wrote about him: “Chris did all our deliveries for our fundraising 10th Anniversary dinner at a reduced cost, saying this was his way to help the Foundation. Some days he came to my house for pick up and was quite a gentleman. He was for the most part a volunteer.”

And so I want to ask our goodly friends who are using human rights concerns to batter Bruce Golding’s reasonable, rational crime plan: What about Chris’ human rights? What about the rights of those cute babies on the way to the Edna Manley Clinic and those sweet-faced children on their way to school? Do they have to sacrifice their rights because known, feared criminals cannot be kept under lock and key, while the police research the evidence to bring them to book?

We should make it clear that this column is absolutely pro-human rights. In a conversation on the country’s challenges, businessman Wayne Chen stressed that law and order had to be the country’s first priority even as he believes quite rightly, that suspects should be remanded under humane, orderly conditions.

Do our human rights activists really understand the tribulations that are being visited upon defenceless inner city communities by gangs? Bear in mind that there are now ordinary people in communities who must pay “rent” to extortionists in order to enter their own front door! How can a frail old lady live under such conditions? What about her human rights?

How we wish that our human rights activists would cry out as loudly for these terrified citizens, the schoolchildren who scamper under their desks if a door slams, the taxi driver who must hand over a sizeable part of his earnings to thugs, the schoolgirl who is “sent for” by the don. It cannot be that human rights groups care only for people on the wrong side of the law.

We in media should be very sensitive at this time about keeping a balance in reporting on crime fighting. It is beyond me how certain basically unproductive organisations can occupy as much air time and column inches as the Ministry of National Security, the JCF and the PSOJ. We should be using our voices to support the efforts of our courageous security forces, encouraging citizens to speak up and quit shielding criminals. Let us beware that we are not tearing down our security forces even as we say we would like to build a better country.

1 comment:

  1. Human rights etc

    The tragedy of a young, promising life snuffed out by criminals is always painful especially to family and friends. This, however, does not negate the other side of the coin - that this the tragedies caused of agents of the state killing or brutalising men and women and then tagging them falsely as criminals. Is is no comfort to a family thattheir loved ones may be killed by cops or criminals. This it seems to me, is the other side of the coin that the much hated human rights groups are trying valiantly to address. It's a job from which they should not and must not resile.