Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The painful truth

Excerpts from Observer columns by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday March 8, 2010 - Neck Deep in Denial
Those of us who lived in Jamaica in more peaceful times have watched some political leaders becoming more and more dependent on thuggery to marshal their votes. Our Electoral Office of Jamaica has ensured a fair and just electoral system. What happens before and after elections in certain neighbourhoods is beyond their power.

To this day, political tribalism divides many communities. "It is not politics, it is gang warfare," our politicians are fond of saying. To which we respond, where is the political will to rid us of these gangs?

Despite repeated calls in this column, CAFFE can neither be heard nor seen after elections. Once a politician is elected, all scrutiny stops. This is when it should intensify. Why has CAFFE not joined Dr Herbert Gayle in his appeal to have the constituency development fund administered by an independent agency? Gayle, a lecturer in sociology at the UWI, has done extensive research on the causes of crime. In last year's Ambassador Sue Cobb Lecture, he named this as an important measure to help tame the beast.

In the US, candidates go from door to door, winning over supporters, one vote at a time. But in Jamaica, some "clever" politicians have sullied the name of independent Jamaica by deciding on an easy, if not legal way, to lock up their votes. This door-to-door business is much too labour-intensive for them. And so, several political "stars" were born. These luminaries of the inner-city would never see the inside of Gordon House, but they would decide who would get a place there.

The politicians who may not have had direct contact with these "protectors" turned a blind eye, either out of fear or out of ambition. And we Jamaicans have whispered about such wrongs but did aught about it. The better-off ones among us, who could have used our money to insist on cleaner politics, did nothing and allowed two generations of Jamaicans to become brutalised by this selfish, cynical and short-sighted brand of politics. We are neck-deep in denial.

Monday 10 May 2010

If it matters to our leaders on both sides, they should know that we know how deftly they built those communities where our fellow Jamaicans may not walk or talk freely. We know and we feel very sorry for anyone who could believe that their fleeting power could be more important than the lives of their Jamaican brothers and sisters. They are now naked on the internet, naked on YouTube and people know that it is not a coincidence of criminality that has brought our beloved Jamaica to her knees. It is a cynical plan to hold on to power, passing from one party to the other every now and then, complicit in each other's cold confidence: "Today for you, tomorrow for me".

Yes, we know there are good politicians on both sides and we are now begging them to stand up and be counted as the ones who declared "No more!" and who will take Jamaica on the path of righteousness that she so dearly longs for.

But let the world know that good Jamaicans have been brought to our knees - not to cower before thugs, but to pray to the awesome God who sees all and sees far. What hapless souls are those, that no longer fear God.

Let the criminals - including the corrupt - know that there are simple, godly people in this country who still sleep well at night, who do honest work and share the little they have without chaining beneficiaries to lifelong obligation.

The Almighty who gave us free will, must have wept also, as He sees too many of us ignoring the condition of the poor, imprisoned in garrisons, fast developing across the island. In a CVM-TV interview, Dr Henley Morgan referred to our garrisons as "the society's terminal crime affliction". He said we had made the wrong diagnosis about crime, as it was not mainly about the international drug trade. He believes it is all about the "zones of exclusion" in Jamaica.

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