Friday, July 24, 2015

Where is the love?

Observer column for MON 20 July 2015

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Young Constable Curtis Lewis
“The word is Love”, was the slogan which captured our young hearts in the seventies, endearing us to then PNP leader Michael Manley.  However, as we become a society untrusting of even our shadows, we wonder, as the song asks, “Where is the love?” We do not need the love noised about on campaign platforms, but the love played out when we see politicians pounding the pavement to ensure better roads and proper water supply for their constituents.  This is the love that ensures that there are measures to address the needs of the most vulnerable.  This is the love that will make Jamaica a safe, productive country.

In the one short week since this column reflected on the courage of the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, two officers have been killed by heartless thugs.  The first was 21-year-old Constable Curtis Lewis who tried to stop a speeding motorcyclist on the Sheffield main road in Westmoreland last Monday.  Instead of stopping, the hit-and-run rider mowed down the policeman, severing his leg.  Constable Lewis later died in the Savanna-la-mar Hospital. The senior policeman who was on duty with him had to be hospitalized, as his blood pressure shot up, stressed out at the tragic event.
Back here in Kingston, Woman Constable Crystal Thomas had finished her day’s work on Tuesday and was travelling on public transportation to see her mother in Spanish Town, when gunmen hijacked the bus on Spanish Town Road. As she struggled to defend herself and fellow passengers, she was shot dead.  The incident has plunged her family and colleagues into mourning.
Constable Crystal Thomas
Jamaica Observer reporter Kimmo Matthews painted a sad picture of the scene at her workplace on Wednesday: “Police at the Denham Town station wept openly yesterday, even as they tried to comfort grieving family members of woman Constable Crystal Thomas, who was brutally slain …. Colleagues cried as they reflected on the life of the 24-year-old resident of Kitson Town, St Catherine, who was described by her superiors as hard-working and dedicated.”
He quoted Constable Thomas’ mother, Jacqueline Brown: "She was a person like that who, despite the challenges, stuck to the task and was just days away from collecting her first degree, only to have criminals cut her life short … It hard, it hard; what mi going do now; no more rice and peas, no more seeing my baby; the man dem just kill off mi daughter like that.”
Jacqueline Brown weeps
The comments online reflect the distress of Jamaicans here and abroad.  One particular comment from Christopher Burey Snr tells the story of the sacrifices being made by members of the Police Force: “After spending 49 years on this given Earth, 19 of those in service to my country Jamaica, my heart weeps for our fallen colleagues. For the last 5 years I am constantly being reminded that I am no longer a cop; I might no longer serve, but I can never stop being a cop in my heart.”

He continued: “So today I mourn with the serving fraternity, families and all law abiding Jamaicans who mourn the loss of the two young Constables. They paid the ultimate price in service to their country; may their memories within the service of the Force never die. I know it will never die for the families, relatives and friends. Let us lift our voices collectively as a group, nation so that the warriors who serve this noble institution and country never go in vain; put in place a monument, a scholarship, a symbol to remember the fallen, place it in a place for all to see the ultimate sacrifice they made with their lives, for they want a better place for all Jamaicans to live. Let not the tears shed go unseen, let not the heartaches go unfelt. Let us wipe the tears and do the right for our unsung heroes; put in place the monument to remember them all, fallen warriors of the Constabulary Force.”
As the murder figures rise, we wonder how this tiny country could have become so wracked with pain.  Not a single one of our leaders can plead innocence.  At our weekly Mass, we confess sins of “what I have done and what I have failed to do”, sins of commission and omission.  There are enough people with good, decent, law-abiding parents who have entered politics.  In the name of those hardworking parents, we are appealing to them to stop playing this dangerous game of power with our country. 
Enough books have been written, enough reports have been documented, of the thuggery introduced into politics by both parties.  This column has referred to the confession of a dying policeman, heard by a health worker who could not believe the order the man received and the accompanying threat to his livelihood if he did not carry it out.  He was in anguish at the fate of his soul as he related his crimes.  How many more of such policemen are there?  Are there enough that they could stand together and tell these politicians, “No more”? Are there enough of them to say, “No longer will we play your game, or ignore those who decide to play it”?
The Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) can assist by creating a website on the activities of Members of Parliament and Councillors, so we can know who are really looking out for their constituents.  In recent newscasts a saddened MP Lloyd B Smith described the lawlessness in the West, and the brave SSP Steve McGregor vowed that he would persevere with his crime fighting plans.
The message of solidarity with our Police from US Ambassador Luis Moreno is heartening.  We know of the long-standing support of the USAID in promoting community policing, and their emphasis on community ownership of these various projects.  We know there are police officers and decent politicians who are in fear of the vicious system in which they find themselves.  We hope that a ‘whistle-blower’ programme can be introduced to encourage such individuals to come forward and finally unmask the devious wrongdoers in their midst.

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