Saturday, July 16, 2016

Jamaica – worth the work

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published MON 11 July 2016

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Our PROComm Team celebrating Jamaica Day 2014
If you had any doubt that our Jamaica is worth the healing and the nurturing, just check the news coming out of the US this week.  In this, the land of Marcus Garvey, of Nanny, Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante, race is the least of our problems.  You may hear the odd racist remark, but with every new country I visit, I realise that Jamaica is the most racially harmonious that I know.

My late Mother of Indian heritage would relate many stories about her little district of Big Bridge in Westmoreland, where a healer woman named Granny Tuhtuh of African heritage would know exactly what herbs to combine to cure the residents in the area.  When her two brothers played “seh feh!” with a machete and four fingers were left dangling, it was Granny Tuhtuh who quickly pounded the herbs, put the fingers together and bound them. She did her version of physiotherapy because those fingers healed with hardly a scar and full mobility! 

Our family was a rainbow tribe – the Williams, Gopaulsinghs and Lowries. We attended St Mary’s Academy on Lewis Street, run by the Sisters of Mercy.  Principal Sister Veronica Doorly was a Jamaican of European heritage and Sister Magdalen Naudi was from Malta. We walked down to the Savanna-la-mar Fort to enjoy the sunsets, and watched the ‘Hosay’ marchers with their colourful crepe paper towers dancing and chanting on Great George’s Street. 

This is the Western Jamaica I grew up in.  But now, this Western Jamaica is recording multiple murders since the beginning of the year.  This has become the Westmoreland where one friend is afraid to visit her homestead because there are ‘too many strange faces’ with threatening looks. 
From whence have these infiltrators of the West’s peace come?  Someone who lives in a Kingston inner city community commented to us, “No state of emergency!  All the Kingston badman down in the West now woulda just come back and give us hell! You don’t see how downtown peaceful now?”
I can understand the anguish felt by Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte who hails from the West, and while I know she is a sincere and hardworking politician, I have to agree with the Jamaica Bar Association, who are not for tougher laws as they believe some on the books are already extreme, but for social change.  

"In JamBar's respectful opinion,” they noted in a statement last week, “aspects of these various laws unjustifiably abrogated the rights of Jamaicans, including accused persons, while failing to achieve the desired results …This is largely because the root causes of crime were not being properly addressed.”

We have to lay most of the blame at the feet of our dysfunctional leadership, but share in this blame because we, the citizens of Jamaica, the pious churchgoers allowed it.  We allowed them to establish garrisons and to empower ‘dons’ to terrorise our Jamaican brothers and sisters. 

As we criticize the police, we should know that some were threatened with demotion or worse if they did not fall in line with some of the dastardly deeds of these ‘dons’.  We allowed members of the police force to become brutalized and an embarrassment to those good officers who have steadfastly held on to high ethical standards.

Economist commentary

We can transform Jamaica’s trouble spots. The Economist magazine noted in a recent Schumpeter commentary: “Poor areas such as Trench Town used to be run by government bosses whose job was to bring benefits (notably public housing) in return for votes. Today social entrepreneurs offer a different model… Henley Morgan, a former consultant, has established a social company, the Agency for Inner-City Renewal (AIR)… Trench Town is no longer a war zone: Marley’s old neighbourhood is being dolled up; local recording studios churn out gangsta reggae; a few intrepid tourists venture into the area.”

“Turning round a country with a history of mismanagement and violence will be painful,” it stated. “The government needs to resist resorting to its bad old ways.” 

We the people must ensure that we promote positive leadership in both of our political parties – those who know better must do better.

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