Observer column published 29 AUG 2016
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
We returned from the Rio Olympics inspired by our athletes, full of light and hope for our beautiful Jamaica. But when the light of life is snuffed out in an innocent two-year-old, by a deliberate, execution-style gunshot, it is a heavy challenge to our faith.
Tanesha Mundle’s report in last Thursday’s Observer carries a photo of Demario Whyte holding a football almost as big as himself, neatly dressed in tracksuit and sneakers. Now Demario will never get the chance to grow up and realise the dreams his parents had for him. The downtown Kingston community on Luke Lane where the tragedy took place, is lined with pieces of black cloth, noted Mundle.
She wrote: “The shocking execution-style killing of a toddler on Luke Lane in downtown Kingston, on Tuesday night, has left residents in the community in fear and outrage.
“According to relatives, two-year-old Demario Whyte was shot in his head at point-blank range by the gunman after his injured father left him at the gate while trying to escape the gunman’s bullet.
“The boy along with his father and uncle were shot after gunmen drove into the community and started firing on the corner where the men were sitting around 8:30 pm.
“The child’s father was reportedly shot twice in his foot and once in the stomach while his brother was shot in the face. Both men are said to be in stable condition at the Kingston Public Hospital.
“Yesterday, when the Jamaica Observer visited the community the grief was obvious as residents stared into space while others openly shed tears and expressed anger at the gunman’s heartless behaviour.”
From the report we learn that Demario’s mother had taken up a job abroad, and that he and his father moved to the community five months before. Demario’s grand-aunt noted that her nephew, Demario’s Dad, was a good father: “Him nuh stop cry, is him only child and is the only child for the mother. Him always deh on the verandah with the baby and every night a him put him to bed and have him pon him shoulder a shake him till him go sleep, no night no pass and him no put him to bed.”
For any serious politician who says she or he entered politics to serve the people of Jamaica, the cold-blooded murder of a two-year-old innocent must be one of the strongest calls ever, for them to insist on honest and empowering politics. They know how the gangs started, and how some are still being nurtured by the cynical ones in their midst. They know how decent communities, urban and rural, have been transformed into tenements where people are packed, as in a modern-day Middle-Passage slave shipment, to generate frightened votes.
Instead of the endless debates and discussions about strategies to win more power for their parties, we need them to point their colleagues in the right direction. They need to address urgently the dangerous environment in which our low-income children are being raised. They must know that when good people do nothing, the breeding grounds of evil flourish. Every individual who buys phone credit is paying taxes, to support the security of our leaders. We ask them, that the next time your tax-payer’s security opens the tax-payer’s car door for you, that you spare a thought for the safety of that little person whose GCT is making you safe.
I heard a representative of ISSA (Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association) sharing on the news last week, that some children only eat at school, where free meals are provided, as there is no food at home. Will the 63 MPs and 216 Parish Councillors start engaging their communities and see how they can help these hungry children? Or do they prefer to sign billion-dollar loans, feather their nests and leave it to churches and charities to do for the Jamaican people what they swore on the Bible that they would do? Many volunteers in this country are contributing more that some of leaders, to ease the suffering of the poor.
In this year of mercy, as we contemplate the precious life of Demario Whyte and all the innocent lives lost to violence, we plead for compassion in our nation. This compassion has to be without reservation for it to bring healing to our wounded communities. It means we must also forgive those who became so brutalized by political expediency, that they saw no other way but thuggery. It means we must have mercy on those who are trying to break out of the iron grips of gangs that have become more powerful than their instigators. It means that we must support the rehabilitation of those who have been imprisoned for their crimes so they can start their lives anew after they have served their time.
It calls for us to have more constructive engagements with our teens and school leavers via the National Parent Teachers Association, the Child Development Agency and the Social Development Commission, so they do not become ensnared in the scamming network. The Police Youth Club alone cannot do this.
If our leadership on all sides adopt a spirit of compassion and cooperation, then we would be spending less time bickering over statements and power, and more time listening respectfully to each other, working towards a safer and more productive society.