Friday, February 17, 2017

A case of life and death – literally

Excerpt - Observer column published 13 FEB 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Women and men from all walks of life gathered with purpose last Tuesday evening to plan and act with urgency as we grieved the tragic loss of an alarming number of women and children. There is a term “collective grief” which is said to permeate a community or country after repeated incidents of tragedy and trauma. Jamaica is in that state.  This ‘collective grief’ has the potential to immobilise us, even as we strive for the objectives of the Economic Growth Council, five percent growth in four years. 

Therese Turner-Jones, Caribbean representative for the IDB has emphasised continuously the serious effect that crime has been having on Jamaica’s economy.  The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently released a four-year study (2010-2014) of 17 countries titled, The Costs of Crime and Violence: New Evidence and Insights in Latin America and the Caribbean”. 

Ana Maria Rodriguez-Ortiz, the IDB's manager institutions for development, noted that Jamaica has the fourth highest impact, losing 3.99 percent of GDP due to crime.  However, crime expert Professor Anthony Clayton says that the indirect cost of crime nearly doubles that percentage.

In a recent report, he notes, "The indirect costs included investments that might have come to this country but didn't because of concerns about crime and corruption. Then there's the loss of human capital - we lose a lot of our skilled people migrating to other jurisdictions. It (crime) has an effect on people's propensity to save and invest in Jamaica. People are less likely to invest if they think that they're going to become the victims of extortion… When you take into account these other costs, then I believe from work that we've done, that you're looking at somewhere just over seven per cent of GDP."

Even as we applaud the work of the Economic Growth Council and the encouraging statistics from Chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Keith Duncan, we will not be able to make the projected strides without serious funding of programmes to end violence against women and children.  It was disheartening to hear a woman from the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) defending the heavy tint on taxis, which may be hiding a multitude of sins. Her argument:  the heat as taxi drivers wait for passengers.  Please lady, what is a little heat compared to the brutal murder and rape of your people?
Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ message on his Facebook page on Friday makes it clear: “By Monday February 13th, Public Passenger Vehicles in particular Registered Taxis must remove their window tints. It is already the law!  #SaferJamaica  #ProtectOurWomen  #ProtectOurChildren
The Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), a branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, has identified some of the top abusers as pastors, teachers and police officers.  There are also allegations on social media that this group may include politicians. This is a sad commentary on those to whom our country should look for leadership, protection and ethical behaviour.  This column is calling on the decent members of these groups to create stricter screening and disciplinary actions against those who are sullying their good name. They should be warned that with the growth of social media, evil deeds are going to be exposed sooner or later.
It is alleged that some of the young women who have been abducted and killed may have been used as couriers for scammers whose identities had become known, and that they may have been forced to play this role because of threats to their families. 

Recommendations from 51 Percent Coalition
A release on last week’s meeting from the 51 Percent Coalition stated these pointed recommendations:
-  allocation of funds for a shelter for abused women in every parish by the end of 2017;
-  influencing the Prime Minister, as head of the Social Partnership, to “step up and lead” on the issue;
 - strengthened restorative justice and psychological support for victims;
 - working with youth (counselling and mentoring);
 - strengthened community policing and special training for police;
 - “targeted activism” in schools, communities and the workplace;
 -  and using critical “touch points” such as health services for speedier interventions.”

The statement continued: “Moderated by Indi McLymont Lafayette, the meeting began with a minute’s silence for the victims and survivors of gender-based violence. Head of the Association of Women’s Organizations (AWOJA) Dr. Hermione McKenzie spoke on the dangers of trafficking in women and girls and Maria Carla Gullotta of Stand Up for Jamaica emphasized that sexual abuse is a key factor in so-called “uncontrollable” girls who find themselves in conflict with the law. Glenroy Murray of WE-Change spoke on the Sexual Offences Act, currently under review by a Parliamentary Committee. Patricia Donald Phillips brought a strong statement from women Church leaders.”

We understand that there is a great deal of fear on the part of witnesses, so we need to study the best practices of countries who have successfully tackled these problems so that our Witness Protection System gives confidence to those who want to step forward.  We urge our leaders in every sphere of life to put in the checks and balances that are required for us as a nation to earn the respect of the international community. 

The buck stops at Jamaica House.  It stops there because these are the individuals who campaigned to lead our country and who must now lead the change to transform Jamaica into the safe and secure place that it can be. Members of the Partnership for Transformation Committee are well positioned; there can be no napping because this is literally a case of life and death.

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