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Howard McLean: How to prevent a recurrence of the events of May 2010

Published:Tuesday | December 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Ian Allen/Photographer Security forces patrol Tivoli Gardens, west Kingston, in May 2010, shortly after an operation to serve a warrant on incacerated drug lord Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

This refers to a recent invitation, by the Chairman of the Western Kingston Commission of Inquiry to members of the public, for recommendations for preventing a repetition of the events that occurred in that community in May 2010.

When looked at from the viewpoint of the citizens of Western Kingston, and having regard for the vast majority of Jamaicans, generally, a review of the underlying cause leading up to the events of May 2010 appears to provide a reminder of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion for improved conditions. For without prejudice to any other considerations thereto attributed, the May 2010 events could be cited as an uprising against intolerable conditions in Western Kingston.

Frankly, Government cannot escape its responsibility to ensure the rule of law and reasonable opportunities for the growth and development of any group of citizens and then not expect the likelihood of a backlash as occurred in May 2010, which was also the case behind the Morant Bay upheaval.

Based on this view, Government should, as a priority, and with regard for the country's plan of achieving developed status by 2030, develop and implement immediate long-term plans for visibly improving the living standards and livelihood of the citizens of this and other similar communities in Jamaica and ensure that the rule of law is maintained in them. Some initiatives towards this goal may be as follows:

- A visible revamping of the traditional practice of the separation and partitioning of communities and individuals based on political partisanship. This will initially require deliberate ongoing bipartisanship and commitment from leaders at all levels of the political divide, which they would need to exhibit in their public utterances and deeds. For example, the often seen hostile behaviour of some parliamentarians, in and out of Parliament, is quite unnecessary, unacceptable, and not exemplary in any modern civil democracy.

- Widening and upgrading existing programmes for juvenile and teenage development and or reform to include literacy and appropriate skills training and other life-style training such as family-life education, self-worth, personal hygiene, and deportment, etc.

- Promoting comparable investment opportunities to create job openings and earning capacities, especially for youth migrating through the literacy, vocational, and life-style training programme alluded to above.

- Developing and implementing a land-settlement and housing policy designed to eradicate shanty dwellings and to upgrade physical living conditions, especially in marginalised communities.

- Introducing compulsory education and a mandatory school-attendance programme for children from early childhood through high school. This will require much greater, and more pointed, investment in and emphasis on youth education and development, which must include infrastructural expansion.

- Deepening the national educational system to include the delivery of both consciousness-based and environmental and occupational health and safety risk assessment and control-based studies across all levels of the national curricula. The aim of these disciplines, which up to now have remained absent from our educational landscape, is to impart and inculcate: (i) mind management; and (ii) risk assessment and control methodologies for preventing injury and ill-health to self, others, and the environment.

- Updating, aligning, and implementing the relevant body of laws and regulations relating to environmental and occupational health and safety to agree with current international standards.

- Visibly improving state-run facilities for elder care for indigents in the society. Improvement should include manpower and infrastructural development.

- Improving national health-care delivery to include greater specific emphasis on the prevention of injury and ill-health, which would be more cost effective in the long run.

- Improving the system of sanitation and garbage disposal and treatment nationwide to include strategies for environmental preservation and protection and ill-health prevention.

- Addressing widespread and widening hostility towards the police by the authorities themselves taking the lead in this regard. Citizens, especially in inner-city communities, need to see and experience tangible positive adjustment in the attitude of members of the security forces towards them, and also more efficient disposal of their lawful grievances when they arise. This may require requisite re-training among members of the security forces; a re-think of how policing is generally carried out in Jamaica; and the implementation of comprehensive judicial reform, which is known to be long overdue.

- Ensuring that illegal firearms are removed from the street and from entering the country's borders. The use of intelligence surveillance manpower and equipment in searching and locating and in border-control strategies and tactics, and not the traditional use of intimidation and use-of-force tactics by the security forces, should be developed and deployed on a continuing basis.

- Investing more finances in the development and deployment of intelligence surveillance techniques and less on the acquisition of armaments.

- Providing reasonable compensation to innocent citizens of Western Kingston for losses they incurred through the actions of members of the security forces during the events of May 2010 should also be done.

With a demonstrably caring Government, state, and civic bodies, and other stakeholders all nurturing a people learning to care for self, others, and the environment, and being guided with a steadfastness of purpose, collectively, we can, and will, overcome in spite of the huge financial demands these suggestions will invoke.

Howard McLean

Member of the public