Flankers Deaths' Lessons
On Nomination day, February 9, a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) motorcade going through the community of Flanker, St James, was shot at, resulting in several injuries and one person, Mark Tate, of Flower Hill, dead. This was subsequent to the shooting at a JLP mass meeting at Sam Sharpe Square, two days prior in which 'Chow' and 22-year-old Javin Campbell of Flanker were killed.
Flanker has changed from the 1980s when I was the deputy to Owen Murray, returning officer for North West St James, which includes Flanker. People could walk through without fear of political violence. At that time Carl Miller, attorney-at-law, represented the People's National Party (PNP), and former PNP mayor, Charles Sinclair, Baptist deacon, represented the JLP. Things were civil in those days, so much so that as election clerk, I wondered why there was so much violence and intimidation in Kingston and St Andrew.
In fact, I served as a presiding officer in the 1980 general election in the constituency of Eastern St Thomas where Pearnel Charles won for the JLP. I do not recall anyone dying in St Thomas due to political violence.
The senseless killing of one human life is very sad. The taking of life is worse than the destruction of one's reputation. Whereas one can restore a reputation, there is no one on earth who can bring back that slain life.
As a people, we need to not only condemn these acts but take action to show our disgust. In others words, even if the person killed is alleged to be a gangster, there needs to be an outreach to the family members. The family is grieving and we must sympathise with them. Political party representatives, preferably leaders, should visit the family members. In addition, the police, through its chaplaincy, should visit and other groups, including the church, should see it as an opportunity to comfort persons who are hurting and dissuade them from taking revenge, which is a normal and natural reaction.
There is a movie, Amish Grace, which tells the story of a husband who killed seven young girls and then himself. The members of the religious movement of Amish went to the widow of the murderer and told her that they have nothing against her and if there is anything they can do to help her cope they will do it. They offered forgiveness and showed kindness and compassion, and so should we.
Jesus encourages us to forgive the offender and not have any resentment towards another human being. Even if we have a dispute in the court with someone, there needs to be no bitterness for the sake of community.
Preventing political camp-aigning in Flanker must be a short-term measure. We have to deal with the conditions which produce garrison constituencies. By garrison, it is not about one constituency overwhelmingly favouring a particular political party. A garrison is where people have to live under a code of silence for fear of injury or death and they are so intimidated that they cannot vote of their own free will. This is modern slavery, and a blot on our political independence and governance.
These issues must form part of the manifestos and debates.
The major problems of murdering our young people and garrison politics ought to be discussed and deliberated on to find solutions. While there is a role for protest and withdrawal, there is a place for the meeting of the minds and civil conversation over coffee. There are the rare instances when negotiation will not work, such as with ISIS or the late German dictator, Adolph Hitler. Apart from such instances, politicians should be slow to take offence, quick to apologise and eager for reconciliation. Otherwise, we are going to miss the lessons from the Flanker deaths.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.