Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Public Theology Forum | Murdering our future

Published:Sunday | November 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Khajeel Mais

This is an opinion piece by Public Theology Forum, a coalition of church leaders and other interests.

The outrage displayed by ordinary Jamaicans in response to the verdict in the Khajeel Mais murder case is a redeeming sign. The rage that bubbled up over the murder of Nicholas Francis on public transportation for his 'banger' cell phone is a redeeming sign. Perhaps.

Maybe this outrage and anger is more than mere emotional overflow, but reflects a deep sense of having been wronged. Wronged on two counts. In both cases, two promising young men had their lives stripped away by callous and uncaring persons who appeared to value material things - to wit, a BMW X6 and a cheap phone and watch - more than their lives.

Second, in the case of Khajeel Mais, outrage was felt because the justice system was seen once again to have failed 'the little man' or, in this case, the little young man, his family, his school community, and Jamaicans, in general.

The Jamaican people still know when what is done is wrong. Jamaican people have been wronged at several levels, and it is taken for granted that they are used to being wronged. It is believed that sophistry can be used to dull their moral sensibility.

They connect this Mais matter to matters arising from our history in which there has been the miscarriage of justice when 'little people' are the victims of 'big people'. In these matters, when the courts are called upon to adjudicate, wrongdoers are often not made to pay because the system may be subverted.


Calls for technology use


Calls for the use of technology to capture witness statements will only go so far. There will be diminished faith in the justice system until we can prevent it from being undermined or circumvented by persons with wealth and power (even the power of the gun), or through intimidation of witnesses, or by poor or under-resourced policing and prosecuting.

Perhaps even corruption, of which other cases have given strong indication.

Some or all of these may have been present in the Mais case. Furthermore, how could a suspect be allowed to ignore requests for a weapon to be turned over to law enforcement?

Beyond this, the entire saga has highlighted some important lessons that must not be missed. There is a lesson about the way the value of human life has continued to be eroded in the society. There appears to be little reverence for human life, so we can take the life of a human being for flimsy reasons. The incident that led to the death of Khajeel Mais was a minor motor vehicle accident. It was a mere scratch, albeit on an expensive motor car. Certainly a human life is worth more than that.


Useless verdict


The verdict in this case has done nothing to remind us of the sanctity of life. If anything, every day there are new incidents like the murder of Nicholas Francis that tell us that the lives of our children are not worth more than a cell phone.

The outrage at the miscarriage of justice is one thing, but have we found ways to express our solidarity with the family of Khajeel Mais who have lost a son, so senselessly and so cruelly? Where are the expressions of solidarity? What gestures may we offer to memorialise their murdered son, or assuage their grief?

Perhaps we learned from the Mais case, as the outpouring of grief, anger and solidarity expressed towards the Francis family and the Jamaica College community was heart-warming. There is too much blood spilt in this society for which no atonement has been made and too many dead go unmourned.

The Jamaican society has to find ways to restore the value to life and indicate a seriousness of purpose in holding people accountable for the spilt blood of our brothers and sisters.


Another lesson learnt


The other lesson is that too often in our social order, as well as in our personal relationships, we allow ourselves to be informed and guided only by what falls within the ambit of the law, and so is considered to be legal.

In such a case, those who have both the wit and other necessary resources are quite willing to push to the greatest limits what they consider to be legal in order to achieve their selfish ends. This is so without the slightest care that what they are doing might not be morally right, honest or just. This, too, undermines the well-being and welfare of society, and puts people at a serious disadvantage.

It is far too frequent a practice for people to declare that they have done, and are doing, nothing illegal, when what they have done, and are doing, put a whole section of the community at a disadvantage, not the least, the poor and already disadvantaged. This is a matter of great importance.

Too many who are not at all slow to make public statements about 'the breakdown of law and order' and the general poor conduct in the society use legality and legalism to advance their own shady moral ends - ends which, when examined carefully, are truly detrimental to wholesome health of the society.

The other lesson is that the bonds of loyalty, solidarity and fellowship among us are becoming increasingly tenuous. It would seem that the manner in which Khajeel Mais came to lose his life should have forged a bond between the taxi driver who drove the ill-fated car and the family of the slain juvenile.

If the narrative before the court is to be believed, Mais' death was occasioned by the motor vehicle accident caused by said driver. Whoever fired the weapon was, therefore, firing at the car that caused the accident, and it is not unreasonable to believe that they were firing at the driver of the car. If that is so, the bullet that killed Mais was intended for the taxi driver; in that sense, Mais died in his place. Some would say that such bonds were impressive for their lack of presence in what is considered by many to be a betrayal by the key witness.


Betraying others' trust


Perhaps we do not stand up enough for each other; we do not put ourselves in place of the other enough. It is a virtue fast disappearing and that is perhaps the greatest tragedy.

Whatever the reason it is too easy for us to betray the trust of others and let each other down.

The depth of such betrayal is frighteningly present in the story of the father who is alleged to have turned an M16 assault weapon on his own 14-year-old son and others, including the boy's mother. Then he burnt down the house.

What kind of society produces such monstrous behaviour? What kind of society produces people who will turn on those who have died in their place? A society where our values no longer support notions of being our brother's or sister's keeper! Unenlightened self-interest and lack of moral courage rule the roost. Legal shenanigans and winning at all cost will continue to cost us. We will pay dearly as we continue to murder our future.

- Public Theology Forum includes: Anna Perkins, Marvia Lawes, Verna Cassell, Doreen Wynter, Christine Gooden-Benguche, Burchell Taylor, Richmond Nelson, Stotrell Lowe, Garnett Roper, Devon Dick, Garth Minott, Ashley Smith, Wayneford McFarlane, Gary Harriott, Stanley Clarke, Oral Thomas, Glenroy Lalor, Colin Steer and Byron Chambers (coordinator).

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