Mark Wignall | JLP government and JCF at sea on murders
A few days ago, I was watching a documentary about crime in a section of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The focus moved to a section of the very populated city with over three million inhabitants. Then the narrator said, "This is a very dangerous area, where up to four murders per week are committed."
Hmm, four per week? We should be so lucky. The last time murders in Jamaica were close to 200 was in 1974, when 195 were recorded.
It took bold and quite risky leadership, bordering on dictatorship, for Lee Quan Yew to move Singapore from Third World to developed status. He did it in 40 years.
It took Jamaica 43 years of failed politics to devolve Jamaica from a country having one of the lowest murder rates in the world at independence in 1962, to reaching the ignominy of 'murder capital of the world' in 2005.
Now that we are in another murder spiral, the JLP administration seems confounded, the minister of national security is having many moments in the barrel, and the newly minted commissioner of police is forced to be making it up as the mayhem seemingly overwhelms him.
This is less a criticism of Minister Montague and Commissioner Quallo than it is the 'facts' as perceived by the general population. At this stage, it makes little sense to rehash the undisputed fact that Montague did not want the job. He is there now, and he represents the name and the office that the nation looks up to find immediate solutions for our runaway rate of murders.
Telling us that the criminal gangs are being rudely interrupted by police pressure, that the killings are 75 per cent gang related may be true, but the only part of his job description which empowers him to be chief national palliative by telling us don't worry, be happy, is that part which comes along with '... and murders are trending down significantly'.
Is it plausible that pressure by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) could be causing gangs to be acting like scorpions stinging themselves? I am no security expert, but let me not rule out that possibility. But the trap that minister Montague is in is that if this goes on for the rest of the year, the population may be forced to implore him to take the pressure off, let the gangs run free and let the murders subside.
One Jamaican ex-politician (People's National Party) now residing abroad emailed me the following.
"Crime is primarily a function of economics and is most closely aligned to inequity. The wider the income disparity, the higher the crime rate. Of course, there are numerous other variables, but equity in economic opportunities is the only sustainable solution.
"Jamaica, with the fastest wealth transfer and the highest income disparity in the Americas, will not escape a high murder rate, PNP or JLP (Jamaica Labour Party), and suppression will invariably lead to mayhem. The only solution is greater balance in wealth distribution and opportunities.
"Both suppression take cojones! No JLP and PNP administration will risk it and will continue to play governance one-time musical chairs with a diminishing percentage of electors, until there is a revolt and/or a popular revolution."
Got that. Highest income disparity in the Americas. We know that in Jamaica every inner-city, zinc-fenced pocket is but five minutes away from the newest gated community of $75-million housing units. And many occupying those gated communities have no idea what life is like in the inner-city pockets.
As example: for about three decades, I have been visiting a bar in the inner-city pocket of 85 Lane, off Red Hills Road. But only a month ago did I actually walk inside. The farther in I went is the closer the zinc fence on both sides narrowed until only about two people could walk past each other. People only live in such conditions when their options are closed off.
Commissioner Quallo knows that many police personnel are unmotivated and personally afraid of losing their lives because of the ferocity of the gunmen. What must he do? Organise an official death squad? No, he can't.
So, should he arm policemen with bibles in their hands and a hymn on their lips?