Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Ewin James | Draconian fix to violent crime

Published:Monday | September 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM

How well or poorly a government protects its citizens testifies to the success or failure of that government possibly more than anything else . A government that can't guarantee the security of its citizens, especially from dangers from within its own borders, is a failure, for everything else will, in short order, crumble under anarchy.

The Andrew Holness Government that took power in February 2016 is a failing administration, for it has virtually done nothing to reduce violent crime, especially murders.

A sampling of murders in the past two weeks in Clarendon alone is enough to make you quake: Derrick Mitchell, 'Balla' from Toll Gate, a former policeman who owned a house across from our church, shot dead at a bar in Sandy Bay by gunmen who had come to hold up the business; three persons, including a 13-year-old student shot dead at a shop in Race Course in Vere on August 24; a six-year-old boy and three other men shot dead in the violent community of Farm in May Pen; and only a few days ago, another four persons killed, one of them a 12-year-old boy.

Things are hardly better across most other parishes. In some, they are worse.

The majority of Jamaicans do not want economic success as much as they want safety of their property and person, for they know that you can't enjoy economic success if you are liable to be murdered or menaced in your own home, or on the street.

What is the Government's response to the bloodletting? It is what National Security Minister Robert Montague calls a five-pillar crime strategy, which includes a sure and swift justice process; crime prevention through social development; situational prevention; effective policing; and reducing reoffending.

The ambitious plan promises to punish criminals with urgency, which means reducing the long wait for justice to be given in the courts; to improve social conditions, such as poor housing and education, which many people believe to breed crime; effective community policing; and rehabilitation of convicts.

 

Misunderstanding

 

Pardon me, but this plan, like many others before it, seems to betray a misunderstanding of the gravity of the crime problem in Jamaica. It doesn't acknowledge that the country is under siege and that severe measures must be taken now if the situation isn't to become irreversible.

Besides reactivating the death penalty, the Government will have to begin to treat petty offences and other crimes more harshly to discourage those who commit them from graduating to greater ones. We like to admire Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew, who took Singapore from being a backward, Third-World country some 50 years ago to a place where it is the model of economic and social success, but we do not want to consider the harsh measures that Lee Kuan Yew took to pull his country forward, including corporal punishment for a range of petty crimes.

When I was boy in primary and high school in the seventies, we were routinely caned for a range of offences. And we were more respectful of our teachers and peers. The society was kinder and gentler. It wouldn't be a bad idea to reintroduce corporal punishment to school. I'm going to hear that it is barbaric and backward to mention the very idea, but what is barbaric and backward is the plague of murders that is engulfing the island because, owing to political correctness, we have abandoned what can prevent them.

The Government's five-pillar crime strategy could, I grant you, work in the long run, but as John Maynard Keynes was reported to have said, "In the long run, we are all dead."

- Ewin James is a freelance journalist living in Longwood, Florida. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.