Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Orville Taylor | Two fingers on Quallo’s departure

Published:Sunday | January 28, 2018 | 12:00 AM

So the commissioner is walking. Real men and women walk or stand strong on their own volition, because only puppets readily accept being pulled by strings. In facts, Muppets like Kermit in his bright verdant colour only get to speak when someone is working behind the scene pushing up a hand up their rears with two fingers to operate the eyes and mouth.

Despite what very exuberant politicians want, this country needs an independent commissioner of police and a neutral police force, where no minister or politician can give instructions as to how policing may or may not take place. Any other approach will lead to disaster because politicians know zero about crime fighting, although they clearly know how crime originates and develops.

As stupid political trolls try to place politics on the face of crime, let me just point out that the years when we had the two highest aggregate numbers of murders, were 2005, when the People's National Party (PNP) was in power, and 2009 when the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was in its ackee. The numbers for those years are 1,674 in 2005, for a homicide rate of 62.92 per 100,000, and for 2009, the total was 1,684, or 62.77 per 100,000, adjusted for the increase in population. Only a hypocrite would suggest that there is a real difference between these numbers.

Politicising the murder rate is unpatriotic, and that has been my position since time immemorial. In 1980, murders were more than 800, and this was because we were divided as a nation and the political directorate, implicitly and explicitly, endorsed the killing of opposing activists. Between the 1970s and 1980s, politicians, some of whom were portfolio ministers, gave guns to young men and even encouraged them to go actively pursue rivals of other political colour and dress. Members of the House of Parliament are old enough to remember when some of their colleagues, dead now, had full knowledge when their supporters were driving around marauding in motor vehicles, randomly stopping people on their way home.

 

DIED BECAUSE OF POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE

 

Guns were not pointed on politicians fortunately, and the targets, with the exception of candidate Roy McGann, whose death is still shrouded in controversy, were mostly young inner-city men. It was an awful period of our history. Many of my friends, on their way to, or from work or school, oftentimes ran into a set of youth like themselves, and who were political dunces and perhaps not even enumerated. "Wha you a defend?" Thankfully, I never faced that experience myself. But staring into the barrel of a shotgun, or a handgun, playing a macabre game of Russian roulette, as you hope that you guess the right party allegiance! Many of my friends died simply because other young men believed that they were 'socialis' or 'Labourite'.

What we are reaping is the fruit of a generation ago when our politicians told the fathers of these young men that it was acceptable to kill their peers because "black lives did not matter". We taught this to the boys and also to the police, as we trained an entire cadre from 1974 to 1994 under the Suppression of Crime Act.

In none of the prayer breakfasts or public platitudes with favour-seeking reverend gentlemen in their collars and suits have I heard any politician coming forward and doing as Jesus said we sinners must. Save the dumb show where pastors endorse political campaigns and pray. Ridiculous clergymen and women aligned to different parties using the same direct phone line to Jesus and expecting that he will answer prayers equally? Therefore, until I hear the church calling upon the parties to "... confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed ..." (James 5:16.

It's time that we stop mincing words and pretending that the high homicide rate does not have a political genesis. True, the prime minister has taken personal responsibility for making us feel secure enough to sleep with our doors open and outside of ovens. However, until he and his opposition counterparts accept their roles in the creation of this mess, we are going to remain in the quagmire, because 72 per cent of Jamaicans do not trust politicians and 70 per cent do not trust Parliament. Moreover, upwards of 80 percent of Jamaicans believe that the parties are corrupt.

A word to the wise and not just the otherwise: The Corruption Perception Index declined after the JLP was elected in 2007 and again since 2016. It is not for me to determine whether or not corruption has increased. However, given the debacle of 2010 and the national embarrassment that led to the demise of the best leader the party has had in modern times, and the loss in the 2011 election, this administration must stay as far away from any perception that it is dipping its hands into police operations. Furthermore, political interference in operations under the Constabulary Force Act always causes disaffection among the ranks.

The PNP understood how its misuse of the police in the 1970s contributed to the loss in 1980. Many police officers remember the 1980s when a cloudy commissioner was foisted on the constabulary by the JLP.

Act wisely.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.