Wed | Jan 23, 2019

Mark Wignall | No trust, no development

Published:Thursday | February 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The closed gates of the August Town Primary School.

Huge numbers of us do not trust the government, the police and the courts. Many Parent-Teacher Associations do not trust the school boards and, apart from a few outstanding cases, all is never well between teachers and principals.

Political diehards trust only their party colours even if they are robotically led over a cliff. At community level the most active currency is 'bad mind'. It is at epidemic proportions in Jamaica, that tendency to express, and sometimes act out on, an overwhelming envy for the social and economic progress of our peers, friends and even our families.

This will never create a recipe for further growth and national development. Indeed it is the perfect mix which leads to the devastation of our character and make us more prone to anger and violence.

As the various ministers tweak at their portfolios but still remain in neutral, many have forgotten that our very attitudes devalue our entire approaches to how we interface with each other and authority.

The tragedy now playing out in August Town captures the worst of our negative behaviours. The children are afraid to show up for school because the streets are controlled by the terror of gunmen. Now I know that August Town is, sadly, like too many other communities in Jamaica where that creep-in attitude from anger to violence to terror has seen the state's power being challenged by thuggery in its turf wars.

But a community, and by extension a society, must consider that it has sunk to its lowest where consistently our children are being traumatised by the inability of the State to guarantee even that bare modicum of safety and security.

Many of our communities have more than their fair share of community members who support the violence, either by the raw fear of reprisals or, they are supping at the unholy trough of the blood money extorted by these gunmen. So they remain silent and in this they cede power to the streets.


No support


The task of the police becomes almost impossible where there is no support from members of the targeted community.

In a recent article from BBC online, the following is said about the international miracle known as Singapore.

'Singapore has grown from almost nothing in 50 years. And this well-regarded society has been built up, partly, thanks to the power of suggestion."

In other words, by attitudinal change.

The article also states, "Following its expulsion from the Federation of Malaysia and subsequent independence in 1965, Singapore was left riddled with many socio-economic problems. Along with unemployment, lack of education and substandard housing, it was also a country lacking natural resources and land."

The man who took on this gargantuan task was the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. He recognised that Singapore had to change in order to thrive.

"We knew that if we were just like our neighbours, we would die. Because we've got nothing to offer against what they have to offer. So we had to produce something which is different and better than what they have.

"It's incorrupt. It's efficient. It's meritocratic. It works," he told the New York Times.


Clifford Blake shaking up the khaki suits


"He is not making too many public statements," said the senior cop to me about acting Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake. "But he has been firmly and quietly laying down the law."

The cop painted a picture of Blake as not too much of a squaddie man, but one who believes that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) as an institution has the laws to bring about its own internal policing.

"Look at cases where files on suspected corruption of policemen are sent to the DPP. Those cases go there to die. In the backlog, it will be 10 years before those cases come up. By that time the man retires. Blake wants those files returned and dealt with internally."

Last Monday, it seemed that the entire khaki suit element in the JCF was out in the streets. "That was courtesy of Clifford Blake, a no-nonsense man who is more action than words."

"So you expect him to be named commissioner?" I asked.

"I don't know, but he is already making khaki suit men quake in their boots."