Thu | Oct 22, 2020

Daniel Thwaites | Acceptable executions?

Published:Sunday | August 9, 2020 | 12:25 AM

It would appear that episodic extrajudicial killings are a fixed part of our reality and that we are incapable of governing and policing the three million of us without it. So it’s time to move beyond just complaining – it is time to find solutions.

I’m proposing that instead of stumbling into an unacceptably high number of extrajudicial executions this year, we allot the armed forces a certain allowable number. That way they can take out the ‘worst of the worst’ without having to lie to us and spin stories that are obviously rubbish. And that way we won’t harm our own consciences (whatever remains of them), or run afoul of the international bodies that police these things.

You see, I know that there are heavily armed and dangerous terrorists that the security forces contend with, but I am among the dwindling minority who still believe that the State must act according to law and that it is preferable for innocence and guilt to be decided by due process and weighing evidence. As it stands, too often I catch myself insulting my own intelligence by wanting to accept the version of events told by police and their official communication arms. I want to believe them, but …

Anyhow, the number I have in mind is six per month, adjustable depending on exigencies and circumstances. There were 86 police killings last year, the lowest in a very long time. But with the departure of Terrence Williams from INDECOM and Parliament’s deliberate dawdling with giving it the prosecutorial power required to operate effectively, the signs are that number is going to jump.

DESCENT INTO SAVAGERY

At my suggested rate, which amounts to one and a half each week, the killings would fall to 84, which isn’t great, but would be the lowest number Jamaica has achieved in decades.

What prompts these thoughts? In what seems to be an inexorable national descent into savagery, last week, another identifiable deterioration occurred. Six young men, members of Clarendon’s Bushman Gang, were killed by the security forces. The Gleaner reports: “‘Terminator’, ‘Hitler’ among Clarendon gangsters killed”. By their very names we can assume they were ‘no haiingels’.

It was impossible to discover from official communications if these killings resulted from a mission targeting the gangsters (as in: “dem guh fi dem”), or if it occurred because security personnel just happened to be in the area. According to Senior Superintendent Glenford Miller:

“JDF persons were conducting some surveillance and patrol in the area when they came under gunfire. The fire was returned by members of the JDF who got support from the JCF during the process. At the end of the fire, six men were found suffering from gunshot wounds.”

I’m not in a position to say the story put out there by the police is false, but it’s certainly incomplete, and arouses some scepticism. Even though the dead youths began the confrontation, very luckily, none of the law enforcement officers sustained any serious injuries. All six adversaries, though, were killed. None decided to surrender. Down to the last man who would probably have seen his five fellow gangsters perish, kept on keeping on.

SPECIAL BREED

It feels like Terence Williams hit the Exit door, “KThxBye!”, and immediately there was a reversion to “we were on a likkle patrol and the suicidal gangster idiots opened fire on us and we returned the fire, and even though they had the advantage of surprise by initiating the confrontation, we’re all alive and they are all dead … All”.

Generally, Jamaican bad boys are a very special breed, affording no opportunity for arrest except in circumstances where a shoot-out is guaranteed. They don’t go to the shop. They don’t go to the beach. They don’t sleep. They don’t sit to eat with their families. It is impossible to apprehend or arrest them during the day.

Anyhow, apart from the colourful aliases, here are the details that stood out. Shodia Blair, the mother of freshly killed Fabian Fuller, “admitted that he had often been lured into bad company. His father, she said, is a policeman.” Genetics and familial connections only go so far, we know, but that fact did cause me to raise an eyebrow about the connection between outlawry and ‘in-lawry’.

Furthermore, “Him went to go collect his licence the other day to start working as a security guard in Montego Bay … .” Recruitment into security work may need urgent review.

However, it is the Observer report, with more than a hint of admonition, warning, and command in its title: ‘No tears for Clarendon Six’, that alerts us to the state of the nation. The residents, we are told, “were more outraged about the state of their community shop, which had been ransacked in the process”. The “process”, naturally, was the extermination.

Nadine Howe, a neighbour, vented: “Even if dem come for who dem come for, what I’m saying is that dem coulda deal with the situation better,” Howe said, gesturing towards the pile of broken bottles, opened baked goods, and other items on the ground. “You nuh haffi dash weh the rice. You nuffi haffi dash weh the flour.”

Another woman “complained that security personnel who came to process the scene in the morning had their fill of snacks and beverages, and proceeded to damage more goods arbitrarily”.

Now, where do we go from here? Personally, I’m not at all shocked that personnel combing over the site where six people were just recently slain might need a small but nutritious snack, or have a hankering after a bottle of ginger beer. These things happen.

So by all indications it’s the ransacked hard-dough bread and bun-and-cheese that concerns the citizenry more than the slaughter of six.

We are becoming more savage and inured to death and destruction.

Hence my change of heart and adjusted approach. Since there will be blood, let’s put a limit on it. Regulation of practices that prove impossible to stamp out, like drunkenness and prostitution, is a very respected approach to handling social problems.

I’m hoping that once we face this dirty business head-on we can arrive at an acceptable number and “allow de police fi doh dem work” (as I keep being told by people who find complaints about incredible stories an annoyance). Then we can get back to more pressing subjects that truly fire up our national moral outrage, like dreadlocks in schools and such things.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.