Blair is right: We created Dudus
Bishop Herro Blair might not have a degree in sociology or history, and he might even sound like Christopher Columbus in making the discovery of the century, given that one can't find something that was well known before. Yet, I totally agree with him as he addressed the West Kingston commission of enquiry last week. Speaking emphatically, he declared that dons were "created" and "some of us in society" are responsible "for what we face today".
Let us start at the beginning. There is a set of know-it-alls who never bothered to look at our history or the demographic data but are experts on the causes of our social ills. So, there is the eternal dialogue about female-headed households, absentee fathers and the breakdown of families. Then there is the grand narrative about poverty, undereducation and unemployment fuelling crime.
However, when we look at the don of all dons, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, he does not fit any of those stereotypes. Indeed, he had a solid relationship with his ever-present father and clearly would have been socialised by him. The elder Lester Lloyd Coke, better known as Jim Brown, was another of the foundation area dons created and facilitated by politicians as they tried to tighten control on the electoral process and avoid 'electile' dysfunction.
ROOTS OF DONMANSHIP
Theories abound about how donmanship began, and some trace it to the activities in West Kingston in the mid- to late 1960s. One of the alleged protagonists is now with the ancestors. However, I have almost first-hand experience of how he and another, both of whom had sworn oaths to maintain justice, law and order, directly handed out guns in another community a decade or so later. They say speak no evil of the dead, but truth doesn't die with the malefactors. And the dead can't claim defamation.
Gangs have been around from before the political tribalism, which was exacerbated in the 1970s and showed its ugliest face in the 1980 election. One needs to read Democracy and Clientelism by Carl Stone and his other writings on the link between politics and economics, and one will get better insight. Both major political parties, the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), built on the framework of small urban gangs and pockets of semi-rural young men and fed them like wolves, thinking that wolves can be tamed and trained like domestic dogs.
In creating garrison communities, politicians had their constituencies wrapped in impermeable latex, considering them safe seats. Nonetheless, what politicians did not figure is that wolves cannot survive on dog food and may not eat it at all once they taste raw meat. And being more skilled predators than canis lupus familiaris, they might end up taking more than their owners wanted to afford them, and, more important, are not easily controlled - if at all.
Dudus was one of many dons, despite him being a sort of super-don. But for all the finger-pointing, he did not get powerful by himself. He received massive government contracts from both the PNP and JLP administrations. In fact, his ascendancy and consolidation of power occurred under the PNP administration of 1989-7.
CALLING A SPADE A SPADE
Ultimately, the drawstring was being pulled by central government. Everyone in government and opposition knew what was happening as little Chris grew steadily, and only Hardley Lewin, then chief of defence staff, had the guts to call a spade a spade, although admittedly belatedly so, in 2005.
Never mind the dramatics of my dear friend, retired Senior Superintendent of Police Reneto Decordova Valentino Adams, when he thought that he had taken control of 'Tivauli'. There was little sign from Gordon House that there was any desire to take control of that don.
Dudus did not develop the overconfidence by himself. First, the JLP, to the chagrin of the Jamaican people later, bent over backwards till it had faecal breath to prevent his extradition. This, doubtless, gave to him the feeling that he was not going to be exported.
However, before jumping to judgement , can we honestly say that the PNP administration of the 2000s would have swiftly extradited him as it had done with Richard 'Storyteller' Morrison and Leebert Ramcharand, and others, who had been declared drug kingpins by the American government?
Let's not compare guineps and jackfruits now. With the exception of two strong PNP supporters - one urban and the other rural - no don, not even Donald 'Zeeks' Phipps, inspired mortal fear and rectal incontinence like Coke did.
Blair himself, as in the witch project which bears his name, was totally awestruck by the large number of guns he saw when he went into Tivoli to persuade Coke to surrender. True, Coke had good reason to believe that he, like his father, might have died in captivity. After all, he wouldn't be the first person to be killed in a police lock-up after being charged with possession of a small quantity of marijuana.
But the bigger question is, where did he get the guns from, and how? Apart from the 'one-pop' home-made firearms, the overwhelming majority of weapons and explosives that were used and cached in and around Tivoli were imported from, or manufactured in, the USA.
This is, for me, a large part of the concern. Did the Jamaican Government do enough to protect its borders and ports? Was there a sick mix of corruption and incompetence? Moreover, isn't there a mutual assistance treaty that requires that we provide information to the USA to stem the tide of drugs into that country? So, where is the reciprocal benefit?
American-originated guns killed more than 1,000 Jamaicans annually during Dudus' reign. How many Americans were harmed by his illegal activities? Furthermore, where are the American-based gun peddlers who supplied the illegal weapons? Are they extraditable to our overstacked prisons?
The answers are very simple; but we need the angels in Parliament to admit it.
- Dr Orville Taylor, senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host, is the author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.