Sat | Nov 16, 2019

Gordon Robinson | SOE sideshow

Published:Sunday | September 22, 2019 | 12:17 AM

So, states of emergency (SOEs) are once more hot topics.

I’ve repeatedly characterised recently declared SOEs as panic-stricken, knee-jerk reactions to long-time, steadily escalating murder rates (no ‘emergency’ there) likely to fail. I take no pleasure in saying, “Toldja!”

In 2018, SOEs were introduced in St James (January) and parts of St Catherine (March). Both lasted into 2019. For 2018, murders in both parishes, combined, fell by 49.5 per cent (St James, 70 per cent; St Catherine, 21 per cent), yet the islandwide murder rate fell by only 21.5 per cent. The 2018 murders in St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Trelawny, St. Mary and Portland increased by 4.5 per cent.

Some of these parishes (and others) showed marginal decreases. But are dramatic decreases in selected areas which can’t be sustained islandwide or even in those areas desirable?

In 18 months, Government unwittingly admitted abject failure by increasing the number of parishes under SOE from one to six. In 2019, SOEs were reintroduced in St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, parts of St Andrew, St Catherine, and Clarendon. Many other parishes produced disappointing January-June 2019 results. Kingston recorded 88 murders (one more than 2018’s corresponding period). But the much-vilified Kingston Western Division recorded a 37 per cent decrease, while Kingston Central murders increased by 100 per cent and Kingston Eastern by 37 per cent.

Are we playing a game of musical murders?

Murders in St Andrew increased 16 per cent January-June 2019. St Andrew South Division (SOE declared July 7) increased by 19 per cent; St Andrew Central was up 15 per cent, yet an SOE was only declared in South. Why? Is Government inviting South division murderers to move next door?

The Wild West is even more interesting. St James, parish of stop-and-go SOEs (70 per cent decrease in 2018), recorded two more murders January-June 2019 over 2018 despite three months of another SOE. July and August were policing nightmares, bringing year-to-date murder numbers to 100 (69 for the same 2018 period). The affable national security minister seems to be blaming SOE’s ineffectiveness on the business community, which, who successfully lobbied for longer opening hours.

Sigh.

Hanover and Westmoreland murder rates are markedly down, but Trelawny is up 25 per cent; St Elizabeth, 30 per cent; and St Ann, 11 per cent. Musical murders?

Recently, The Sunday Gleaner published a brilliant trilogy on the constitutionality and effectiveness of the SOEs by R.N.A. Henriques, QC. He wrote:

“It appears public opinion hasn’t considered basic constitutional principles or considered or read the submissions of the … public defender … .

… The more important question [in the public defender’s report] is the basis on which persons were detained.

The submission shows that in St James, 3,687 persons were detained under the [2018] SOE. Only 139 of those were charged with criminal offences, with the result that 3,548 young men were scooped up out of their communities, separated from freedom, from families, from normal activities, and put into police detention. During the SOE, those processed were released, and all of those reviewed by the tribunal were ordered to be released.”

What the Fall E.T.? EVERY APPEAL TO THE TRIBUNAL WAS SUCCESSFUL? Henriques continued:

“It’s more amazing to review the charges concerning the 139 detainees.

Murder, 16; illegal possession of firearm, 16; and other offences represented the highest number. After that was breach of the Petroleum Act, 13; and indecent language, 10.”

Kiss my red, wrinkled rungus kungus mi nungus! TWENTY-THREE of 139 needed an SOE to be arbitrarily detained for breaches of the Petroleum Act and indecent language? This MUST be the Guy Lombardo Show!

Henriques:

“… It’s totally absurd that such persons could’ve been detained under an SOE to consider what danger could’ve been attributed to their conduct as being detrimental to the State ... .

It’s clear from the list that the charges brought, apart from murder and illegal possession of firearms, have no bearing whatsoever on an SOE as defined in the charter. This only reflects that public opinion can be ventilated in media without reason or proper analysis.”

Henriques pointed out that the Constitution only permits infringement of a select few citizens’ fundamental rights under an SOE:

… The only constitutional rights of the citizen that are suspended during a state of emergency are those specified in Section 13(9)(10) and (11) – the freedom from detention, freedom of movement, and the right to due process by access to the court on being detained.

All other fundamental rights and freedoms in the Charter remain in full force and effect during an SOE ... .

Section 13(10) is of paramount importance, for it provides that any person detained under Section 13(9) is entitled to request a review of his case by an independent and impartial tribunal … . Accordingly, to that extent, there’s a modified right of due process for detainees.”

So it must be unconstitutional to declare SOEs without concurrently setting up review tribunals. Are any operating now?

On the issue of effectiveness, he revealed:

“… During the SOEs, 75 per cent of the detainees were released within 48 hours, and those who had the opportunity to have their cases referred to a review tribunal were ordered to be released. Despite this background, the commissioner of police ventured to state that most of the detainees were deserving of detention. The question, then, is why were they released? The answer is obvious, but the controversy continues.”

We just don’t get it. Over decades, Jamaica bred and nourished, initially through politics, a systemically corrupt society in which guns, dons, and drugs became national currency. Now, society’s monsters are in charge of Jamaica. The police keep ‘finding’ guns but arrests are rare and replacement supplies endless, aided and abetted by corrupt police, corrupt customs officials, and corrupt politicians.

But hold your moral outrage for now because we’re responsible for violent crime. We helped politicians, dons, and South American drug cartels develop and unleash these monsters on us by preferring irrational, tribal support of political parties over patriotism. Now they’ve turned sweet, sweet Jamaica into a slaughterhouse.

Missa gunman, tell mi wha’ yu get outta killin’;

whey yu get outta blood spillin’;

Wah kinda sickness yu ’ave inna yu heart;

fi yu get up every day a buss gun fi a livin’?

So we wring hands in unison and demand immediate relief. We embrace unconstitutional SOEs. Until they cut into our cash flows. CAPRI’s recent study was spot on. Jamaica’s violent crime pandemic is beyond social interventions. Equally, SOEs aren’t the fix. The former is misplaced; the latter counterproductive. These monsters don’t respond to empathy or reason and don’t fear police.

Yu mussi have a killing appetite.

Yu owna black bredda yu ready fi sacrifice.

Yu a scamma by day, but when it touch di night,

yu a obey yu thirst and dis a no fi Sprite.

I’ve said this before. I’ll say it again. There are two meaningful critical paths to violent crime reduction. Nothing else will work.

The JCF must gather enough evidence against known “violence producers” to put them away for a long time. CAPRI confirmed that 2016’s zero August Town murders happened while gang leaders were imprisoned or otherwise absent. The JCF, as currently constituted, can’t implement this critical path. First, the JCF must be decorrupted by any means necessary. Even if this is accomplished, the mission can’t begin until the JCF is properly equipped and highly trained;

• Quality education at all levels is another critical path to reducing the availability of baby monsters to replace those locked up. This can only be done by teachers, not exams. So Government must make teachers the most highly qualified (first) and paid (second) public servants capable of teaching life lessons, including parenting, sex education, and civics. Critical-thinking graduates should be a national goal.

A coulda wah kinda demon possess yu

fi kill people pickney, niece and dem nephew?

Yu mussi neva have a modda

fi breastfeed and caress yu.

Wah kinda sickness yu have inna yu heart

fi yu get up every day a buss gun fi a livin’

This is a repeat appearance from the Old Ball and Chain’s favourite young artiste, Keron Salmon (aka Kabaka Pyramid). He’s a youth of uncanny vision and unlimited potential as is evident from his Mr Gunman. On May 19, after I used lyrics from his Well Done, I received a same-day email from one Marcia Salmon:

“Hello, Gordon,

I am here smiling as I read the way my son’s Well Done words were used in the article today. Amazing how you interspersed his words. Great job!

Marcia Salmon”

Sorry for “outing” you to your son, Marcia, but Jamaica should know that the “great job” is yours. Obviously, YOUR mothering talents weren’t suppressed by our British education system.

So Jamaica’s violent rampage is complicated. It won’t be solved in five years. Or 10! Or 20! So let’s stop pretending it can. Take national security off the political gamesmanship table and begin a long walk to peace. TOGETHER!

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.