Sun | May 28, 2017

No good reason to kill each other - Former Barbados PM weighs in on Jamaica's homicide problem

Published:Monday | July 20, 2015 | 7:00 AM

AS MORE and more blood spills with Jamaica's out-of-control murder rate, and the seeming paralysis of legislators and policymakers alike to stem the flow, its impact has not gone unnoticed in the eyes and thoughts of regional leaders past and present.

Last week, former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur said he believed Jamaica would be confined to perpetual ruin if Jamaicans do not stop killing each other.

For Arthur, the longest-serving Barbadian prime minister, if the country did not stem its crime rate, there was no hope for social partnership success. Arthur was a specially invited guest for a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's Kingston offices.

"I can see no good reason why Jamaicans kill each other," the former prime minister said in response to the question of what it would take for the social partnership to succeed.

For Arthur, the country which produced the legendary reggae superstar Robert Nesta Marley, and former prime minister Michael Manley - who he believes was one of the greatest political thinkers of his time - it was impossible to understand why Jamaicans had become such brutal killers.

But even while Arthur spoke, the blood was flowing like a river in spate in St James, a parish which shares its name with one in Barbados.

It forced National Security Minister Peter Bunting and Police Commissioner Carl Williams to head to the city for a hastily arranged meeting following a murderous 24-hour period in which seven persons were shot and killed.

Bunting announced plans for the deployment of more police officials to curb the crime rate, which is largely believed to be fuelled by the lottery scam which operates out of the western city of Montego Bay and has spread to other parishes.

Much of the crime is concentrated in squatter settlements which led to a rise in informal communities, including a section of St James captured from land baron Joe Witter, who died in 2013.

Last week's bloodshed put the murder figure for the parish at 120 since the start of the year.

More than 600 lives have been lost through gun violence since January.

Curfews have been put on the table as an option, according to Bunting, who will this week travel to Washington, DC, along with his permanent secretary, retired Major General Stewart Saunders. They will hold talks with State Department and law-enforcement officials, aimed at increasing the level of cooperation in the fight against lottery scamming and narco-trafficking.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com