Thu | Aug 17, 2017

'Sever politics-crime link or face new Dudus'

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Peter Bunting, minister of national security (left), with United States (US) Ambassador to Jamaica Luis G. Moreno at the US Embassy and Caribbean Policy Research Institute's 'Dialgoues Between Democracies on Security' at The Knutsford Court Hotel yesterday.

The failure of successive administrations to sever the ties between politics and criminality has created a situation where, like former Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, another area don would be bold enough to challenge the Jamaican State.

That is according to the think tank, Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), which argues that the hostile disposition of garrison communities towards the authority of the State is partly the result of the erosion of the State's legitimacy.

Blaming this on the failure to sever the links between politics and crime, CaPRI warned that it could trigger another police-military intervention like the May 2010 operations in Coke's west Kingston stronghold.

"If the Government fails to urgently address this problem, Jamaica will continue to exist in a sociopolitical milieu where another Tivoli crisis will be eminently possible," CaPRI wrote.

"And where another don could be emboldened to challenge the Jamaican State," it continued.

More than 70 civilians and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force were killed as heavily armed thugs waged fierce fire fights with members of the security forces for several hours to thwart Coke's arrest.

A study by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, which examined the macro socio-economic effects of the events in west Kingston between May 22 and June 7, found that the total cost to the economy was US$258.8 million, or 2.1 per cent of the country's gross domestic product at the time.

 

AN INEXTRICABLE LINK

 

Tracing the origins of garrison communities, CaPRI noted that in the 1960s, political parties sought to "marry" the distribution of state benefits or government handouts to political loyalty and violence.

"This created an inextricable link between politics and crime as well as strong partisan identities and ushered in the formation of garrison communities," the think tank asserted.

With the garrisons firmly in place, CaPRI says governance through the State is often replaced by 'donmanship' and dictatorial leaders with legitimacy who rely on illegal activities in various sectors of the formal economy.

"Clientelism and the use of dons to provide 'respect' (as in the case of Tivoli Gardens) and make good the need for security have served to further consolidate criminality and violence while eroding the State's legitimate authority to enforce the social contract between State and citizens, placing the public at an ever-increasing risk," CaPRI argued.

The think tank noted that a national security policy crafted in 2007 and reviewed five years later is among several studies that have provided critical analysis and made recommendations about the need to sever the ties between politics and crime.

However, CaPRI pointed out that in most cases, the recommendations have not been implemented and blamed this on the lack of political will, "institutionalised corruption, and inertia".

"Political responses to security in Kingston's garrisons have continued to be influenced by considerations of political expediency and Jamaica's political culture," it asserted.

"Ridding the society of garrison politics and providing garrison communities with a secure and socially progressive environment are emphatically not major considerations for ensuring political party viability in Jamaica," CaPRI concluded.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com