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Residents cry, 'Enough!' - PMI head, church, residents march for peace in Salt Spring

Published:Tuesday | May 24, 2016 | 5:00 AM

WESTERN BUREAU:

The backdrop of a wall on a playing field at a ballground in Salt Spring had the inscription 'Gone too soon', a tribute in celebration of the many young men killed by the gun.

At least five murders have been committed on this same playing field in the last 10 years.

On Sunday, another young man was killed by gunmen close to the vicinity. His death brought the number of murders in the community to 15 since January 2016, pushing up the total in St James to 90, compared to 74 for the corresponding period in 2015.

The residents say they have had enough of the killings, "enough of seeing our young men dying too young, seniors living in fear and youngsters not realising their true potential because of the blazing sound of gunshots in the community," bemoaned chairman of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), Reverend Everton Jackson.

The PMI, the police, several churches, the ministers' fraternal, political representatives, the Citizens Security Justice Programme and the Community Development Committee took to the streets in the community calling for peace.

"We are not here as protesters, neither as Catholics (n)or any denomination for that matter. We come together as one people, with one interest, which is to see peace, not just peace for Salt Spring, but Jamaica."

Amid the cry for peace, one resident, Heather Walker, called for justice for her son, Anthony Manning, who went missing the morning of August 24, 2014, and has been presumed dead since. She said they had planned on cooking under the guinep tree on the ball field. Her son went ahead of her, and up to this day, she has been looking for his return.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Walker appealed for information leading to closure of her son's disappearance. "If his body is found and the Government can give me a piece of his bone or a piece of his clothing to remind me of my son, I would be grateful, because I still look every day to see him walk through the gate."

Inspector in charge at the Montego Hills Police Station, Stanley Gordon, said there are those hell-bent on creating mayhem in the community. He said errant residents must stop supporting the wrongdoers.

Inspector Gordon's comments were reinforced by Courtney Brown, of the Ministry of National Security, who said prayers and marches were not enough. "The people know where the guns are," he argued.

Currently, there is a rift between Bottom and Top Salt Spring, a situation Jackson described as the perpetuation of bitterness. "It is time for us to mash it up and tear down the dividing walls separating top from bottom," he urged.

Absent from the event were the gunmen, who member of parliament for the area, Heroy Clarke, said were the ones who needed to be reached.

"We are not reaching them because they don't see an event like this as important. We have to find them one by one. What we are doing now is taking the entire tree, instead of the fruit."

He, too, blamed the families for allowing the situation to get to a stage where they are unable to pull it back.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com