Fri | Aug 18, 2017

The truth will set us free

Published:Wednesday | April 26, 2017 | 4:16 AMWyvolyn Gager

Lasting peace will continue to elude Jamaica until there is a truth and reconciliation process. That’s the firm belief of Professor Wendel Abel, head of psychiatry at the University of the West Indies.

He envisions that such a forum will provide the opportunity to review the atrocities of the past, learn from them and lay the foundation for national reconciliation going forward.

Calls to confront the root causes of violence and catalogue the horror that has created enormous pain and grief for thousands of Jamaican families have been made repeatedly by social commentators.

Acknowledging that the lasting legacies of violence are revenge, grievance and hatred, Fourth Floor is renewing that call for the unmasking of the root causes of violence and is seeking a forthright response from the political leadership.

“It sounds like we are calling on the Prime Minister and the powers that be to convene a national dialogue and a national coalition to address the problem of crime and violence in the society,” concluded Professor Abel.

In his assessment, Professor Abel feels the resistance to such a process stems from a reluctance to deal with the truth.

“That in itself is a difficult and painful process ... a lot of truth is going to come out - and  embarrassment. That’s why we are stuck.”

This matter of truth-telling and confronting the past is an experiment that has been successfully undertaken in other parts of the world. The one most commonly cited is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of post-apartheid South Africa.

The 2016 Commission of Enquiry into the West Kingston incursion of 2010 was seen by the Fourth Floor panel as a good model for Jamaica providing for confession, forgiveness, reconciliation and compensation.

Fourth Floor panel is convinced that this model will have to be adopted in future. It will require boldness and creative strategies and above all, it will require substantial resources.
A piecemeal approach will not adequately address crime and violence which is so deeply embedded in the Jamaican culture. It requires a comprehensive approach in which there is truth and reconciliation, where communities are repaired and can once again become the harmonious spheres of influence.