‘Jamaicans are a resilient people,’ says DPP
Paula Llewellyn is acutely aware of how reluctant Jamaicans are when it comes to sharing information with the authorities.
As the country’s chief prosecutor for the past decade, Llewellyn has had to navigate the ‘informa fi dead’ culture, which silences citizens through the threat of dire consequences for speaking out.
But with the outbreak of the “insidious” new coronavirus in Jamaica, she believes now, more than ever, citizens must be prepared to become “informers”.
“For those of us who are following the guidelines, if we come across relatives, friends and neighbours who are not following the government guidelines, we must be prepared to be the man in the mirror, to face down and to mentor them to do the right thing,” said Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions (DPP).
“It is so important that you be prepared to step up to the plate and be an informer, and inform on companies or individuals in your community, even members of your family, who are not doing what they are supposed to do, and putting everybody at risk.”
Llewellyn said unlike a hurricane that people can prepare for, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is “insidious”.
“So, because you can’t touch it, you can’t see it, it lulls a lot of persons into a false sense of security and people will think, ‘Well, I don’t see it, I don’t feel it so I’m okay, I can go about my business’,” she said.
“But because you can be asymptomatic you become a force for danger to other persons.”
CLOSE TO HOME
Llewellyn opened up about how the pandemic has tested her mettle, both personally and professionally.
She disclosed that her daughter, who is asthmatic, is studying in the United States (US) and was not able to return to Jamaica.
“I’m very aware of what underlying conditions can do so I have cautioned her to be very careful, and she is taking good care and staying in,” said the DPP.
Llewellyn revealed, too, that though her 96-year-old father has pre-existing medical conditions, “mentally and emotionally, he is like a strong lion”.
“But I have to make sure that he understands how important it is for him to listen to the government guidelines and to take care and to stay in,” she said.
In addition, Llewellyn has a sister who is an intensive care nurse in the US, and who is among front-line workers battling the pandemic. “I pray that she will be all right, but she is a very good nurse,” she said.
BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS
Jamaica recorded the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on March 10. A month later, the number of confirmed cases climbed to 65, with three deaths.
Up to yesterday, there were 173 confirmed COVID-19 cases on the island, fuelled in part by a high percentage of cases that were discovered at the Portmore offices of the business process outsourcing firm, Alorica. The number of deaths has increased to five, and 25 persons have recovered.
But amid the growing rise in the number of cases, Llewellyn exhorted her countrymen to be strong and courageous and not cower in fear.
“You cannot afford to give in to fear, you have to control your fear. We Jamaicans are a resilient people,” the DPP declared.
Another coping mechanism, she suggested, is for Jamaicans to ‘filter’ the information they digest about the virus.
“Seek out the credible official information because knowledge is power, and doing the right thing is what will help all of Jamaica to win the war where COVID-19 is concerned,” Llewellyn said.
The courts are in partial lockdown, but she said she reports to her downtown Kingston offices “most days” to ensure that things are in order. When she is not in office, Llewellyn stays at home “as much as possible”.