Crime negatively impacting sports in western Jamaica
Heads of two sporting bodies in western Jamaica have joined the call for a fresh approach to dealing with the escalating crime situation in that part of the country out of fear that it could bring about the demise of the region's sporting infrastructure.
Outspoken Westmoreland Football Association (WFA) President, Everton Tomlinson, describes the situation as a tragic display of a broken society, while Gena Haughton, president of the St James Netball Association, says she fears for the lives of her members in the execution of their roles in the various communities.
"Things are getting really bad now; example - recently, some of our people could not attend a simple seminar out of fear that they would be on the road into nighttime and given what has been taking place in the city, I can't blame them," Haughton explained.
She said the various competitions are being adversely affected by the crime wave, with several matches having to be postponed or cancelled in more extreme cases.
"We must be mindful that netball is a great community sport, drawing support from wide and far," Haughton said.
The situation has become so bad that a Social Development Commission (SDC) netball league match between Salt Spring and Providence was called off as rival spectators from the two inner-city communities became irate.
According to Tomlinson, the burden of social failure is part and parcel of the "careless and visionless" approach to youth development. He said that western Jamaica is being ripped apart by crime and violence as too many young persons have little hope of achieving through the legitimate channels and, as such, have fallen prey to nefarious activities such as scamming and gun-running.
Westmoreland in particular, Tomlinson noted, is heading dangerously into the abyss of hopelessness, as young men look to scamming for a living, instead of taking the field of play to participate in a structured football programme.
"This is the reality; it is unfortunate that our leaders, business and political, cannot find a way to help our young men. And even when we suggest how, there seems to be no will on their part to make a real difference," he said.
Murder and shootings in Westmoreland, Hanover, and St. James have doubled in the past three years as scamming continues to take root. In St James, more than 150 people have been murdered so far this year.
"This crime situation will not only affect football, but every kind of social gathering, including a simple church service. That is where it's heading and as head of the Westmoreland FA, I believe we must call for some changes or I fear the extinction of sports, tourism, and life in this country as we know it," Tomlinson reasoned.
"In time to come, we may not have football games being played. These precious little facilities we have here, such as the Llandilo Sports Complex and Frome in Westmoreland, Jarrett Park, and UDC, among others in St James and the Watson Taylor Park in Lucea will become graveyards for these very same young people who our leaders have failed," warned Tomlinson.