THE NEWS reports about extortionists trying to "shake down" a church for protection money would be farcical were it not painfully real. It provides yet another index of the depths to which the society has sunk.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston, Egerton Clarke, said he had to remove the priest who has been the overseer of the St. Richard's Catholic Church on Red Hills Road because criminals had been hounding him for "protection money". Because they have not been receiving the money, men had been calling the priest, Father Howard Thompson, and threatening his life.
To ensure his safety the Archbishop has removed Father Thompson. We could in desperation ask what next or as a people we can begin to do something about it. The attempt to extort protection money from a church is but an outgrowth of the protection racket, which has spread like a cancer across the Corporate Area. In the Red Hills Road area, where St. Richard's is located, it has led to the closure of several businesses whose owners have decided to get out rather than to continue to pay the extortionists.
The capital city is devolving into fiefdoms where warlords or the local euphemism, 'dons', hold sway. If it is allowed to continue unchecked it is not inconceivable that law and order as we know it will disappear and the stage will be reached where citizens are asked to pay for the privilege of moving from one area of the city to another.
Tonight the new Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips, is to unveil his crime-fighting plan to an anxious nation. The anxiety is sharpened by the frightening murder rate. There has been some resort to bipartisan consultation but the primary responsibility is the present administration's even though all sectors must play a role.
Targeting the church amounts to sacrilege which must anger not only the faithful but all the law-abiding. Such anger might not suffice as a basis for organised resistance to extortion by the victims who do pay. The victims need to get legal protection from the state; but the courage to resist is an important ingredient.
Dr. Phillips must galvanise the will to fight back.
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