If we're to achieve social consensus ...
The Editor, Sir:
My initial reaction to your daily front-page publication of the country's murder toll was to agree with the contributor who criticised the practice; but when I compared the figure in Sunday's edition - April 18 (482) with the previous Sunday's (April 11) of 436 - which meant that 46 persons were murdered last week, I appreciated the reason.
Our society has become numb with horror, which is even more frightening than the statistics themselves, because the society will have to summon up the courage and the will to do something about it, more so than the Government.
I recently participated in a seminar staged by Professor Brian Meeks at the University of the West Indies on the topic 'Resurrection or Resignation' and I proferred the view that unemployment is a tremendous contributing factor to our crime situation. I was appalled to hear Dr Carolyn Gomes there say that she disagrees with me because "unemployment has nothing to do with it". I say "appalled" because it now becomes clear to me why certain segments of our society see no urgency in tackling unemployment.
Unemployment and poverty
When I speak of the 'unemployed' - I have in mind the thousands of young Jamaicans (especially our men) who have not derived a full education and who, up to age 18, and beyond, have never known what it is to have a steady job, for reasons either of lack of education or their location of residence. How does this impinge on crime? It erodes their self-respect and makes them susceptible to the lure of the gun and the don.
No Government can, or has been able to tackle unemployment successfully - this is where the social consensus comes in. Those murder statistics are a vital, or maybe, a final wake-up call for all Jamaicans to realise that, if we love our country, as we all profess to do, WE have to save it. Your front page asks the question 'Who is accountable?' The answer is: "We all are," but the good news is we, as a people, have the capability, the strength, the acumen and the resources to do it. We just need our leaders to come to us, level with us and inspire us to make the sacrifices necessary for our salvation.
I wish to repeat some recommendations I have made before:
(i) In response to your editorial call to redeem the Jamaica Constabulary Force - disband the entire JCF and re-employ on the following day only those they wish to retain, with the understanding that only those not re-enlisted will be paid redundancy. Issue a brand new uniform to the new force and ask the nation (headed by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica) to fund the redundancy and uniform commitments in a one-off contribution;
(ii) Create labour-intensive occupations for our unskilled, unemployed workforce e.g. in tree-planting, in our watershed areas, and laying the water pipe from the Blue Mountains to Kingston;
(iii) Transform our sugar-cane lands into massive farms for the production of food to feed the nation and neighbouring islands, e.g. (Cayman, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas) as well as for herbal medicine.
(iv) Tax incentives for employing additional employees to be actively pursued;
(v) Volunteerism in every area of activity to be encouraged islandwide, e.g. donations to school-feeding programmes;
(vi) Ask the nation to take pay cuts and at the same time ask producers and merchants to reduce their profit margins;
(vii) Fast-track the redevelopment of downtown Kingston.
We would all rally around our flag if one day we awoke to hear that we are about to be invaded by a foreign enemy, much less to awake to hear - "the enemy is within our gates".
I am, etc.,
HOWARD HAMILTON, QC
Duke Street, Kingston