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Tear it down, Researcher says political system needs rebuilding

Published:Saturday | June 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Dr Herbert Gayle, is suggesting that a four-wedge framework which supports a solid structure of criminality in Jamaica will have to be clinically pulled apart, block by block, in order to topple a growing crime problem.

"The time is not to build; the time is to destroy. And anyone who thinks they can build a house on termites is simply making an error," Gayle told a Gleaner Editors' Forum this week.

"There are some small things that we can start doing," he said.

"First of all, we must remove all monies that members of parliament (MPs) receive from the State, which I assure you are used in mobilisation and negotiations."

Gayle argued that the practice weakens central government, which is the core of authority.

"It creates a relationship between the don and the people, and the politician and the people, instead of central government and the people. The kind of country in which persons do not relate to Government but to people on the ground provides you with a political economy of violence," Gayle argued.

He is suggesting that a national social security office be established to meet the needs of people seeking assistance from the State.

At present, MPs receive $20 million yearly from the Budget to spend in their constituencies.

The social scientist has suggested that the crisis in Jamaica is caused by four blocks of problems. He said "the poor and desperately isolated can become vulnerable as a pool for recruitment (to gangs)".

Gayle lamented that for the past decade, development has been female focused rather than human focused.

"We will have to revisit the gender issue in a real sense," he stressed.

Central political authority

Gayle said the second block was made up of a crumbling four-column central political authority in which the police are the least powerful.

"So those who think that we can police our way out of it have actually made an error," he warned.

Gayle said central government constitutes the largest part of the central political authority, but lamented that Parliament in Jamaica was one of the weakest he had seen, thereby contributing to the problem.

The other two prongs comprise civil society and the judiciary.

Gayle said the country needs to revisit the partisan way in which it has organised itself.

"In Jamaica, this is a factional system called the JLP and the PNP, which are engaged in a system of shared dirty politics," declared Gayle.

He indicated that the fourth block related to how people are mobilised for an election and gang formation.

Gayle contends that the system is fuelled by a symbiotic relationship between MPs, caretakers, councillors and everyone under the name of politics and gangs.

"All the gangs I have studied in this country differ from all other gangs in the world that I have had the privilege of studying."

He said unlike other countries across the globe, small petty gangs or corner crews are linked to large gangs in Jamaica.

This, Gayle argued, drives up the number of gangs, most of which are politically aligned.

"They have (legitimate business ) contracts, so we are looking at one set of young men who are gang members connected to political parties and they answer to a don."

Gayle said his research on the hierarchical structure of gangs revealed that nine out 10 times, the don would put himself second to the MP or the caretaker.

He said in this relationship, the MP either cast a blind eye to what was happening or worse, was an executive member of the crew.

"We, therefore, need to move away from the constant denial and accept that this symbiotic relationship creates the problem that we are having," Gayle said.