From rehabilitation to reconciliation
Martin Henry, Gleaner Writer
'Good' people have been greatly exercised about the monumental task of resocialising Tivoli Gardens and other communities to be liberated from don rule and don dependency.
I have a few things to say about that. In the first place, it is not the business of the security forces to resocialise people anywhere and to arrange or deliver welfare services. We have heard high-ranking officers publicly agonising over the need for resocialisation. Law enforcement and the maintenance of law and order is the only business of the police. Minding one's business is very important for success.
The people in these special communities are not nearly as improperly socialised as we are led to believe. They have just been allowed to get away with murder. The extradited Tivoli leader is an Ardenne graduate with an excellent head for math, a businessman, a reader, and someone who kept abreast of world affairs unfolding on an abundance of flat-screen television sets.
One of Edward Seaga's many successes in the Tivoli Gardens experiment, which we are expected to believe that others messed up behind his back, was the provision of their very own comprehensive high school. On their door steps, the people have been exposed to standard secondary education. Coke even excelled in religious education at Ardenne. The Gleaner, last Tuesday, carried the story of TGite, Tiffany Biggs, who aced nine CXCs at Camperdown and is now studying languages and linguistics at the UWI.
The paper also carried another story, reporting Coke's lawyer, Tom Tavares-Finson, as saying the leader had been advocating businessmanship, not gunmanship, as the way forward for the area and particularly its youth.
That community has had a disciplined football team and marching band which had to play by the rules, otherwise nobody else would play with them. The conscience-smitten 'President', according to the arrested escorting pastor, wanted to surrender to help bring an end to the gang violence and garrison politics which have blighted the nation. The people, many of whom had declared their willingness to die for 'Dudus', the Provider, next to God, should follow the leader in his new conviction.
We must mind sympathy - and clever manipulation - getting in the way of practical common sense. The needed 'resocialisation' can be accomplished quick, quick, and very thoroughly, by simple means guaranteed to work and not at all needing reverse-Seaga-type interventions. The police have an even more critical role to play than social agencies.
The people needing so-called resocialisation right across Jamaica must, in the first instance, be made to obey the laws of the land like all other already socialised citizens. They can't be allowed to have private armies, torture chambers, concealed cemeteries, free access to electricity, water and housing, which everybody else has to pay for.
Like other citizens, if they want to eat, they must be made to do so from a honest income. Notice very carefully I didn't say honest wages from a job. We are aware of the no-job situation. However,every day of every difficult week across this country, other people are honestly hustling to make ends meet. Contrary to popular opinion, rural poverty is greater than urban poverty with far less corrective intervention by the state and its government. As I have been saying, inner-city MPs and rural MPs should raise hell if another round of largesse, matching that of which Mr. Seaga is so proud, is directed towards Tivoli Gardens and away from their equally, or even more, needy constituents.
State assistance may very well be needed but this should be temporary and highly targeted and geared towards beneficiaries attaining independence in the shortest possible order, not 40 years. Training grants, small business start-up loans, and so on.
Honest labour from which one pays their own way through the world is a powerful and quick-acting socialiser. Lots of honest work can and should be made available by the Government, at relatively low cost to the Budget, through the physical rehabilitation of urban - and rural - blight, through environmental conservation projects. Inner-city MP and talk-show host Ronnie Thwaites and I have again recently discussed the upgrade of National Heroes Park, where three or four inner-city constituencies meet.
We must remember it was political clientism, the handout of scarce benefits over which the two hostile tribes fought, that got us into this pickle. It cannot get us out.
Downtown and other patches of the capital city laid waste by the political tribal war can, and will, flourish again as a congenial home for business, big and small, creating more employment, if crime and violence, including the crippling extortion rackets which have kept many eating without sweat, is brought under control. Get busy Police. That is your contribution to rehabilitation.
I want to talk about political clientelism and tribalism some more. We are up in arms about foot-soldier clientelism and the rotten mess into which it has landed us in armed garrisons. We need to focus more heavily on the upscale clientelism and the rotten mess into which it has landed us. High on the agenda for the reform of governance is the reform of party financing. Many people, including my anti-corruption colleague, Trevor Munroe, are advocating full public disclosure of donations to the political parties. A number of business leaders, including Omar Azan, president of the JMA, and also one of the parties, the PNP, through its general secretary, Peter Bunting, are in favour of full disclosure. We cannot, however, discount the dangers of full public disclosure while we chase the obvious benefits. The Electoral Commission has offered a middle way - disclosure to a public authority, which can raise an alarm when certain thresholds are triggered.
Meanwhile, I am challenging the freshly aroused business class crusading for clean government to waive all waivers and special benefits and to pay their way as the people of Tivoli Gardens should. That way, much of the suspicions of payback for party political contributions would be wiped away. The poor people of Jamaica, who most need the assistance of the state, should know that customs waivers are sucking off as much as 50 per cent of the duties which the Government could have collected and which it has been borrowing to help off-set.
The new energy of civil society for the reform of governance, while commendable, must be tempered with realism. Millions of citizens cannot run a country, except perhaps into the ground. Governance requires a system of public authorities holding each other in check and balance. While we beat upon ourselves about our faults and failures, as a country a month shy of its 48th anniversary of Independence, we have established a number of world-class public authorities, not counting those like the judiciary and the Office of the DPP, inherited from the colonial Mother Country. The Electoral Commission is one of them.
Thirty years in the making, having been first established as the Electoral Advisory Commission in 1979, the EC and its agent, the EOJ is a model to the world of cleaning up electoral malpractices and creating an effective system for free and fair elections. The National Contracts Commission and its agent the Office of the Contractor-General is another and is well on its way to cleaning up malpractices in the award of state contracts. The proposition of the EC to have party financing reported to it as an appropriate public authority is worthy of serious consideration.
Although no link has been established, no sooner had minister of government, JLP general secretary and MP for 100 Lane and Park Lane, Karl Samuda, publicly repudiated ties to area leaders, he was "violated" by armed robbery at his rural home and farm at Knollis in St Catherine. The armed robbers he said, though, "were cussing me all of the time." "I have advised everyone at the area-leader level in the strongest way I can", Samuda is reported as saying, "that any continuation of activity that results in breaking the law, intimidation, extortion, anything of that kind, has no place. Gone are the days when persons engaged in gangsterism and donmanship can seek to find political affiliation with the party we represent in Government. There is no safe haven in the Jamaica Labour Party for persons engaged in crime and violence and who lead gangs. Those days are over," he declared. The police have a lot to investigate between Knollis and Kingston. Mr. Samuda has expressed confidence in the police to crack the case - the robbery case.
'Good' people have been calling for truth and reconciliation. Like Professor Rupert Lewis, speaking on the West Kingston Crisis and Party Politics, I am all for truth, but not reconciliation. I am for prosecution — when and where necessary. Former commissioner of police, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin shocked the nation with his version of 'truth', offered on CVM 'Direct' last Wednesday night when he claimed that Christopher 'Dudus' Coke was tipped off about the extradition request from the United States within 15 minutes of the minister of national security being briefed on the matter by him.
Minister Nelson went into over-drive in an ad hominem broadside [attacking the person to refute the claim] against the former commissioner impugning his motive, character and performance as police commissioner. All irrelevant. Hardley Lewin could be the greatest liar and worse commissioner, but all that really matters in this matter is whether Coke was in fact tipped off and by whom.