'Censuss', crime and lame ideas
Gordon Robinson, Contributor
Jamaica is well known as the land of suss, otherwise called labrish. Apparently, STATIN has recently made this official by publishing what can only be at least 100 pieces of suss. Why? It's called the censuss, dear Liza, dear Liza. This exercise in labrish cloaked as official statistics is about as useless as Freddie Hickling's barber and, if taken seriously enough to inspire national policy, as dangerous as the Ebola virus.
At least STATIN didn't pretend. According to a front-page Gleaner report (October 18), "Crime and violence, raging hostilities from some ordinary Jamaicans, a fierce tussle with census takers and even attacks from some animals conspired to make the April to August 2011 exercise a particularly challenging endeavour for STATIN." So, how are we ordinary Joes and Jills to take the results?
Again, according to The Gleaner: "For Dr Valerie Nam, STATIN's director, censuses, demographics and social statistics, the 2011 census foray was the most frustrating that she had encountered in all her 44 years in the field." The result of the various challenges, including a cash-first, devil-may-care attitude from the censuss takers themselves and the several dog attacks, Nam declared this year's censuss her "most disappointing". STATIN has had to issue multiple corrections to data after its grand reveal last Wednesday.
So why should we take any of the results seriously? Hands up those of you who really believe Jamaica's population has only increased by 3.5 per cent in 11 years? I see nobody who has driven on the streets over the period has their hand up. No doctor or nurse has voted for a 3.5 per cent increase in 11 years or for only 50,000 babies born per year. Doctors who work in the field know that 10,000 babies per year are born at Victoria Jubilee alone. I wonder who collated and calculated all these data, since only 30 per cent of students have passed maths over the time.
Content security ministers
One of the reliable bits of information coming out of this censuss is that collection of data was hampered by crime and violence. When it gets to the point where official population data can't be relied upon because of crime, it's time to do something about cauterising the crime flow. So far, successive security ministers have been content to express shock and sadness whenever there's a high-profile murder.
Recently, our prime minister has implemented the brilliant crime-fighting scheme of begging would-be rapists and murderers of young girls to first "look at me" before deciding to commit such horrible acts. Out of respect for our First Lady of Parliament, I'll allow that appealing straight line to pass.
You don't need me to tell you that this isn't enough. In fact, it borders on the insane. This perennial lip service to the containment of the crime monster; this constant insistence on applying more and more of the same prescriptions; this nonsensical chatter instead of changing tactics is what is enslaving our people in an all-embracing fear of doing business; going to a bank; going to the movies; bringing young girl children into the world.
This present minister of national security has proven to be an excellent minister of information. He can tell us what happened yesterday. He knows what he hopes will happen tomorrow. And his 'solutions', like vanilla pudding, never change. We're putting more policemen in the area. More patrols. More curfews. And the minister's favourite, more legislation.
I understand that under the new crime killing legislation (following such ultra-successful models as the Gun Court Act; the Prevention of Crime Act; the Bail Act; and many others), my youngest son's gathering of UWI friends to watch movies and play games could be interpreted as an unlawful 'gang'. Well, whoop-dee-doo, we're to get 'anti-gang' legislation. Sleep tight, all, that should put a stop to the vicious murders, rapes and beheadings.
But legislation, despite its worldwide proliferation, is yet to catch or convict a single criminal. The catching part is rarely accomplished by an undermanned, undertrained police force with few modern, computerised facilities; few cameras at road intersections; no fingerprint database; no real mobility; and no computerised links to other neighbouring police forces.
Our politicians, determined to miss the boat, continue to pass these oppressive pieces of legislation with no hope of ever enforcing them, but they won't take the elementary first step towards reducing violent crime in any nation like ours, which is to disarm the citizenry. Until it's a crime, punishable by lengthy imprisonment, to carry a firearm unless you're a soldier or policeman, we'll never begin to cauterise the bleeding from violent crime. The Firearm Licensing Authority should be immediately abolished. By this method, we'll instantly cut off two current sources of arms to criminals, namely, the law-abiding citizen with a licensed firearm who attracts criminal attention in order to attempt an illegal transfer, and the criminal who is wittingly or unwittingly awarded a licence to carry a firearm.
Furthermore, we must learn what the average American refuses to recognise: that violence will never decrease if more people have guns. Jamaicans have no constitutional right to bear arms. The reality, which a gun-crazy US society deliberately ignores, is that violence begets violence. The fewer guns, the fewer - and less deadly - tools of violence there will be available to perpetrate horrid offences.
Then there's the conviction part of the process, laughingly called, in Jamaica, the courts. That's the place where cases are still contained in files of paper which regularly disappear; where no computerised system of date-fixing exists; where judges wander up and down the corridors because there are no chambers for them to sit in; where judges' appointments are delayed for years because of lack of office space; where witnesses' written statements are made public years before the real trial; where jurors are made as comfortable as two hedgehogs making love; where cases are not disposed of for years; where ... . I give up. Buju, you tell them:
I could go on and on
the full has never been told ... .
It's time to cut the crap; stop the lip service; staunch the crocodile tears whenever atrocity is perpetrated; and modernise the police force and the court systems.
Right now, the police force resembles a tribal entity divided along political lines where a JLP-appointed commissioner must endure a former commissioner and PNP candidate, now a consultant in the Ministry of National Security, interfering with the day-to-day operations of the police force clothed as 'mediator'. Why? Is he concerned he might lose his job if he objects? Is there a cadre of PNP sympathisers below him in rank circling like sharks ready to pounce? Who next? The truth? Are police focussed on the task at hand or is there too much infighting? How will they react to a sincere effort from the political directorate to properly equip them? Surely, this will motivate them to ignore all other distractions?
It's not only the police with both systemic and personnel problems. A young prosecutor, obviously trying to represent the Jamaican people to the fullest in the Vaz/Bicknell/Forbes prosecution, had his legs cut from beneath him in a most cruel way. By her actions, his ultimate boss, the DPP, has thrown him to the wolves and inadvertently signalled to interested onlookers that the young prosecutor has something against the police.
Why should the police think otherwise as this intrepid young prosecutor informed the court that he considered it wise to await a statement from the police commissioner, but his boss publicly pooh-poohed that? Surely, there was a way to resolve any internal difference of opinion internally before any public statement is made.
The result of this public show of discontent within the DPP's office reminds me of the impression given by Santino 'Sonny' Corleone when he inadvertently made it clear to a rival 'family' that he disagreed with Don Vito Corleone on 'family' policy. A near-fatal assassination attempt on Don Vito followed instantly. Hopefully, that intrepid young prosecutor won't have to face such a severe backlash, but, in my opinion, it was at least an intemperate act by the DPP to do what she did.
The commissioner's stubborn refusal to give a statement coincides with the DPP's actions and strengthens the obviously misleading signal that this young prosecutor was on a witch-hunt of his own. Now the sudden resignation of Caroline Hay, one of the brightest stars in the DPP's office, while she's engaged in another political hot potato, the Trafigura 'trial', couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time if the resignation was unconnected to the turmoil that must be shaking that office to its core. Why did Caroline Hay resign? Don't tell me she got another job. Why should she seek or consider a job at a private bar which she left nine years ago when she is currently on a direct path to the top job in the public office she then chose?
Hay has said she wants to broaden her base. Paula Llewellyn is quoted by The Gleaner (October 12) as saying that Ms Hay was seeking greener pastures, thus making it appear to be all about money. If the environment at the DPP office was as "nurturing" as the learned DPP contends, why wasn't she and her senior deputy DPP Hay on the same page on a simple issue as the reason for Hay's resignation? Is there more to this than meets the eye?
These may seem trivial examples to use, but they illustrate the unfocused way the police and the courts have approached their task. That our national security minister seems oblivious to the need for radical change proves that we, the people, are doomed to suck salt through a wooden spoon forever, or until somebody puts our safety above personal pride or political progress.
Crime is now over the top. Its tentacles have made the most routine administrative tasks, such as census-taking, unbearable challenges. No more same old, same old, please. Modernise the force and the courts, now. No more 30-year plans. Disarm the citizenry until violent crime is once again at tolerable levels. I don't care how many Cabinet members are licensed firearm holders or bird-shooting enthusiasts. Or both. Disarm them. Jamaica's terrified citizens don't give a flying fig about your bird-shooting fun. We want ... .
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.