EDITORIAL - The civilised must stand up to the mobs
There has been a disturbing rash of vigilante killings in the past two months, which points to something terribly awry in the psyche of the Jamaican society.
The latest demonstration of mob violence occurred last Thursday on the campus of the University of Technology, Jamaica, when security guards, cheered on by students, beat a male student for allegedly engaging in a homosexual liaison. The following day, the police saved a man from a beating, and possible killing, by angry residents of Thompson Town in Clarendon. He was the police's main suspect in the killing of his girlfriend, Tenisha Hamilton, whose body was found in a tank last Wednesday.
In September, a teacher at the Old Harbour High School was chased and stabbed to death by an angry mob after the vehicle he was driving struck four persons along the Old Harbour Road. His killing followed on the heels of angry Trelawny residents chopping to death the male relative of a man they felt was responsible for the deaths of two boys in the community. The daughter of the deceased was also injured during the incident.
What is at the root of this spate of mob violence? There is no doubt that shortcomings in the country's law-enforcement and justice systems are contributing to citizens taking the law in their own hands. And the general ambivalence by the police to mob action aggravates the situation.
The long-overdue reform of the justice system must be accelerated. However, as a society, let's not fool ourselves: the swiftness with which vigilantes administer their warped justice cannot be matched by the formal justice system. Furthermore, the (in)effectiveness of the justice system, we contend, has no bearing on the bigotry that drives people to harm homosexuals.
The underlying problem in our dysfunctional society is the devaluation of human life, which plays out in our reflexive resort to violence to solve the simplest of conflicts, not to mention situations when passions are running high. This brutishness permeates all aspects of our society and calls for urgent action. The problem is uptown and downtown, urban and rural.
values campaigns derailed
Successive political administrations have made fitful attempts to address the crisis in values that the country has been experiencing for the last two decades or more. The Patterson administration introduced the Values and Attitudes programme which fell victim to political vicissitudes. The Golding administration introduced the National Transformation Programme (NTP), which suffered from a self-inflicted wound when its convenor, the Rev Al Miller, became embroiled in a controversy related to the capture of then fugitive Christopher Coke.
Nevertheless, the NTP had begun to play a coordinating role for several organisations involved in behaviour change, including the Violence Prevention Alliance, the Peace Management Initiative, the Church, and community groups. The current administration needs to get the transformation alliance up and running again with dispatch - the lives of people literally depend on this.
For the transformation programme to be successful, all hands must be on deck, including input from the media. This newspaper pledges to do its part in shaping a kinder, gentler society. We urge well-thinking citizens to spurn the temptation to be silent amid the baying for blood by the uncivilised. Valiantly resist the mindless mobs seeking to push Jamaica over the precipice of anarchy.
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