THE EDITOR, Sir:
The recent furore over pronouncements from some members of the Senate that the Obeah Act should be repealed has been a source of great amusement for me.
Overwhelmingly, members of the public are in strong opposition to what is being perceived as an endorsement of evil by crypto-magicians in suits and ties. They fear that such a move would grant legitimacy to spirits of mischief and their stewards; and further that black magic is the reason that our Haitian neighbours are 'cursed' to a life of poverty and suffering so, therefore, we, as 'God-blessed people', shouldn't even entertain the notion of repealing a law to curtail the practice, lest our own prosperity be jeopardised.
I'm fascinated with the idea of our legislators as duppy conquerors in 1898 when this act was passed. I imagine that at the time white witches and 'sciance' men were wreaking havoc among the gentry. Identifying the source and issuing a good righteous flogging was surely the appropriate remedy as we all know devout Protestant Christians do not conjure spells!
Fast-forward a little over a century into a new millennium and age of enlightenment and we can see that the duppies are still pervasive and that they play more of a role in our politics than many middle-class Jamaicans are willing to admit. We cannot even widen Flat Bridge because they say no!
Therefore, I urge our brave legislators not to ignore the beliefs and collective imagination of the Jamaican people as they carry out their duties. Obeah (as well as Myal; bush medicine; frightening by duppy story, and especially fraudulently) should surely remain illegal. Additionally, there ought to be laws to curtail the trafficking of River Mumma; the husbandry of rolling calf; and the sale of 'Ile' without the appropriate title, that is, 'Pastor'.
As our economic climate and the resultant belt-tightening get more severe, I can only hope that our leaders will similarly consider decriminalising the use of indecent language so that the hills may freely echo with shouts of praise for the Government.
I urge our brave legislators not to ignore the beliefs and collective imagination of the Jamaican people as they carry out their duties. Obeah ... should surely remain illegal.