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EDITORIAL - May madness jolts the nation

Published:Saturday | June 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Murder is so commonplace in Jamaica that the country appears to have become inured to the grisly litany of death and mayhem that stalks the land. There seems to be no more outrage left for another wave of brutal murders.

However, the horror of the dismembering of a four-year-old girl in Trelawny; the murder of an eight-year-old left to rot in a latrine in St Catherine; the dumping of a newborn's body in a pit latrine in Trelawny; and the beheading of an octogenarian in Kingston, all within days, have succeeded in jolting the nation into acknowledging an appalling national trend of violently targeting children and the elderly in society.

While it is awkward to compare crime statistics across countries, and we acknowledge that brutality exists everywhere, it is scandalous that our small, supposedly God-fearing country ranks among the top 10 in the world for murder.

Youth Minister Lisa Hanna's public condemnation of the killing of four-year-old Natasha Brown, welcome and necessary as it is, we believe, is far too feeble a reaction from the Government to manifestations of a lawless country teetering on the brink of destruction.

The Government must respond with clear recommendations to help prevent these acts. The reaction should include the useful suggestions of the many stakeholders who have a vested interest in seeing that the nation's children live to fulfil their potential.

Yet, there is something salient in Ms Hanna's appeal for members of the community to help protect children from those who would do them harm. Let there be an awakening within our communities in which citizens are resolved to become their brother's keeper and are not afraid to report to the police suspected cases of abuse. The days of looking the other way in the face of brutality of neighbours must come to an end in all communities.

Beyond the dreadful circumstances of Sylvia Sewell's murder in downtown Kingston as she tried to eke out a living by selling newspapers is the question of how members of the public can be protected from violently insane persons, as her alleged killer was supposed, to be who roam the streets.

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They are often a menace to persons going about their daily business. Without the intervention of the police and/or health-care personnel, they pose a formidable problem. These individuals are in need of treatment and ought not to be allowed to just languish on the streets.

And if, as the police are suggesting, the alleged perpetrator was wanted for crimes committed in St Ann, it seems the police will have to share a huge portion of the blame for Ms Sewell's demise.

So the inevitable question is this: How will Jamaica find its way out of all this bloodletting and brutality? How can this violence be turned into an opportunity for peaceful existence?

One of the first steps is to dispel the notion that criminals can carry out the most heinous acts and not get caught and punished. And even when trials present as open-and-shut cases, accused persons walk free mainly because of sloppy investigations, fearful witnesses, and a fumbling Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

We suggest that the early arrest and proper investigation that produce judicially acceptable evidence and speedy trial are what will help to assuage the outrage felt by so many, and perhaps deter would-be murderers.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.