Sat | Sep 25, 2021

Orville Taylor | One law, one order in COVID-19 fight

Published:Sunday | March 7, 2021 | 12:18 AM

I saw the very disturbing video clip with the police officer going down, digging deep but still not pulling out and discharging his lethal weapon. Head down, getting more blows than he was giving but showing extreme restraint, because many other men would have ‘popped off’ much earlier and the consequences would have been history. The video is the one relating to the lawless taxi operator who seems not to either respect himself or the police. You won’t be forgiven for thinking that it is another viral video which has caused all kinds of loose-tongue pronouncements of guilt.

However, as with many other cases such as the Buckfield killing, the apparently drunk officer in full uniform and myriad others, his colleagues at all levels should make no statement about how he is going to be treated, given that the wheels of due process have not fully turned. Nonetheless, I know that powerful people sometimes get upset when I speak freely. Therefore, I yield to avoid being charged under the ubiquitous Section 69 of the Constabulary Force Act, causing “disaffection amongst the members of the Force”.

Shutting up is not the same as covering my mouth though, because, with 440 Jamaicans dead, 24,500 cases, almost 10,000 of which are still active and a positivity rate of almost 18 per cent, there is a black fukumen on my face. We are in the middle of a war with a silent Asian assassin and only ninjas can defeat it. The barefacedness of the taxi driver is, unfortunately, a common feature among some members of the transport fraternity, where, in pursuit of the elusive dollar, they cross many lines, including the unbroken ones in the middle of the thoroughfare.

COVID-19 IS NOT FORGIVING

COVID-19 is not as forgiving as a police officer and there is still too little public compliance with the mask-wearing protocols. Commuters, who have no choice but to take taxis and minibuses, have both fare and fear, because mask-wearing enforcement doesn’t have the same legal backing as seat belt violations. If the Government is serious about tightening the screws on those who fail to comply with the mask dictate, then it needs greater legislative support.

While it might be difficult to stop the average citizen in the street for being as unmasked in public as corrupt men in high places, vehicular checkpoints (VCP) have proven very effective. Often, VCPs net those who break the Road Traffic Act and Transport Authority Act, but they also rake in the occasional fugitive. In any event, if a driver knows that he will get a ticket or have his vehicle seized if a certain threshold is passed, bet your bottom dollar that he will even carry extra masks on board.

Our COVID-19 battle can only be won in the trenches. As with economic growth, which is 90 per cent driven by small, micro and medium-sized enterprises, the spread of the virus is in these smaller interpersonal interactions. Most large enterprises, such as supermarkets and megastores, have security teams at their entrances and rigidly enforce sanitising and mask-wearing. However, the little wholesales, corner shops and small auto parts stores are all competing for the occasional sale. Thus, they might be afraid to turn away the mask-less customer, who can easily go to the next enterprise down the road.

SHOW LITTLE FEAR OR CARE

Yet, bad as it is that taxi drivers and small businesses show little fear or care, church leaders and members will get no slack.

In a country where 80 per cent of us claim a home church, pastors must not throw themselves off the pinnacle of the temple to prove their faith. It is more than a trifle amusing that some ‘faithful’ pastors disavow masks but have big Glocks under their cassock or jacket. Interestingly, those who love to preach death penalty because ‘it is the law’ must find a great inconvenience that Romans 13 says “ … yield to the government rulers. No one rules unless God has given him the power to rule … yield to the government, not only because you might be punished, but because you know it is right.”

There is always space for discretion, but deliberate flouting cannot be tolerated for anyone, even if they honestly believe they are “essential services and doing God’s will”. Taximan or pastor, COVID-19 acts without fear, favour and affection but with much malice and ill-will.

Maybe if we spread the word that the Chinese have implemented anal swabs for COVID-19 testing, it might put the fear in our Jamaican men.

On another note, my condolences to the family of the security officer who lost his life protecting other people’s property. My heart also bleeds for the loss of retired Senior Superintendent of Police Lloyd ‘Drummie’ Echo T. Thomas, my friend and former cadet drum major from the mid-1970s, who trained boys as if we were men.

Finally, the acquittal of James Forbes is proof that the race is not for the swift and justice prevails in the end. I would love to see him laurel-wreathed retroactively and in full uniform for even a day before he retires.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.