Sat | Oct 16, 2021

Lascelve Graham | Levelling the Vybz – playing with fire

Published:Saturday | October 2, 2021 | 12:06 AM

Vybz Kartel seen leaving the Home Circuit Court in this 2014 photo.
Vybz Kartel seen leaving the Home Circuit Court in this 2014 photo.
Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham
Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham
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Last month there was an article in The Gleaner headlined, ‘PM not ruling out Kartel as vax ambassador’. A number of high-status, powerful people in the society have voiced support for the idea, including the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) via its shadow minister of health, Dr Morais Guy. I wonder, though, if this is a step in the right direction.

The article went on to say, “Palmer (Kartel) has reportedly recorded many songs from prison, in contravention of regulations, during his more-than-decades-old detention, causing embarrassment to correctional officials. His interview with an American television station in August added to their chagrin.”

We need to be very conscious of the fact that people are not imprisoned because they are all bad, have done no good, or can do no good, or will do no good. Some of our brightest, most creative, most productive minds are behind bars. People are imprisoned because they have breached rules of society, and these actions are inimical to a proper functioning society. Society, in indicating how unacceptable these actions are, has decided to get along without these people for a stipulated period of time. So, they are removed from society and silenced for this period.

COVID-19 has been extremely difficult to deal with throughout the world, especially because of the mutations, which constantly produce variants. It has been a very dynamic situation, requiring repeated changes in approach. I want to commend the Government for the effort it has been making re coming to grips with the situation, although there have been missteps along the way. I think that being willing to change its modus operandi re the delivery of vaccines to smaller units of the community is healthy and encouraging. I support having a campaign which attempts to reach and convince everybody to get vaccinated, and that various influencers should be involved. Vaccine hesitancy is a very difficult challenge and we need to find creative, effective ways to deal with it.

EXTREMELY CAREFUL

However, we must be extremely careful in the selection, the choice of these influencers, these ambassadors, these standard-bearers, so that the intended and unintended consequences are going in the same direction. We need to ensure the use of champions who are good role models and eschew those who are otherwise, although popular. We must not jump from the frying pan into the fire!

We need to be particularly sensitive about the shadow that these influencers may cast on crime. We have a crime epidemic in Jamaica that has ravaged the society for ages and which neither of our two major political parties has been successful in getting a handle on. In Jamaica, at this time, murder “a nuh nuttn”. Jamaica had the top homicide rate per capita, in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2020 ( The Gleaner, January 31, 2021)! According to statistics put out by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, 1,053 murders were committed between January and September 25. When one adds to this the 1,323 murders committed in 2020, the 2,376 total by far exceeds the 1,835 deaths attributable to COVID-19 for the same period.

Is it a step in the right direction that someone who has committed the ultimate crime in society, who has been convicted for murder, who has not yet paid his debt to society for so doing, is seen to be embraced by the Government? Is it appropriate that someone who has allegedly not shown any remorse or penitence, who has reportedly made a mockery of, blatantly flouted the rules and regulations of the penal system, and thus has shown utter contempt for the law, be rewarded, be given the esteem of a champion for the Government vaccination campaign?

WHAT SIGNALS ARE BEING SENT?

What signals will we be sending to our impressionable, at-risk citizens, our prison officials and the rest of society? Will this not be just adding insult to injury, rubbing salt in the wounds of our prison officials (who are already embarrassed by the leaks that have occurred under their watch) and making their jobs more difficult? Is the possible political mileage that may result from such an action worth turning a blind eye to the other negative ramifications? Is expediency in this instance really in the best interest of our society in the long run? Rehabilitation of prisoners is a very difficult and delicate process, depending a lot on the attitude of the inmate, and cannot haphazardly begin in the middle.

Jamaica is purportedly a Christian country, with the most churches per square mile of any country in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Yet, rich and poor, good, law-abiding Jamaicans, overwhelmed by fear and trepidation, are cowed into silence by aberrant behaviour, terrified by the criminality washing over the island! So that see and blind, hear and deaf, ‘infama fi dead’ is the order of the day. Citizens, as they cower away from their civic duty, must constantly rationalise that discretion is the better part of valour, that coward man keep sound bone, and realise that freedom of speech is a dangerous illusion. Shades of the Taliban! Is this a scenario in which a well-thinking government should be toying with the idea of using an incarcerated alleged gang leader in one of its campaigns, especially when there are other less tainted figures, who, even as a group, can deliver a similar package? We need to remember that in Christian theology, the end does not justify the means.

The Government must not strengthen the impression that some people can get away with anything and that because of their influence, creativity, money, star quality, etc., they can do whatever and still be hugged up by the powers that be … a nuh nuttn. One rule for the powerful and another for the powerless! The society needs to send clear messages to our young, impressionable, vulnerable, at-risk citizens, that there are certain actions the society will not tolerate, and will take the strongest action against, especially the ultimate crime, murder, and that no one is indispensable! It is in the best interest of society that it does so. The threatened action by the Government is not in keeping with the above-mentioned messages. The pandemic will end. Will our high level of crime?

We must be careful not to sow the wind, because we will surely reap the whirlwind! We are playing with fire!

Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham, former captain, senior national football team. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com