Wed | Jun 23, 2021

Letter of the Day | Time for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Published:Friday | July 12, 2019 | 12:00 AM


In 2004, during the early days of the Violence Prevention Alliance, I was riding along with Professor Barry Chevannes to one of our Thursday-morning meetings.

Prof, a thoughtful man, opined that based on what he had observed, a large number of killings were the result of reprisals. It was difficult, he said, to stop murders that were the result of revenge.

I agreed and told him that I might be tempted to do likewise if such a thing had happened to me personally. He empathised. That conversation stayed with me, and each time the crime statistics are published, it occurs to me that Jamaica’s culture of revenge runs deep. Whether these are gang reprisals or family reprisals, these killings, in my estimation, account for a significant portion of the murders on record.

If this assertion holds up, it is true to say that no ‘crime plan’ or ‘state of emergency’ will suffice. Nor will any ‘Get the Guns’ programme. When someone is murdered, revenge is a legitimate possibility.

Many carrying pain

One of our talented dancehall artistes, Chronic Law, speaks to the heart of the issue in his song titled Nuh Call Me Nuh Gangsta, in which he sings, “It nuh easy, revenge is a must, remember we have pain inna wi heart/ nuh tell mi fi easy/ yu don’t know weh man a feel/ yu jus a siddung an a talk.”

Men and women parading as gangsters are often carrying around the pain from the loss of loved ones, sometimes spanning more than one generation, and will kill, or encourage revenge killing, because they see it as the only recourse. And that’s why no crime plan can exclude the need for truth and reconciliation.

Institutions like the Dispute Resolution Foundation, the Church, and the Lay Magistrates’ Association can play a critical role in this, because people need closure, and forgiveness doesn’t come naturally. We must tackle major crime from all sides, and a National Truth & Reconciliation Commission, similar to those convened in South Africa and Rwanda, may be our last hope of ending the bloodletting.