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LETTER OF THE DAY - Jamaica has developed a culture of violence

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

YESTERDAY'S GLEANER brought home so vividly the impact of gun violence in Jamaica when the newspaper displayed a photograph of Marvalyn Lawrence, grieving over the murder of her son, Omar Barrett. A few years ago, The Gleaner captured a similar picture of pain where, Icilda, the mother of a Spanish Town entertainer, was seen running on the train line with her hands stretched to the skies and tears running down her face. I asked the question then, and I ask it again today, "What will it take to regain control of our country?"

Jamaica has developed a culture of violence, most notably with the gun. It has become commonplace for both police and criminals to shoot people with impunity. Police officers are generally not convicted for extrajudicial killings and brazen gunmen kill individuals, knowing there is little risk that they will be caught. When individuals get involved in confrontation in almost any setting, it doesn't take long before they are threatening to shoot each other.

For years we have spoken about the socially malady that has beset Jamaica, but the urgent truth is that unless serious remedial measures are taken shortly we stand the risk of losing an entire generation. Just last week the public defender Earl Witter challenged members of the police force to not be so quick to use the gun to slay their fellow Jamaicans.

The handwriting is on the wall that Jamaica needs to save itself from this pervasive culture of violence which has taken hold of us. Where we are now didn't happen overnight and many saw the signs then and ignored them. While we do not have a crystal ball to see the future, no clairvoyance is needed when one factors in that last year recorded the highest number of murders in Jamaica's history.

Social-intervention programme

An attempt to dismantle gangs, anti-crime legislation and an half-hearted social-intervention programme are unlikely to produce the desired result of cauterising this grave social ill. We have to recognise that this problem has become deeply rooted in the way we conduct our affairs and the way parents and communities raise children. We cannot continue to feed our children on a diet of war and violence and then expect them to grow up into strong agents of peace. The same way we begin to dismantle gangs we must start to dismantle this culture of violence.

I am, etc.,

Harold Malcolm