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Not in our lifetime

Published:Wednesday | April 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dennie Quill, Contributor

Just last week I overheard two professionals having a conversation in Kingston.

The 56-year-old woman asked, "You think Jamaica will come back?" Her companion, a 60-year-old accountant, a deep-thinking man with a rippling laughter did not have to think too hard before he replied, "Not in our lifetime."

Obviously, the question comes against the background of a time when Jamaica was highly respected in the international arena, when Jamaicans could travel the world without the spectre of suspicion, when the Government was able to honour its commitments, when Jamaicans were compassionate and respected each other. Back then, there was a sense that someone was taking the nation's business seriously.

The finality of that response left me very depressed because the more I reflected on it, the more I believed it. Jamaica is in crisis right now, and even supporters of the current Government will admit that the hysteria and dysfunctional state of affairs in the country spells trouble.

Jamaicans feeling vulnerable

The stability of the country is threatened - more crime, less water, garrison politics, the parlous state of the nation's finances, 'wishy-washy' leadership, corruption in high places, including rogue police officers and recent ructions over extradition matters - a confluence of factors that have left Jamaicans here and abroad feeling very vulnerable.

Attitudes about whether Jamaica's justice system is fair do not appear to be significantly different between those who live uptown and those who live in the inner cities. A former Commandant of the Island Special Constabulary Force, who is being sought for a crime, has just fled Jamaica, saying he does not believe he will get justice in this country. The powerful lobby group, Jamaicans for Justice, agreed with him, to some extent, although scolding him for fleeing. Added to that is the recent exposé of the thousands of unresolved court cases which continue to grow in numbers. Justice delayed is justice denied, and everyone is affected.

I know of three senior citizens who have been ordered by their children to start packing. These are retired persons who continue to make sterling contribution to their communities.

Forced to leave

They are being forced to leave behind their friends and the social life they know, to live overseas, because their children are worried for their safety. "My daughter says she can't sleep at night because she is worried they might break in and kill me", lamented a former high-school principal who is heading to Canada.

Several others of my peers have begun to rethink their retirement plans. Is Jamaica the place they want to spend their winter years? Should they be looking at places like Costa Rica, Santa Domingo and Barbados where from the outside, life appears less stressful? The sad truth is that generations of Jamaicans now see this country as somewhere they visit to gobble up some good home cooking, crash a few parties, and lap up the talent in Jamaica's theatre. After that, they head home with enough goodies that can fit into a small suitcase.

Scores of Jamaicans who have no desire to leave this country are simply baffled as to why things have got so bad. Hard-working Jamaicans who are pressing forth to survive and make life better for their families are also asking, why is the country so vulnerable?

Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Send feedback to