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EDITORIAL - Dr Phillips and graffiti

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Peter Phillips is right. If, indeed, we retreat to our homes, "we would have surrendered to the criminals".

So, the parliamentarian and former security minister must continue to speak out against criminality, hold his ground for a full explanation from the Government in the affair surrounding the US lobby firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, and continue to push for the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition matter to be adjudicated by the courts.

For the fact is, on all these matters, Dr Phillips has made compelling arguments with which this newspaper can find no grounds to disagree.

Indeed, it is incontrovertible that crime and criminality place great stress on Jamaica and its social and political institutions. Unless we halt the trend and ease the pressure, Jamaica runs the risk of becoming a weak, if not outrightly failed state, masked by a facade of democracy.

What is possible

The more than 450 homicides so far this year and the impunity with which extortionists operate and gangs appropriate territory represent more than a hint of what is possible.

Yet, even as we acknowledge the potential dangers to Dr Phillips, and others, who warn of the hazards that lurk if we fail to take stock, there are risks, too, in seeing and hearing spectres in every flutter of a branch.

We refer, in this case, to the graffiti that has emerged in West Kingston accusing Dr Phillips of "sell(ing) out black people", which is a clear reference to his insistence that the Government should let the court decide whether Mr Coke, the reputed 'don' of Tivoli Gardens, should be extradited to answer drug smuggling and gunrunning allegations in the United States.

Dr Phillips also wants the facts on who paid Manatt to lobby the Americans on Jamaica's behalf, apparently on the Coke affair, if the Government, as it insists, had no agreement, either directly or by proxy, with the US firm.

The West Kingston graffiti has been interpreted as a threat to Dr Phillips. And they could well be.

Unsafe and unfair

However, we would advise that it would be unsafe and unfair to assume that the graffiti was orchestrated by the political centre and somehow represent the work of the governing Jamaica Labour Party.

Crude graffiti, after all, is well ingrained in the communication culture of Jamaica's inner cities, often the work of idle youngsters with no real intent beyond the splash.

Obviously, it is of concern that there are persons, even if only a single individual, who would feel that Dr Phillips' concern for the rule of law, transparency by the state and decency in governance would equate to "sell(ing) out black people".

But even as he is careful, in the absence of more, Dr Phillips and others should be careful about elevating tenement scrawls to grand conspiracies.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.