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EDITORIAL Defending that which is wrong

Published:Saturday | May 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Hardly a day goes by without citizens of Jamaica taking to the streets to express outrage over one issue or the other. This week, two such demonstrations caught our attention: one was staged by persons involved in the scrap-metal trade and the other was by citizens who sided with a businessman whose poorly constructed house tumbled down, killing a worker. We feel that these two incidents bring into question the overall moral condition of our society.

Scrap-metal thieves have created a major headache for utility companies, farmers and householders. They have removed protective rails, dismantled irrigation equipment, stolen traffic signs and, despite various warnings from the authorities, they have continued these activities with impunity. The demonstration was in reaction to a decision to staunch metal theft by closing down the industry. Anyone expecting to hear condemnation of the indiscriminate theft of metal would have been disappointed. The demonstrators seemed only concerned with making a livelihood.

In the second case, a multi-storey building intended for multiple occupants had obviously bypassed some of the fundamental structural requirements, and it buckled and collapsed. The demonstrators flayed the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation for placing a stop order on the project and pleaded for the agency not to demolish the structure. There was very little concern for the dead worker or for the implications of erecting an unsafe building; there was more concern for those who were alive and would be deprived of work.

sobering truth

The sobering truth is that these groups are attempting to convey, without shame, the idea that life is hard, and that cheating, theft, thuggery and flagrant flouting of the law are acceptable in the name of survival.

Some months back, there was another demonstration staged in west Kingston in support of Christopher Coke, whose extradition is being sought by the American government. The largely female group spoke of how he had assisted them financially in getting their children to school and putting food in their bellies. They were railing against the requests for his extradition.

Here is a society enmeshed in bloody violence and hair-raising crime that gets more bizarre by the day, yet we find persons willing to take an a priori defensive position when allegations of criminality arise. We can understand why the beneficiaries of Mr Coke's largesse are standing by his side; however, we find it more difficult to countenance the Government, particularly Prime Minister Golding, rising in such stout defence of Mr Coke to the extent of rigging the extradition argument with specious claims about the method used to gather evidence.

Since we believe that the pursuit of justice is a fundamental norm of our democratic institutions, we must ask this question of Police Commissioner Owen Ellington: Have the police investigated the allegations of gunrunning and cocaine smuggling being levelled against Coke? Have the police sought the help of Interpol in getting the relevant information as it relates to Coke's activities? Where else in a well-ordered, transparent society could these allegations be made and there be no investigations to determine the truth?

It is time for collective introspection and a re-evaluation of what kind of society we want to live in and bequeath to generations to come. We need a country that is safe for law-abiding citizens and one that is hostile to criminals.

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