Short-cut draw blood

There is a flurry of coverage available now regarding reports that the JLP-formed GOJ (Government of Jamaica) is considering a program of preventative detention. This is a proposal that has been pushed by Sunday Gleaner columnist Don Robotham for some time, when he was not too busy deriding the capacity of those he regards as “lumpen” to participate in the Jamaican political process. Simultaneously there is a great clamor to revive hanging in Jamaica. “Wi need the death penalty,” its proponents say, “dem a gwaan too bad now”.

I realize that people who are poorly prepared to discuss this situation on merit will resort to dismissing me as someone sitting in a relatively calm America who wishes to lecture Jamaicans about how to solve the crime problem. When coupled with the almost reflexive rejection that some Jamaicans-ayard seem to have of suggestions from Jamaicans-abroad recently, it is an easy and ready gimmick to dismiss the truth of any observer’s comments. The sad news for Jamaicans-ayard is that the situation is not improved by ignoring the truth, regardless of the source of the truth. The gunshots will still continue to fly over and into our heads until we confront the real problems and not the symptoms.

So let us begin with some truths.

There is a clamor to revive the legally sanctioned death penalty in Jamaica. But regardless of the success of this movement, there is and has always been a death penalty in Jamaica. Claudius Massop knew this, he found out there is and has always been a death penalty in Jamaica. Renato Adams knows this, he is sworn to silence. The truth is that ALL Jamaicans know this, even when we wring our hands and speak of ‘extra-judicial’ killings. Only hanging is prohibited in Jamaica, and has been since the UK Privy Court rendered its decision. The firing-squad therefore remains the contemporary method of capital punishment in Jamaica.

As some of us abroad and a-yard clamor for the resumption of hanging, we never ask why the firing-squad is failing us now. But it would be useful to examine the reasons the firing-squad has failed us since these are precisely the reasons why hanging failed us before and will fail us again. The reason is simple – in Jamaica we don’t merely try and convict criminals. We try and convict poor people and the poorly-conected. In too many cases, they have been caught red-handed — being poor! That’s it. The extent of classism in Jamaica is as egregious and entrenched as racism in the American South from the 1860’s to 1960’s. We treat poor people in Jamaica like black people in the American South used to be treated.

There are rich and powerful people in Jamaica who are murderers and rapists. We have no shortage of politicans who are easily implicated in murders, conspiracies to commit murder, bribery, extortion, and racketeering. There are no prosecutions because they are neither poor nor poorly connected.

We are governed in large part by majority-holding silent partners in drug-dealing and gun-running enterprises. There are no prosecutions because they are neither poor nor poorly connected.

Danhai Williams is indicted and charged with fanfare. Danhai Williams is let go for lack of evidence. No prosecutor is fired in the wake of this. A so it go. Kern Spencer is charged with a crime, Kern Spencer continues to sit in Parliament. I will be neither surprised nor indignant when the witnesses we have been told labored on the light-bulb project suddenly get visas and become unavailable for testimony. I will be neither surprised nor indignant when Kern Spencer is let off-the-hook. A so it go. This is the Jamaican way.

Kern Spencer must be free to vote in Parliament, Danhai Williams and Renato Adams must be free to run their respective security companies. A so it go.

Those of us who live elsewhere are surprised to learn that a ongle so it caan go. But the people most insistent that we can’t do anything about the so-called white collar elements of Jamaican criminality are also the most insistent that we need to shoot poor people. These students of the Shoot Poor People School of Crime Fighting are adamant that it is poor people who are the drivers of crime in Jamaica. Yet crime in Jamaica at any level would not be possible without the collusion of the police apparatus and political directorate. Before I am beat up for making that statement, let me point out that PM Golding says it:

“Anybody who gets up and comes to this or any other podium and seeks to deny that politics has not made its own contribution to the crime that we are having, that somebody is not being honest,” Golding told hundreds of delegates attending the diaspora conference.”

Source: Jamaica Gleaner, June 17, 2008

Granted a never dat ‘im did a  sey pon the BBC, but I’ll take it. Quite frankly I fail to understand why the PM has not used the current high crime as a political expedient to force his independent-ombudsman legislation through Parliament by now. So the lecturers at the Shoot Poor People School of Crime Fighting are now embarking on a more polished initiative;  the Lock-Up-Poor-People-Without-Charges Graduate Institute. Like the suspended official death penalty of hanging, and the active unofficial firing-squad this is also a system that will be applied by a judicial apparatus steeped in classism, racism and abuse. Police, with the approval of upper-caste judges, will lock up poor people without charges for the crime of being poor and poorly-connected.

As Vernon Daley points out in this week’s column we have done this before using the Suppression of Crime Act. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

The most convincing argument I can make for why I know the policy of preventative detention of criminals will not be evenly implemented is that the advocates of an evenly applied preventative detention policy would have to make a back-up plan for the lack of a quorum in Parliament after such a program began.

We can complete a thousand crime-plans and a hundred strategic reviews of the police force. Only a justice system and police apparatus that can no longer victimize poor people can pull Jamaica out of the morass it is currently in. We need to stop the gimmicks, nonsense, and short-cuts and begin to prosecute all criminals big and small. That is the only solution, short-term and long-term!

Peter Tosh spoke about equal rights and justice. Given how closely classism in Jamaican is related to pigment and racial identity we can say it another way.

Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior, is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned. EVERYWHERE IS … WAR [CRIME, and VIOLENCE]!

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8 thoughts on “Short-cut draw blood

  1. Look how many years the media, the church and other NGO’s have sat by in silence while the stage was being set for terrorism and outright war. We still don’t want to admit it. As usual, we don’t watch, read and heed trends; our m.o. is to leave everything alone, fast and pray, hold prayer breakfasts and “bawl outs” and wait until some foreign agency cries shame. Then we cry “foul”, tell them to “mine dem own bizniz” and go clean up their own house, and immediately start wringing our hands, looking for solutions and bringing in experts.
    We are a sorry little country, so accustomed to living in disorder, corruption and chaos, that it has become the norm. It will take more than six murders per day to really shake us, for we getting used to that too. With the environment as incestuous as it is, nobody wants to take the chance to tell what they know. You crazy? You could be signing your death warrant. The same cop you speak to could trace your call and arrange to have you whacked!
    But wha’? Jamaica, no problem. No problem, mon. Tourism will be fine, for gunman don’t trouble them.

  2. A very insightful post. I didn’t know about the firing squad business — or maybe I chose to block it out. I think the latter. But, that piece of information only underscores your point. Yes, we know bout “death penalty”; but we also know bout “firing squad” more intimately, cause that is the method du jour, don’t it? In fact, the firing squads being organized by the private sector and with the acquiescence of the police and benevolence of our MPs seem far more effective than the ones that would take place after the 3-penny opera court case.

    Frankly, I can’t even call this bullshit “classism” anymore. What is happening to us is just way more insidious and sinister. It is an all-out war against poor people, with ever more transparently disgusting arguments, and with ever fewer folks, especially dem one deh a UWI wid dem multisyllable degree, who will stand up and call a spade a spade.

    The SPPSCF has never been too obliging when it comes to details or data. If death penalty has ever had a deterrent effect anywhere in this world (which it hasn’t), once again, Jamaica would have proven that such is not always the case. When smaddy a tek out big gun fi kill smaddy else, yuh tink dem bizness if dem live till tomarrah? The point was made, any t’ree can play after dat. So dem can try heng all dem want, dat n’ah stop nutt’n. Memba seh di gun dem only get bigger when gunman haffi fight gainst an’ bribe police. When di govament start heng, we, being the very entrepreneurial and creative people we are, will just take that a step further: organize a lynch mob in every district and parish, and gi out a medal every National Heroes Day. Somehow, the SPPSCF is convinced that you can either kill all the poor people, or lock them up indefinitely and randomly in horrible conditions so dem can kill dem one anodder. Never mind that such methods are inhumane, unjust, barbaric and profoundly anti-democratic. Germany didn’t get away with it, Russia didn’t, the US hasn’t, and no, neither will Jamaica.

    The most important point that you make and which I think requires some close attention and doing some name-calling – again, and again, and again – is the extent of white collar crime and its links to all the homicidal madness that the media love to report. We never call the behavior of the Kern Spencers et al. what it is — a CRIME against the people of Jamaica — and its time we started bawling out, bringing the evidence, and demanding real justice, not this bullybeef foolishness.

    The amount of money, time and resources that are lost while these blinking MP’s are trying to cover up their shit-crusted asses is REAL.

    The amount of resources and energy that are being used to concoct debased policies designed to harm and disenfranchise us, and to divert and deep-six attention from the real concerns of the society is REAL, and they should be held accountable for the abuse heaped on all of us.

    Meanwhile, I think we need to completely reject the terms of the current debates about “crime and violence” and refuse to wait for the mass media to tell us what to think.

    God, do we need a revolution in this society!

  3. Classism, elitism and (nominally) racism have always run Jamaica, as in slavery days. So what else is new? Those who get promoted to the Great House feel it becomes their sacred duty to keep the damned uppity field slaves (today’s poor and poorly-connected) in their place. Out of Many One People? Yeah, right, and still cryptic! Like guaranteed human rights for all.

    The last two Commissioners of Police flatly stated that the country could not improve while widespread corruption continued in the police force. Now both have since completed their terms leaving that nasty element intact and expanding. The latest police study just released (like the Meeks Commission on the PNP) admits of deep-rooted corruption and flagrant crookedness in the Force. Is this another nine-day wonder soon to pass? Leaving the same-old same-old? Any bets?

    But why do we vent our indignation in hand wringings and useless “bawl-outs” like this blog? I call on those hundreds of thousand Jamaicans who are moved to rescue this Rock yet don’t know what to do, to start by signing an on-line “white paper” which with growing support can be transformed into a forceful demand with backative for appropriate “action — or else”.
    Email me your response.

  4. Short cut draw blood is a very timely and interesting post,especially,in light of the feverish advocacy of the death penalty now in vogue.Indeed, the legalized sanction of the death penalty,i.e., hanging,is definitely not the answer,or, supposedly,the panacea to Jamacica’s astronomical murder and homicide rates.The agitated and fanatical championing for the resumption of hanging is a knee-jerk one, on the part of a considerable number of people in the society and in the diaspora,including the so call Shoot Poor People School of Crime Fighting (SPPSCF).And, if resumed will not necessarily result in a decrease of homicide,or,be a form of deterrent.Interestingly,for some elements within various quarters of Jamaican society, hanging is perceived more as a form of revenge,to inflict punishment in a manner of seeking vengeance or retaliation as opposed to deterrence.Notwithstanding,as you rightly contend and assert,the death penalty has existed for years in the form of firing squads with their summary executions carried out against murderers, and even with the excessive and high incidence of extra judicial killings on the part of the agents of the State,with respective political directorate in acquiesence and conforming to such acts,the murder rate and crime in general has not decreased in any significant manner or form.On the contrary,the inverse has actually occurred.The crime rate,including rates of murder has increased exponentially over the last three decades.Consequently,one is hard pressed to comprehend why the legal proceedings with respect to legal execution will be a deterrence.Interestingly,the firing squads are more efficient in terms of both time and cost to the taxpayers and this has not resulted in a form of deterrence. That Jamaican laws and jurisprudence are not uniformly and evenly applied with respect to social class,race,education,political,social and genetic connection is an empirical and established fact.Had Jamaican laws been applied uniformly and evenly historically, with regard to individuals breaking respective laws and ordinances, as opposed to being applied only to the marginalized elements of the society,the incidence of crime would be far less than what is now being experienced.Jamaica is now at the abyss or unfathomable chasm, and it is full time that as a society and a people, that we come to the stark realization that their are vertical and horizontal linkages between the respective social classes,where some members of the respective gated garrisons uptown are sponsors of crime and violence which transpires in the marginalized garrisons,somewhat akin to the politically clientilistic nature of the body politic, and are inextricably linked in various and sundry crimes,such as drugs,gun running,extortion,murders, inter alia.It is full time that the white collar architects of crime from the uptown garrisons be named, it is full time that the links be exposed,it is full time that all the kleptocrats be exposed.It is full time that all the incestuous relationships be exposed.And it is full time that Jamaican jurisprudence be applied uniformly and evenly across all social strata of the society. In doing so,this will be the first step in reclaiming our beloved country.

  5. We should not speak about people in such a forum, especially without them being in front of us to defend themselves. I happen to know Danhai Williams very well. I spent many of my formative years in his home, I know him to be a man devoted to his family and an upstanding citizen who taught me very valuable life lessons. How easy it is for us to throw stones from brittain. Why don’t you go home and have a chat with the man.

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