The past week in Kingston’s history will leave us like amputees – eventually healed but never quite the same again. We are using some positive phrases, “tipping point”, “cleansing”, but the words stop in our throat as we count the cost in the body count. We mourn with Claude Clarke the tragic loss of his brother in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity. Meanwhile, the target of this operation is nowhere to be found up to the time of writing.
Who is to blame for this? Is it the 41-year-old “strongman”, nurtured in the lap of a previously impenetrable garrison? Is it the man who took this community from a slum called “Back-O-Wall” to a built-up community where one could only be admitted by lieutenants on guard at its entrances? Could it be Coke’s legal team who did not persuade their client to turn himself in, despite pleas from the police over a four-day period before their eventual operation in Tivoli?
Could it be the church leaders from the community who silently watched the women of Tivoli conducting an illegal demonstration and declaring, “We will die for Dudus”? Oh no. None of these names will be called when Amnesty descends on Jamaica. It will only be the fault of the police.
We are not defending any alleged excesses by the police, but we must never lose sight of the fact that the 73 people who died in Tivoli and its environs last week, would be alive today if only Mr Coke had obeyed the law.
We will sit in our comfortable homes, in our secure air-conditioned studios and lash out at the men who must crawl in dark gutters to protect us. We will sit around our dining tables with our families and pick their procedure to pieces, even as their families wait in trepidation for their safe return home. I have been speaking to some senior police officers over the past week, and they are deeply hurt at the constant bombardment.
Could we spare a thought for Sgt Wayne Henriques and Constable Jason Davis who were ambushed on Mountain View Avenue and slaughtered by criminals, part of the wide offensive launched against the security forces as soon as the warrant for the arrest of Christopher Coke was signed? These were two of our many courageous officers.
The human rights group, Jamaicans for Justice, issued a statement saying,”Our deepest sympathies are extended to the families and colleagues of those law officers killed in the service of their country. The lawlessness displayed in some areas and by some people, since the announcement that the extradition request for Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke would be signed, are utterly deplorable and cannot be tolerated in a free and democratic society.”
We join with JFJ in condemning the lawlessness displayed by marauding gunmen who have attacked several police stations, including one as far away as Salt Spring in St James. We need to understand the depth of cold-hearted brutality to which our criminals have descended.
As I wrote in my blog last Monday, we the church must shoulder a good part of the blame for our nation’s plight. All of us who call ourselves church must ensure that this tragic situation in Kingston never happens again. We need a proactive church to assign watchdog committees in every constituency of Jamaica, as we know that both PNP and JLP representatives have sanctioned garrison politics. We should have teams assigned to the offices of MPs and caretakers alike. We should learn their plans and partner with them to help their constituents to achieve
self-reliance. If they are consorting with gangs, warn them, and if they refuse to stop, expose them. With CAFFE, we must ensure that no politician who is associated with gangs is ever again nominated to run for public office.
Jamaica’s churches and we, their members, are accountable. We are more numerous than politicians and gangs – yet we stood piously by and allowed this to happen to our country.
As Rev Devon Dick wrote, “Let us not blame so much the unnamed woman for the affirmation “Dudus next to God”, but perceive it as an indictment of the church which often engages in cowardice and inaction rather than confronting evil.”
Dr Las Newman, president of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, had warned at this year’s National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, that ” Jamaica is no longer at a crossroads, it is going down the wrong moral and spiritual road … None of us can wash our hands and proclaim our innocence … All of us must accept responsibility.”
Where is the energy, the productivity that Jesus promoted in his parable of the talents?
We are the failures, even as we demand more of our leaders and security forces. We have fallen very short of the righteousness that we profess.
Let the heads of the umbrella groups agree on a list of actions that will ensure that churches engage in an organised and meaningful basis so that by collaborating with our elected leaders, we can deliver prosperity, not harm, to our vulnerable brothers and sisters. We must work to empower them and restore their dignity, so that never again will anyone be able to coerce them to defy the rule of law.
Dr Herbert Eldemire
We have lost a true patriot and visionary in the passing of former Minister of Health Dr Herbert Eldemire. Dr Eldemire served as one of Jamaica’s most dynamic health ministers for the first 10 years of our Independence, establishing the Cornwall Regional Hospital, the School of Nursing and overseeing the introduction of the National Family Planning Programme. He also served as chairman of the JLP from 1967 to 1972.
Dr Eldemire conducted his legendary private practice for over 40 years in Montego Bay and was an avid sportsman with a particular interest in boxing. His daughter, Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, described her father as “an extremely kind and compassionate person”. Our condolence to his beloved family.
About the Writer
Jean Lowrie-Chin heads PRO Communications Ltd, an advertising and PR agency, in Kingston, Jamaica. She is a poet, blogger and columnist for the Jamaica Observer. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in English from the University of the West Indies.