Thursday, May 29, 2008

Déjà vu

In recent weeks Jamaica has been seeing significantly increased number of murders. And it seems as if those responsible are getting more brazen. I mean assassinating two policemen in a group carrying high powered rifles in brought daylight, is an indication that the gunmen are fearless. Shooting children and senior citizens also show heartlessness. Assassinating a young lady in the middle of the day in York Plaza, a busy intersection, illustrates their confidence that they will not be caught by the police.

The reaction on the airwaves the day after the murder of the policemen was predictable. The talk show hosts discussed what they thought were the underlying factors, and pointed out to the police that their past actions were partially to blame for what we experience today. And the policemen rejected any blame and vowed to get the cop killers, calling on the community for support.

Leadership inaction
This round of events seems like déjà vu. I am sure that I have heard these sentiments being aired before, and the same reaction from the police. But after a few days we always continue to do the same thing that we have always been doing, so no doubt we will always get the same results, and in the case of crime get worse results as the societal impact gets worse. The question is, in the decades that we have been talking about the rising crime levels, and more so within the last 10 to 15 years, have we done anything different.

The popular response, from the eighties, has been to create special police squads that always seem to have escalated the abuse on our citizens. This no doubt has alienated the citizenry and ended up with them feeling they have no alternative but to protect the gunmen from the police, as they are the sole protectors of their communities. Over the years when we have always complained about rising crime we have seen the corruption in the police force and by public officials increase. We have seen numerous political scandals involved billions of dollars with no solution. We have seen a financial crisis that has cost this country dearly and at the end of it no one has been held accountable. We have seen where children have been left to grow up on the streets without any state intervention to hold parents accountable.

So it is this inaction by our leaders that has resulted in the vicious crimes we see today that not only cost us at least 4% per annum in GDP growth but is the main reason for the deterioration in the quality of life of Jamaicans. Even children have to be careful traveling on the roads, as we never know when they will be killed for a cellular phone or no reason at all. And the commissioner (Lewin) is correct; this monster of crime is not going to go away over night. We have spent years of neglect and poor governance encouraging the sowing of the crime seeds, and now it is beginning to bear fruit. In fact Jamaica has become known as world leaders in the production of crime, as we have killed the manufacture of goods and services.

The high incidences of crime today was predictable and only leads me to conclude that our leaders lack the ability to see the consequences of their actions or just plain do not care about Jamaica. I have always held the view that Jamaica is seen as a place to be plundered, and that this view has been carried on in the tradition of Henry Morgan and his pirates. Today the pirates do not travel in ships but comfortably in expensive cars. I believe that this is the view of our leaders as I do not believe that even the most ignorant of us could be stupid enough not to see the societal effects of ineffective leadership.

Three generations lost
So the actions of our leaders and lack of development as a consequence has resulted in the neglect of around three generation of youngsters that have been educated in various methods of committing crime. This is at the heart of the problem. For years we have been speaking about the marginalization of our young men. We have seen where females form around 70% of the university enrollment. Doesn’t that raise questions about what was happening to our young men and wasn’t it enough to spur our leaders into action. It seems not. Instead the focus of our politicians has been on winning elections at all costs.

I really do feel it for the poor Jamaicans of this country that have suffered under the inadequate leadership offered by power hungry politicians. Jamaicans have always been known world wide as a warm and friendly people and poor leadership has turned the image of Jamaicans into a vicious bunch of murderers. It is time for us to really start to put people and Jamaica first. It is time for us to start acting responsibly in our governance, and when appointing people to positions or taking decisions, to do so in the best interest of Jamaica, not because someone is a political supporter. But even if we want a political supporter make it one that is capable of doing the job. We must ensure that everyone is treated the same and that no one is above the law while the rest of us mortals have to abide by it. It is time for a new dawn in Jamaica, and this is a passion I have. I long to see the day when Jamaica takes its rightful place in the world, as we have so many talents and competitive advantage.

And this is the reason why I said last week that I am relying on the characteristics displayed by Bruce Golding. I am encouraged by some of his actions and comments about equality for all. I am encouraged by his resoluteness for a better Jamaica and I hope that he continues on this path as I really do believe that this is one of the last chances we have as a country. Past leadership has failed us and some should never see it fit to offer themselves for public office again and act as if now that they are no longer in governance (and I speak not only of the last administration) that they now have the answer to what over decades they have not been able to resolve. I can never understand why Jamaicans believe these utterances.

Some people have written to say that I should pronounce that I am an advisor to the government, to put my comments in perspective. This view is nothing but a continuation of the tribal way in which we view things, as because someone may wear a certain colour, at a point in time, we shoot the messenger rather than look at the message objectively. Then again many do not have that ability, but I do understand the request in the context of the environment we live in. Irrespective of our views I think we can all agree that if nothing is done about this crime monster it is going to consume everything positive about Jamaica, and no practical economic projections or development can take place in this environment. But the change to dealing with this must start with leadership.

Passport office
On another note, I visited the passport office recently to renew my passport and was pleasantly surprised. The system of service was very efficient and the people there were very helpful. It was not like many other government offices where you could be falling down and no one comes to your rescue. These people were very attentive to their “customers” and always had a smile. The process was seamless and painless. In fact when the automated system called my number (322) a lady came up at the same time and said she had 317 and that her number came before mine. I withdrew to the side as the cashier said to her that “in here 322 comes before 317”, which reinforced in my mind that they were committed to following the system that was in place. This is indeed refreshing in a country where there is no respect for rules. Respect to the passport office, whose administrators should help some other places that are excellent at PR but very poor in service.

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