Nation On the Brink: Take Off or Fall Off?

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Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror…for without victory, there is no survival. — Winston Churchill

The press towards creating the new Jamaica must be maintained as our primary focus. We must allow the view of a First World, first-class island with all able citizens producing for the national economy in a violence-free environment to permeate us with hope. We must allow that vision to inform our actions (personally and nationally) toward achieving same. We must do these things while we deal with the immediate crises and needs to keep our progress going and our prosperity in view.

I believe it has become crystal clear to all of us that prevailing conditions, caused and perpetuated by the seeds sown yesterday, have to come to an end now! New seeds must be sown now to give any hope of a better tomorrow.


We must never forget!

We must cease being a ‘nine-day wonder’ society. Our national tendency has been to cry out and show disgust in the immediate aftermath of situations like the gruesome killings of Yetanya Francis — the teenager from Arnett Gardens — and Arnie Francis, general manager of Alliance Finance Limited. Shortly thereafter, our national conscience seems to forget it and return to business as usual until the next case arises.

I challenge you to visit the Secret Gardens Monument, located at the intersection of Church and Tower streets downtown, or check the archives of a newspaper like this to help yourself understand how easily you’ve forgotten some gruesome and awful crimes committed against precious children and productive adults in this Jamaica, land we love. We can name a few over the years.

Do you remember the:

• awful murder of a mother and two babies in Tower Hill in July this year?

• gruesome murder of a British couple killed; their bodies burnt in Mount Pleasant, Portland, in June?

• horrifying murder of Stanley McLean, a young man of unsound mind, deliberately and systematically chopped to death by a family of five, led by the mother of the family in Claremont, St Ann, in November last year?

• shocking murders of two American missionaries (48-year-old Randy Hentzel and 53-year-old Harold Nichols) in 2016 in St Mary with indications that the men suffered gruesome deaths?

• the 100 Lane massacre?


Those are just a small drop in a torrent of unbelievable killings. Yet nothing is done, nothing changes, the conditions only worsen, it seems.


We must never get comfortable

The powers that be condemn the actions. They sometimes utter promises, but nothing happens to deal with root causes and break the ongoing, seemingly never-ending cycle of murder each year. Why? Are there some of us able to stop the insanity but who have such a high stake in the root reasons of our murders that it’s unprofitable for us to stop? Or is it now beyond our control?

We cannot be content in our current condition.

I mentioned in an earlier column that righteous indignation will not allow me to remain content to live with these conditions in our nation anymore. The majority of our people are suffering under the unbearable oppression. They have no voice. Those who should be championing their cause, such as the Church, the political representatives, and non-government organisations who have taken on this charter are silent, or at best intermittent in our responses. Consistent and increasing pressure has to be brought to bear from all angles on the individuals and organisations best able to halt our crime and violence issues.

Consistent and increasing collaboration must take place to halt our crime and violence problem. This must take place with renewed energy before what’s undesired by us all becomes inevitable for us all. We are too close to ‘the cliff’. When this close to a cliff, one must decide to take off or fall off!

The apparent gains we seem to be making in some areas of the economy and the slowing down of the murder rate will quickly erode and stifle further growth without urgent transformational approaches. These approaches must get to the heart of the social problems and negative behaviours that have become endemic to our particular crime and violence issues.


We must paint the vision!

There is no question that the nation can be transformed provided it is rallied around a shared vision of the new Jamaica. It is of little value for the vision to be only in the mind of a few of us leaders and not clearly articulated to spark the imagination and inspire hope in every Jamaican. So to all opinion leaders everywhere, on political, pastoral and musical platforms; in the printed press and broadcast media, let’s paint the vision until we all see the beautiful new-era Jamaica manifest!

We all know instinctively what the new Jamaica should be. It must be a place where we all feel safe and secure to produce and contribute to our national economy with the assurance of good returns and the gratification of excellent treatment by all with whom we come in contact.

Can’t you see it? Yes! Our Jamaica; the place to live, work, raise families, and do business.

There should no longer be any need to point to Singapore or Luxembourg or Sweden or Norway. Let them look this way Jamaica!

Let’s us be reminded that people are not moved to take committed, sustained action by programmes. They are motivated by a vision in which they can see their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and a secure future for their children. Where does such a vision currently lie? Let it lie in you and me!

The new Jamaica vision cannot simply be allowed to be tied up in a party manifesto at election time. Not only can the national crisis not wait for that but it must transcend a partisan approach and embrace a united national expression no matter the party in power. I hope our political parties, one who conferences this week and the other in a few weeks time, consider this.

Our crime and violence child, now an overgrown giant of a lad, must never again find a supportive parent on either side of the political aisle. Neither should there be encouraging siblings and cousins found in our private sector. He must neither be seen anywhere in the vision of our new-era Jamaica nor find a place in its implemented reality.


We must change the scale

The vision of the new Jamaica should be the common, constant rhetoric coming from the mouths of our political leadership on all sides. Fully supported by the leadership of all sectors, all strategic planning should be guided by it. Governments should be graded by it.

It is seemingly lost on most modern post-colonised cultures what was an accepted fact and norm of earlier times. A Government’s success was graded by its first and primary responsibility — that being the defence and protection of its people — then its delivery of justice for all in its borders, and last facilitating a robust environment for the wealth creation of its citizens.

We have, since Independence, evaluated and graded our governments on the false notion of a few programmes implemented and some infrastructure development, which ought to be natural supportive elements expected in the normal course of a Government’s duty. Providing access to simple accessories (water and electricity) and creating infrastructure development (roads and communications) should be nothing for a Government to be tooting its horn about. Ahhh, but such was the nature of the underdeveloped backwaters in which our colonial masters kept us that when we were finally given the perception of self-rule, any improvement was applauded as significant. We were that defeated as a people.

In my opinion, if we returned to the original and fundamental grading criteria used, in spite of all the chest beating of all Jamaican governments of the last 40 years, none could be considered successful. Certainly, without fear of contradiction, none in the last 25 years would dare even claim a passing grade, as crime and violence has dominated our landscape leaving our people unsafe.

No leading party has been able to adequately protect its citizens. Injustice and poverty runs like a river. It seems only 10 per cent, or less, of the population reap any real benefits.


The greatest challenge

This makes defeating the crime giant and injustice the greatest challenges of our new-era prime minister. If history is to record him and his Government any real measure of success they must be tested against the original intended purpose of a Government. Therefore, the Government cannot sidestep a frontal attack on the crime giant. The Opposition ought to keep it in focus and support every effort in this direction. The fact is both parties have failed miserably on this central issue. In fact, together they created the base of the problem; hence, together they must resolve it with the support and oversight of the Church and civil society.

The national dilemma demands the matter be addressed now. Our political leaders must hear and take us seriously. We, the people, will not hold you guiltless if you do not effectively tackle the crime giant. We will forgive the mistakes of the past, especially if you ask for it, but we will not excuse your current inaction or cosmetic action that cannot produce real change now that we are making plain your primary responsibility and our expectation.

We will all help. Plus, we are willing to help you solve the mess you deliberately birthed so that it can be better for us all. We will not forget or allow it to be forgotten at the next ballot. The crime giant must be defeated now.

I shared in the column titled ‘We can destroy this giant of crime and violence’, published on Tuesday, September 4, 2018, a practical suggestion on how it can be done. I will not relent until we act beyond the failed attempts to date.

I suggested beginning with applying the ‘Fresh Start’ principle and approach. If there is no better workable idea that levels the playing field to create change then what I have posited must be seriously considered. If it cannot work, let the political parties say why.

My extensive, on-the-ground experience says it can work, but it needs those with the political will and love for country. Most of us, and I speak for most church leaders, will help the process. It is our collective problem needing a collective solution.

The nation is facing a crisis which must be treated as such. The nation is on the brink, either to take off to greatness or fall off in the abyss of social and economic collapse, chaos and social anarchy — imagine our beautiful country breaking up into pockets or areas run by autonomous leaders whose authority is enforced by violence.

Fast, corrective action is necessary. There are a few who may have no interest in our Jamaican take-off; for they may see personal advantage to the fall off the precipice.

Mister New-Era Prime Minister, the eyes are on you, the ball is in your court as our leader. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” Such are the challenges of leadership. The future of our children and national destiny will be determined by the decisions made in this season.

We must now decide ‘take off’ or ‘fall off’, which will it be? Leaders and citizens, what’s your verdict?’

Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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