Time To Pull Our Heads Out Of The Sand

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When we consider the question of whether Jamaica has lived up to her potential, most, if not all of us would agree that she hasn’t. After 54 years of Independence, are we satisfied with the progress we have made overall? If not, what are we prepared to do about it?

I believe that one of the gravest errors that we may have made is a failure to correctly diagnose the root causes of what we recognise as the major stumbling blocks to fulfilling our national potential. I would like to engage the nation in an enquiry into fundamentals.

What is at the root of the issues we identify today — crime, especially the high murder rate; abuse of our children; corruption and disorder in the society as a whole? If we continue to fail to uncover and treat with the fundamental issues, we will never see the results that we desire.

A nation with the capacity, potential and abilities such as we have ought not to be trapped for so long in this predicament. We must ask ourselves why. We must be prepared to take a long and hard look at ourselves; be honest and face the truth of our state: Many of our major institutions are in appalling condition, the majority of our citizens experience poor quality of life, and a deep feeling of injustice pervades all levels of society.

What’s the issue?

We must stop deceiving ourselves and pretending to be where we are not; stop sugar-coating the bitter realities and be bold enough to call things for what they are; confront the negatives, and make the changes.

We are a nation in crisis, needing radical, out-of-the-box thinking with decisive action to create the change. It should be obvious by now that what we have been doing over decades, and how we have done it, have not produced the desired results. Concepts, methods and, in many cases, personnel, need to change. Fresh minds, different systems, and renewed structures may well be necessary.

Are our leaders insightful enough and do they possess the humility of heart and courage to initiate the change?

We know that crime is a significant problem in our nation. It easily grabs the headlines. On January 22, 2013 the

Jamaica Observer carried an article entitled ‘Crime is Jamaica’s biggest problem’. It was a quote from the then National Security Minister Peter Bunting.

There is much agreement in the nation on this issue. People identify crime as the major obstacle to growth and development in our nation. It has been so for the last few years. Our police force has been stretched trying to fight this monster. Another commissioner has resigned. We are told that he is a good man with integrity, but he was unable to conquer the crime giant. Many are hoping that the problem will be solved with the new commissioner. This is very unlikely because we will continue with the same mindset of the past decades, aimed at fighting crime.

Injustice is the real problem

Crime is an ever-moving, multifaceted target that is difficult to hit. Government and the security forces fail to recognise that crime is not the problem, but the result of the problem. The problem is injustice. Every criminal act is an act of injustice done by someone against another person. Therefore, what we need to focus on fighting is injustice, the stable target that results in crime.

The only way to deal with injustice is to establish justice for all. This was the vision of our founding fathers at Independence, but it has eluded us. The need for justice is the cry from the belly of our people. Let me cite some examples pulled from the headlines:

• The Janice Allen affair: ‘A gross injustice’,

Jamaica Observer, Friday, April 16, 2010

• The Mario Deane case: ‘#JusticeforMarioDeane’,

Jamaica Observer, Monday, September 22, 2014

• The K’mar Beckford matter: ‘A cry of injustice’,

Sunday Observer, May 08, 2016

• Justice expensively delayed: ‘Jamaicans are losing faith in an impotent justice system’,

Sunday Observer, January 08, 2017, written by

Observer columnist Zaheer Clarke.

Consider the words of Anglican bishop of Jamaica, Howard Gregory, though written six years ago, they sound like commentary for today:

“Many of us are hiding our heads in the sand or choosing to pretend that we live in a world in which there isn’t serious distortion impacting the life of our children, much of which is generated by the social injustices perpetrated in the iniquitous way in which our society is structured…” (‘The Keith Clarke Brutality: Confessions of a Bleeding Heart’,

Sunday Observer, August 29, 2010)

It is not beyond us to tackle and overcome our iniquitous problems. It will require clarity of vision in leadership; commitment and will from the political directorate; good governance; a creative and productive private sector; a professional, service-minded public sector; the full support of the citizens; an active, impactful engagement of the church; and you pulling your head out of the sand!

Injustice will only be fixed by justice

The only remedy for injustice is justice. Let us make justice the priority for 2017. Citizens must be taught and committed to just dealings with each other. The police must be committed to dealing justly with citizens — all citizens, not just those with connections! This is vital, as they are agents of the State interfacing daily with the people. If they change their approach, the effects would be immediately felt on the ground. Where justice dominates, crime is minimised.

The reality of the current national conditions, particularly as it relates to security and safety, levels of fear, unemployment, poverty, and hopelessness indicates and demands that the nation not circle the mountain of moral and social decline any more. We must do what is necessary to turn the corner into a new day.

The beauty of a new year is the opportunity it gives for new beginnings. The opportunity is here for our leaders and us to commit to relaying the foundations and to build the new Jamaica we have talked about for years. I believe the heart of the new Jamaica is the creation of a just and prosperous society.

Justice must be our cry!

I strongly urge our leaders to make justice a governmental priority for 2017. I call on us as citizens to make the cause for justice our ‘rallying cry’ for 2017. Let us commit to fulfilling the words of our national anthem: “Justice, truth be ours forever, Jamaica, land we love.”

Copyright © 2017 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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