St James – a time bomb

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Peter Cham­pag­nie is an at­tor­ney-at-law. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and peter.cham­pag­ Orville Tay­lor Dr Orville Tay­lor is se­nior lec­turer in so­ci­ol­ogy at the UWI, a ra­dio talk-show host, and au­thor of ‘Bro­ken Prom­ises, Hearts an

The ra­tio­nale be­hind the abo­li­tion of com­mit­tal pro­ce­dures in Eng­land seemed to have been the de­lay for th­ese cases mov­ing for­ward. Iron­i­cally, but per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, our ju­ris­dic­tion has now taken on that which has been dis­carded in other coun­tries where state re­sources are far greater than ours. Sen­si­ble move, in­deed, on our part!

Dis­course to­wards seek­ing to im­prove our jus­tice sys­tem must al­ways be en­cour­aged; how­ever, such dis­course must not be pred­i­cated on any false premise or with scant re­gard for the facts. There must also be fair and re­spon­si­ble jour­nal­ism.

Ad­di­tion­ally, politi­cians should stop play­ing the blame game with the jus­tice sys­tem and con­front the real is­sues.

Fi­nally, it be­hoves all lawyers who prac­tise reg­u­larly within our courts to let our voices be heard on what the real prob­lems are with our jus­tice sys­tem. To re­main si­lent is a be­trayal of the canons of the pro­fes­sion, which im­poses upon us an obli­ga­tion to as­sist in the im­prove­ment of the le­gal sys­tem.

We can­not al­low the dis­cus­sion on our jus­tice sys­tem to be hi­jacked by those who have ab­so­lutely no ex­pe­ri­ence in the sub­ject area of which they speak and care very lit­tle to ac­quaint them­selves with the truth or to be prop­erly ad­vised. This has been a peren­nial prob­lem that has, for decades, im­peded Ja­maica’s de­vel­op­ment.

ICLOSE TO 200 mur­ders in the parish since the year be­gan. De­spite an over­all drop in vi­o­lent crimes in the coun­try dur­ing the pe­riod, the St James Po­lice Di­vi­sion is keep­ing the na­tion on its toes.

A num­ber of very dis­turb­ing videos have been cir­cu­lated, along with the po­lice re­ports. In a yet undis­closed lo­ca­tion, a car with at least three as­sailants pounced on a young man and fired a bar­rage of bul­lets while he was pur­chas­ing petrol. There is a sort of fear­less­ness among th­ese young men who think there is lit­tle like­li­hood of be­ing caught or be­ing pun­ished. Or per­haps, they are so out of love with life that they stare death in the face and sneer. Af­ter all, it is un­think­able that gun­men could dare ply their mur­der­ous trade on Bar­nett Street, just a few me­tres from the po­lice sta­tion.

The po­lice will need all re­sources avail­able to put the fear of God and man back into th­ese young men who are cre­at­ing may­hem in the west. Old, hard polic­ing must be com­bined with deeper co­op­er­a­tion with the ci­ti­zens who know who and where ev­ery sin­gle one of the shoot­ers is. How­ever, the prob­lem in the west is not a po­lice prob­lem; there­fore, the so­lu­tion is not a polic­ing one.


The west – Mon­tego Bay, in par­tic­u­lar – is like in­grown hair that one has ig­nored for too long. How­ever, noth­ing short of se­ri­ous sur­gi­cal in­ter­ven­tion will get rid of the deep pus.

Mon­tego Bay and the tourism north­west rep­re­sent a mi­cro­cosm of all that went wrong with so­cial and eco­nomic pol­icy in this coun­try. On the one hand, there is ev­ery ev­i­dence of eco­nomic ex­pan­sion and cap­i­tal de­vel­op­ment. Doubt­less, with the megac­i­ty­size ho­tels and the jobs gen­er­ated, many were ap­plaud­ing. On the other hand, the ques­tion al­ways arose, how much of this is truly trick­ling down to the masses? It is old de­vel­op­men­tal pol­icy – fo­cus on growth and ev­ery­thing else will fol­low down­wards.

The stu­pid­ity of the trickle-down eco­nom­ics ar­gu­ment is that there is no eco­nomic the­ory that speaks to trickle-down. Cap­i­tal­ist de­vel­op­ment is by def­i­ni­tion an in­equitable process, and the only way wealth trick­les down, es­pe­cially in small, open economies, is for there to be de­lib­er­ate strate­gies for re­dis­tri­bu­tion.

Years ago, in the 1980s when I was an un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dent, in the late ’80s when I was in grad­u­ate school, in the 1990s when I was a doc­toral stu­dent and newly minted PhD, and in the early 2000s, I saw the com­ing cri­sis.


We knew that the west was a para­dox. Yes, we cre­ated in­vest­ments for for­eign­ers, who came in and gen­er­ated prof­its and the tourism prod­uct im­proved, and we counted our vic­to­ries in terms of vis­i­tor ar­rivals. Never mind the neg­a­tive im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, the al­gal growth on the reefs, or the over­all im­pact of the over­whelmed sewage sys­tems.

The prob­lem with the growth-first ap­proach, if it works, is that it puts im­mense pres­sure on the price of goods and ser­vices since a small set of earn­ers are pur­su­ing the same amount of com­modi­ties. Sim­ply put things get dearer, while just a small set of ‘lucky’ work­ers and bosses can af­ford to pur­chase. So, are goods and ser­vices in Mon­tego Bay cheaper than in Kingston, St Thomas, or St Mary?

Then there is the is­sue of de­cent work. One might think that it is sim­ply benev­o­lence, but since 2000, I have been preach­ing about the ev­i­dence that there is a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween de­cent work and the level of worker pro­duc­tiv­ity, as well as con­flict at the work­place and so­cial vi­o­lence. Sup­port­ing re­search and com­mon sense are so clear that sighted peo­ple can read the Braille.

When poor labour prac­tices lead to sub­stan­dard con­di­tions of work and frag­ile em­ploy­ment con­tracts, the per­son who typ­i­cally suf­fers the most is the young subadult male. Thus, when the poor wages or par­ents and house­hold heads can’t deal with the young man who is too un­trained to get a job and not yet ready for univer­sity or col­lege be­cause he didn’t com­plete grade 11, what do you think hap­pens when he gets ‘shub out’?

Well-mean­ing cler­gy­men and other pseu­doso­cial sci­en­tists love to jump on the back of ‘poor fam­ily struc­ture’ chil­dren be­ing born out of wed­lock and yadda-yadda. None­the­less, we have been 80 per cent ‘bas­tards’ since the first slave ships landed here. None of the fam­ily fea­tures has changed dras­ti­cally, and many of the gang­sters have fa­thers.

How­ever, no one no­ticed that youth un­em­ploy­ment was more than twice the na­tional av­er­age in 2000, and we didn’t no­tice that the flag­ship boys’ school in St James, Corn­wall Col­lege, had not fea­tured in the top 40 CSEC re­sults in close to a decade. In 2007, lead­ing up to the gen­eral elec­tion, none of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties put an ex­plicit youth pol­icy in its man­i­festo.

And they act sur­prised. Well, brace for Matthew, not the storm, but the tax col­lec­tor, whose div­i­dends are now on dis­play.

Still, the sil­ver lin­ing is that it has awak­ened the en­tire na­tion and the po­lit­i­cal par­ties are on the same page. It is not too late to fix it, but it takes work and hon­esty.


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