Of gar­risons, gangs and guns

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Joseph Ed­wards Guest Colum­nist Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

IAM ap­palled at the ease with which crim­i­nals, squat­ters and po­lit­i­cal mis­fits can get away with things in Ja­maica. By now, ev­ery read­ing per­son in Ja­maica knows that the root of our crime stems from di­vi­sive pol­i­tics which has mush­roomed into a car­ni­val of gangs, gun wars and in­for­mal set­tle­ments known as gar­risons.

To iden­tify gar­risons, one only need check with the var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions to see where there is a cob­web of wires in the sky go­ing across the road at­tached to the JPS wires, which then dis­ap­pears be­neath some rot­ten boards or old, rusty zinc fences into what are called yards.

Also, the loud and vul­gar mu­sic be­ing blasted at any time of the day in the pres­ence of all and sundry is another sign; so, too, the cadre of young, able-bod­ied per­sons of work­ing age in the streets all day milling around aim­lessly, with a big ganja spliff in their mouth cor­ner, half­dressed or play­ing domi­noes, bingo or card dur­ing work hours.

Such a shameful sight and blight on this beau­ti­ful nation, but the very ac­tive hu­man-rights groups do not see that! What they see is the per­ceived mis­chief of the po­lice try­ing to rid the so­ci­ety of crim­i­nals and us­ing strong-arm tac­tics, in their view.


Back to the sub­stan­tive mat­ter. So poor are those per­sons, ac­cord­ing to the politi­cians, that they the politi­cians con­stantly sup­ply their ba­sic needs, food and cloth­ing, and when it suits them shel­ter, not to for­get send­ing them to school, giv­ing them Christ­mas treats and, when life is over, bury­ing their dead.

Take, for ex­am­ple, the nu­mer­ous high-rise apart­ment build­ings along Span­ish Town Road made from the Na­tional Hous­ing Trust cof­fers and given as gifts to po­lit­i­cal faith­ful in or­der to main­tain a pool of votes and em­bolden the level and spirit of lazi­ness in these con­stituen­cies. Oth­ers just take a plot of land and call it theirs. How crim­i­nal; but are there sanc­tions? No way!

Can we sur­vive as a coun­try when un­de­sir­ables and men­di­cancy-driven in­di­vid­u­als con­tinue to be bred and cher­ished by those in po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship? One can just imag­ine the sen­ti­ments that are be­ing nur­tured by al­low­ing these per­sons to live free; and if that is not enough, they are then al­lowed to get away, lit­er­ally, with mur­der and rob­bery.

When a crime takes place and the per­pe­tra­tor runs through a few zinced-up al­leys like a rat in a gar­ri­son, he can­not be found again! There is no struc­ture and no proper way or place to po­lice. Hence, gar­risons breed crim­i­nals and crime. Most se­ri­ous crimes re­quire guns, and there is no short­age of them in the ghet­toes/gar­risons. As soon as the po­lice re­move guns from the streets, more seem to fall into crim­i­nal hands. In­deed, the po­lice seem to be fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle, aided and abet­ted by the gar­risons and politi­cians.


Tell me, why should some peo­ple be asked to go to school and do well, get qual­i­fi­ca­tions, work hard, save and buy houses or land and build houses or bor­row monies and re­pay loans un­til they are grey, while another set of par­a­sites in gar­risons are al­lowed to just put up old ply boards, pieces of discarded no­tice boards, rusty zinc, cloth and plas­tic on peo­ple’s land or take over old, aban­doned build­ings? Then, af­ter a num­ber of years, they have the au­dac­ity to present them­selves on tele­vi­sion and to be heard on ra­dio claim­ing own­er­ship and a right to peo­ple’s law­ful prop­erty.

This is a stark re­al­ity that cries out for jus­tice in Ja­maica; squat­ters should be made to un­der­stand that it can­not be busi­ness as usual. Per­sons should be evicted and no amount of tears or num­ber of chil­dren they have should be used as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion not to evict them. It mat­ters not if you lived there one day or 100 years, if it is not yours, it is still not yours! Truth is, if the par­ish coun­cils were do­ing their jobs, that plague called squat­ting would by now be elim­i­nated. Who au­tho­rised these build­ings? Did they get ap­provals? How did they build a whole com­mu­nity/gar­ri­son with­out the knowl­edge of the rel­e­vant author­i­ties?

What of the pre­req­ui­site in­fra­struc­ture like light, wa­ter, and sewer sys­tems be­fore houses were erected? Are there any? If those in­for­mal com­mu­ni­ties/gar­risons were not pro­vided for and the proper sys­tems put in place to ac­com­mo­date them, shouldn’t they be de­mol­ished by the par­ish coun­cils?

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