Mur­der­ing our future

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

This is an opin­ion piece by Pub­lic The­ol­ogy Fo­rum, a coali­tion of church lead­ers and other in­ter­ests.

THE OUT­RAGE dis­played by or­di­nary Ja­maicans in re­sponse to the ver­dict in the Kha­jeel Mais mur­der case is a re­deem­ing sign. The rage that bub­bled up over the mur­der of Ni­cholas Fran­cis on pub­lic trans­porta­tion for his ‘banger’ cell phone is a re­deem­ing sign. Per­haps.

Maybe this out­rage and anger is more than mere emo­tional over­flow, but re­flects a deep sense of hav­ing been wronged. Wronged on two counts. In both cases, two promis­ing young men had their lives stripped away by cal­lous and un­car­ing per­sons who ap­peared to value ma­te­rial things – to wit, a BMW X6 and a cheap phone and watch – more than their lives.

Sec­ond, in the case of Kha­jeel Mais, out­rage was felt be­cause the jus­tice sys­tem was seen once again to have failed ‘the lit­tle man’ or, in this case, the lit­tle young man, his fam­ily, his school com­mu­nity, and Ja­maicans, in gen­eral.

The Ja­maican peo­ple still know when what is done is wrong. Ja­maican peo­ple have been wronged at sev­eral lev­els, and it is taken for granted that they are used to be­ing wronged. It is be­lieved that sophistry can be used to dull their moral sen­si­bil­ity.

They connect this Mais mat­ter to mat­ters aris­ing from our history in which there has been the mis­car­riage of jus­tice when ‘lit­tle peo­ple’ are the vic­tims of ‘big peo­ple’. In these mat­ters, when the courts are called upon to ad­ju­di­cate, wrong­do­ers are of­ten not made to pay be­cause the sys­tem may be sub­verted.


Calls for the use of tech­nol­ogy to cap­ture wit­ness state­ments will only go so far. There will be di­min­ished faith in the jus­tice sys­tem un­til we can pre­vent it from be­ing un­der­mined or cir­cum­vented by per­sons with wealth and power (even the power of the gun), or through in­tim­i­da­tion of wit­nesses, or by poor or un­der-re­sourced polic­ing and pros­e­cut­ing.

Per­haps even cor­rup­tion, of which other cases have given strong in­di­ca­tion.

Some or all of these may have been present in the Mais case. Fur­ther­more, how could a sus­pect be al­lowed to ig­nore re­quests for a weapon to be turned over to law en­force­ment?

Be­yond this, the en­tire saga has high­lighted some im­por­tant lessons that must not be missed. There is a les­son about the way the value of hu­man life has con­tin­ued to be eroded in the so­ci­ety. There ap­pears to be lit­tle rev­er­ence for hu­man life, so we can take the life of a hu­man be­ing for flimsy rea­sons. The in­ci­dent that led to the death of Kha­jeel Mais was a mi­nor mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent. It was a mere scratch, al­beit on an ex­pen­sive mo­tor car. Cer­tainly a hu­man life is worth more than that.


The ver­dict in this case has done noth­ing to re­mind us of the sanc­tity of life. If any­thing, ev­ery day there are new in­ci­dents like the mur­der of Ni­cholas Fran­cis that tell us that the lives of our chil­dren are not worth more than a cell phone.

The out­rage at the mis­car­riage of jus­tice is one thing, but have we found ways to ex­press our sol­i­dar­ity with the fam­ily of Kha­jeel Mais who have lost a son, so sense­lessly and so

cru­elly? Where are the ex­pres­sions of sol­i­dar­ity? What ges­tures may we of­fer to memo­ri­alise their mur­dered son, or as­suage their grief?

Per­haps we learned from the Mais case, as the out­pour­ing of grief, anger and sol­i­dar­ity ex­pressed to­wards the Fran­cis fam­ily and the Ja­maica Col­lege com­mu­nity was heart-warm­ing. There is too much blood spilt in this so­ci­ety for which no atone­ment has been made and too many dead go un­mourned.

The Ja­maican so­ci­ety has to find ways to re­store the value to life and in­di­cate a se­ri­ous­ness of pur­pose in hold­ing peo­ple ac­count­able for the spilt blood of our brothers and sis­ters.


The other les­son is that too of­ten in our so­cial or­der, as well as in our per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, we al­low our­selves to be in­formed and guided only by what falls within the am­bit of the law, and so is con­sid­ered to be le­gal.

In such a case, those who have both the wit and other nec­es­sary re­sources are quite will­ing to push to the great­est lim­its what they con­sider to be le­gal in or­der to achieve their self­ish ends. This is so with­out the slight­est care that what they are do­ing might not be mo­rally right, hon­est or just. This, too, un­der­mines the well-be­ing and wel­fare of so­ci­ety, and puts peo­ple at a se­ri­ous dis­ad­van­tage.

It is far too fre­quent a prac­tice for peo­ple to de­clare that they have done, and are do­ing, noth­ing il­le­gal, when what they have done, and are do­ing, put a whole sec­tion of the com­mu­nity at a dis­ad­van­tage, not the least, the poor and al­ready dis­ad­van­taged. This is a mat­ter of great im­por­tance.

Too many who are not at all slow to make pub­lic state­ments about ‘the breakdown of law and or­der’ and the gen­eral poor con­duct in the so­ci­ety use le­gal­ity and le­gal­ism to ad­vance their own shady moral ends – ends which, when ex­am­ined care­fully, are truly detri­men­tal to whole­some health of the so­ci­ety.

The other les­son is that the bonds of loy­alty, sol­i­dar­ity and fel­low­ship among us are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ten­u­ous. It would seem that the man­ner in which Kha­jeel Mais came to lose his life should have forged a bond be­tween the taxi driver who drove the ill-fated car and the fam­ily of the slain ju­ve­nile.

If the nar­ra­tive be­fore the court is to be be­lieved, Mais’ death was oc­ca­sioned by the mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent caused by said driver. Who­ever fired the weapon was, there­fore, fir­ing at the car that caused the ac­ci­dent, and it is not un­rea­son­able to be­lieve that they were fir­ing at the driver of the car. If that is so, the bul­let that killed Mais was in­tended for the taxi driver; in that sense, Mais died in his place. Some would say that such bonds were im­pres­sive for their lack of pres­ence in what is con­sid­ered by many to be a be­trayal by the key wit­ness.


Per­haps we do not stand up enough for each other; we do not put our­selves in place of the other enough. It is a virtue fast dis­ap­pear­ing and that is per­haps the great­est tragedy.

What­ever the rea­son it is too easy for us to be­tray the trust of oth­ers and let each other down.

The depth of such be­trayal is fright­en­ingly present in the story of the fa­ther who is al­leged to have turned an M16 as­sault weapon on his own 14year-old son and oth­ers, in­clud­ing the boy’s mother. Then he burnt down the house.

What kind of so­ci­ety pro­duces such mon­strous be­hav­iour? What kind of so­ci­ety pro­duces peo­ple who will turn on those who have died in their place? A so­ci­ety where our val­ues no longer sup­port no­tions of be­ing our brother’s or sis­ter’s keeper! Unen­light­ened self­in­ter­est and lack of moral courage rule the roost. Le­gal shenani­gans and win­ning at all cost will con­tinue to cost us. We will pay dearly as we con­tinue to mur­der our future.

What kind of so­ci­ety pro­duces such mon­strous be­hav­iour? What kind of so­ci­ety pro­duces peo­ple who will turn on those who have died in their place?

Pub­lic The­ol­ogy Fo­rum in­cludes: Anna Perkins, Marvia Lawes, Verna Cas­sell, Doreen Wyn­ter, Chris­tine Gooden-Ben­guche, Burchell Tay­lor, Rich­mond Nel­son, Stotrell Lowe, Gar­nett Roper, Devon Dick, Garth Minott, Ash­ley Smith, Wayne­ford McFar­lane, Gary Har­riott, Stan­ley Clarke, Oral Thomas, Glen­roy Lalor, Colin Steer and By­ron Cham­bers (co­or­di­na­tor). Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­

Kha­jeel Mais

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