Un­fair Amnesty

Jamaica Gleaner - - ARTS&EDUCATION - Orville Tay­lor

OUR OP­PO­SI­TION leader had a flash­back to the days when ‘no gyal, no bwoy’ couldn’t test her, and in a mo­ment of fury is­sued a stern warn­ing that she will re­turn to the con­stituency of NE St Ann and won’t go alone.

Of course, I imag­ine that she will be re­turn­ing like Ter­mi­na­tor/Com­mando Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, but in the com­pany of her body­guards and the Fresh Prince, P.J. Pat­ter­son, and, per­haps, Michael Man­ley’s ghost to re­store peace and loy­alty to the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP). One is free to spec­u­late about who she would ‘carry’.

On the other hand, a re­cently re­leased YouTube video showed Daryl Vaz, a se­nior of­fi­cer of the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP), in such an an­i­mated style, he could be eas­ily called a tai­lor, as he cut cloth when pro­voked to wrath. This he did in pub­lic, and un­like my Olympian friend who, lead­ing up to the last gen­eral elec­tion, ran a re­lay of ex­ple­tives and al­most blew it on the third leg.

It is re­ported that it is an old video of Vaz that has been res­ur­rected. How­ever, like the decade-old tape of Don­ald Erika Gue­vara-Rosas, Amer­i­cas di­rec­tor at Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, speaks to jour­nal­ists dur­ing last Wed­nes­day’s launch of Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s new re­port into the im­pact of po­lice killings on fam­i­lies. Be­side her is Ho­race Levy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ja­maicans for Jus­tice.

Trump boast­ing that he can do what­ever he wants and grab JL, PN and any other Ps, it sim­ply puts into fo­cus the im­por­tance of peo­ple run­ning for of­fice recog­nis­ing that their pub­lic ut­ter­ances haunt like stale sar­dine on one’s breath.

More­over, speak­ing of ghosts, we know that ‘duppy know who fi frighten’, be­cause, ap­par­ently, our Ja­maican lead­ers in both elected and bu­reau­cratic of­fices can eas­ily be seen by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as fa­cil­i­tat­ing law­less­ness, and in par­tic­u­lar,

hu­man-rights vi­o­la­tions. Worse, we have na­tion­als who are hell-bent on giv­ing the worst pic­ture of their coun­try, even as they com­fort­ably live here.

Now once more, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has turned to its Caribbean beat­ing stick, Ja­maica, and points to the thou­sands of al­leged po­lice-per­pe­trated mur­ders. Per­haps since the Amer­i­can dol­lar is worth more than 129 Ja­maican bills, there is the be­lief that there is in play an­other form of math­e­mat­ics as well.

Ac­cord­ing to Erika Gue­vara-Rosas, Amer­ica’s di­rec­tor at Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, “Ja­maica’s shock­ing cul­ture of fear and vi­o­lence is al­low­ing po­lice of­fi­cers to get away with hun­dreds of un­law­ful killings ev­ery year. Shock­ing in­jus­tice is the norm.” She should check the num­bers.

While I would has­ten to ad­mit that there is, in­deed, a like­li­hood that Ja­maican po­lice of­fi­cers do en­gage in ex­tra­ju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tions, it is ex­tremely disin­gen­u­ous to im­ply that there is a cul­ture of im­punity. In­deed, there has been a con­sis­tent pat­tern of re­duc­tion in po­lice killing of sus­pected crim­i­nals/civil­ians over the past six years or so. Whether our In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion of In­ves­ti­ga­tions (INDECOM) or the Po­lice High Com­mand wants to take credit for it is ir­rel­e­vant. What mat­ters is that the Ja­maican au­thor­i­ties have been mak­ing sus­tained ef­forts to im­prove com­pli­ance with their UN-crafted Use of Force Pol­icy, and there has been suc­cess.

VI­O­LENT SO­CI­ETY

Yet, we have to ad­mit that Ja­maica is a vi­o­lent so­ci­ety and has one of the high­est homi­cide rates in the world. Worse, it has a po­lice homi­cide rate that is more than four times that of the pop­u­la­tion. For all the crit­i­cism of the Ja­maican se­cu­rity forces and the strong like­li­hood of killer cops in their midst, an av­er­age of 11 po­lice of­fi­cers were mur­dered each year be­tween 2000 and 2014. So, it is not a mere de­bate as to whether the Ja­maican cops need to use deadly force to pro­tect the pub­lic and them­selves.

Of course, the sus­pects/ vic­tims are in­vari­ably armed and, ac­cord­ing to Amnesty, might have planted weapons on them.

Again, I do be­lieve that there are cases when cops do that, but to sug­gest that it is the ma­jor­ity, with­out any ev­i­dence, is reck­less and prej­u­di­cial and sim­ply un­sci­en­tific. Not even INDECOM, with its per­ceived an­tag­o­nism to­wards cops, makes such a claim.

Af­ter all, it is dif­fi­cult to re­fute the ev­i­dence when po­lice of­fi­cers have bul­lets in their bod­ies and corpses that did not come from their ser­vice weapons. Even so, INDECOM’s own ad­mis­sion in its last re­port has been that there has been a mas­sive 50 per cent re­duc­tion in po­lice killings in the past year, even when the na­tional homi­cide rate in­creased.

Nev­er­the­less, with re­gard to the ac­tiv­i­ties of law en­force­ment, we need to jux­ta­pose the deeds of Amer­i­can cops against their Ja­maican coun­ter­parts. As in­di­cated in pre­vi­ous col­umns, Amer­i­can cops have con­sis­tently killed more un­armed civil­ians in the past decade, de­spite the level of threat in the so­ci­ety de­clin­ing; Amer­ica has en­joyed a sus­tained re­duc­tion in homi­cides since the Obama pres­i­dency.

Imag­ine, the head of Amer­ica’s se­cu­rity forces has ad­mit­ted that there has been tor­ture of civil­ian com­bat­ants in the War on Ter­ror. Fur­ther­more, the pres­i­den­t­elect had cam­paigned on the prom­ise to wan­tonly bomb civil­ian fam­ily mem­bers of sus­pected Is­lamic ter­ror­ists. But that is war. Amer­i­can po­lice use meth­ods that would make Pi­late baulk. Tell me un­der what cir­cum­stance a Ja­maican po­lice of­fi­cer can push a 65year-old grand­mother on the ground and hand­cuff her? When do you use pep­per spray on a wheel­chair user? And where is it ac­cept­able to tell a bank teller dressed in his suit to lie on the ground af­ter he is ‘stopped and frisked?’

I am not say­ing that Ja­maican po­lice are fully com­pli­ant, but one needs to recog­nise the ef­forts and ac­knowl­edge the progress. But this is Ja­maica, a coun­try with the 10th freest press in the world; Amer­ica is 41st, and the flip side of that is we ex­ag­ger­ate and high­light the worst about our­selves while ig­nor­ing the in­con­ve­nient pos­i­tives we have made.

Any­way, to­mor­row is our parish coun­cil elec­tions, and our democ­racy is ro­bust. Amer­ica got it in 1966. How­ever, we have had 72 years of uni­ver­sal adult suf­frage and more than 30 elec­tions of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and parish coun­cil­lors. We have never as­sas­si­nated an elected of­fi­cial and we have never had to protest the over­all re­sults of any gen­eral or parish coun­cil elec­tion. Go and vote and make a dif­fer­ence, but no threats or ‘bad wud’. And Amnesty, give us an amnesty nuh!

I

RU­DOLPH BROWN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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