Time for in­dige­nous re­search, medicine

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Jae­vion Nel­son is a youth development, HIV and hu­man rights ad­vo­cate. Email feed­back to col­umns@ glean­erjm.com and jae­vion@gmail.com. Devon Dick Rev Devon Dick is pas­tor of the Boulevard Bap­tist Church in St An­drew. He is au­thor of ‘The Cross and the Mac

their loved ones who were killed.

Sadly, the families can­not get le­gal aid from the State to pur­sue th­ese mat­ters, while the po­lice get it through state grants to the Po­lice Fed­er­a­tion. As JFJ’s Ad­vo­cacy Direc­tor Rodje Mal­colm ar­gues, “There is some­thing pro­foundly un­just about the state vi­o­lat­ing your rights, then erect­ing bar­ri­ers at ev­ery stage of the re­dress mech­a­nism, then sub­si­dis­ing the rights’ vi­o­la­tor’s de­fence, forc­ing you to pay, then ig­nor­ing you.”

Con­se­quently, un­less we use the in­sight pro­vided by Amnesty’s re­port to ur­gently ar­rest this grave prob­lem, th­ese (and all fu­ture) families still have the deck stacked against them.

We can­not con­tinue to deny such a per­va­sive prob­lem. One won­ders, how can a peo­ple who ve­he­mently protest against in­jus­tice ev­ery day be so op­posed to hold­ing the se­cu­rity forces ac­count­able if they have com­mit­ted un­law­ful killings?


“The strug­gle for democ­racy and hu­man rights in Ja­maica is a strug­gle for life and dig­nity. Un­less we re­move the ves­tiges and bi­ases that arise from the ‘us ver­sus them’ ap­proach, we will fail to see the greater im­pli­ca­tions of the abuses meted out to, and in­jus­tices per­pet­u­ated against, our peo­ple, es­pe­cially those of us who are more vul­ner­a­ble and marginalised, such as those us who are from low­in­come com­mu­ni­ties.”

Think about it, with at least 100 of­fi­cers im­pli­cated and out of ac­tive duty, with lit­tle or no pay, it is also in the coun­try’s best in­ter­est to thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gate th­ese cases, and se­cure jus­tice for those wronged, so that those that can be re­turned to ac­tive duty may do so, con­sid­er­ing over 400 peo­ple re­signed in 2015. Ad­dress­ing the is­sue po­lice killings is a mat­ter of na­tional se­cu­rity.

Like Jack­son, “My great­est wish is that we will, as a na­tion, recog­nise that th­ese re­sults could be averted and work to col­lec­tively al­le­vi­ate them – sav­ing a na­tion on the cusp of per­ma­nent bro­ken­ness.”

IA pro­tester car­ries a plac­ard while demon­strat­ing against the in­tro­duc­tion of bond notes in Harare yes­ter­day. Zim­babwe riot po­lice fired tear­gas to dis­perse scores of ac­tivists protest­ing against the in­tro­duc­tion of a new cur­rency in the cap­i­tal Harare. HAT WAS a Bap­tist prayer,” said Fae Elling­ton, mas­ter of cer­e­monies for the Na­tional Medal for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tions, after I had com­pleted my prayer at the func­tion. By Bap­tist prayer it was a hint at the stereo­typ­i­cal Bap­tist prayer as be­ing long. In­deed, the pro­gramme said ‘Grace’, which means bless­ing the meal, and I did that and more by ask­ing God’s guid­ance on the oc­ca­sion. There­fore, I did add to the length of the al­most five-hour pro­gramme. I should have said, ‘God is good and God is great, let us thank Him for his food. Amen’.

How­ever, us­ing the typ­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of Bap­tist prayer as long, then iron­i­cally, Elling­ton is a Bap­tist MC, and fur­ther­more, the awards func­tion was a Bap­tist awards func­tion. And Ibo Cooper, who did a very good mu­si­cal pre­sen­ta­tion, his 50 years of Ja­maican mu­sic in 50 min­utes, is a Bap­tist mu­si­cian. The pro­to­col which was drilled in me was do not take an as­sign­ment at a func­tion and after I have com­pleted it, leave. How­ever, when I was leav­ing after 11 p.m., I no­ticed that al­most half of the peo­ple had left and the re­sponses from the In­no­va­tor for 2016, Dr Henry Lowe, and the medal­list, Pro­fes­sor Er­rol Mor­ri­son, were not yet done. Sorry that so many per­sons missed the gems that th­ese two sci­en­tific gi­ants would give to the au­di­ence.

Since Dr An­drew Wheat­ley, min­is­ter of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, and his guest, Her Ex­cel­lency Grace Naledi Man­dissa Pan­dor, were on time then the func­tion should have started ear­lier. Fur­ther­more, it is not good to pun­ish peo­ple for be­ing punc­tual. What was ex­cel­lent was that her speech was very early on the pro­gramme, and very good.


Her Ex­cel­lency out­lined what South Africa was do­ing in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy and how South Africa and Ja­maica could co­op­er­ate. And she in­vited our min­is­ter to visit South Africa. She spoke about har­ness­ing in­dige­nous knowl­edge re­sources, and it should not sur­prise Ja­maicans that Lowe, one of our lead­ing sci­en­tists in the use of in­dige­nous moss ball, is al­ready co­op­er­at­ing with the South Africans. Her Ex­cel­lency also pointed out the po­ten­tial use of in­dige­nous knowl­edge re­sources in so­cial co­he­sion. It is a pro­found point, that work in the field of nat­u­ral sciences can lead to so­cial en­gi­neer­ing. She said that in 2004, South Africa adopted the In­dige­nous Knowl­edge Sys­tems Pol­icy, which recog­nised that skills development at grass-roots level needs to equip com­mu­ni­ties for sus­tain­able liveli­hoods and en­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­ni­ties. There is a de­lib­er­ate fo­cus on in­clud­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers, in­dige­nous knowl­edge hold­ers and prac­ti­tion­ers when de­sign­ing and im­ple­ment­ing projects. This is a model for Ja­maica in fa­cil­i­tat­ing or­di­nary peo­ple who know the folk medicine to ben­e­fit from its us­age, pack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing. We need to al­low ru­ral peo­ple to ben­e­fit from their tra­di­tional knowl­edge and have this knowl­edge recorded be­fore th­ese hold­ers of knowl­edge of tra­di­tional medicines die. This ac­tiv­ity could lower our mur­der rate and make peo­ple less likely to en­gage in lotto scam­ming.

It was a stroke of ge­nius by the or­gan­is­ers to in­vite the Ja­maica Folk Singers to give a cameo per­for­mance. This group not only has per­formed in South Africa but its founder, Olive Lewin, doc­u­mented and recorded th­ese folk songs of our el­ders, thereby pre­serv­ing an im­por­tant part of our her­itage. What Dr Lewin did for folk songs and mu­sic needs to be done for folk medicine. We need to in­vest in our hu­man cap­i­tal and un­leash the po­ten­tial of our el­ders and young peo­ple.

Her Ex­cel­lency’s speech was not a Bap­tist ser­mon, but it was much food for thought, which was a bless­ing and a chal­lenge.



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