The ascendancy of anarchy

It was bound to happen. Murderers and violence peddlers of all types are popping up everywhere on the national landscape. Undaunted by the fear of capture, our newly minted gun-toting criminals are no longer waiting on the cover of night to claim their victims. They are now brazenly doing so everywhere in broad daylight – in our schools, our churches, in the supermarkets, at gas stations, in the precincts of police stations and even as we traverse our busy thoroughfares in motor vehicles. The chances of being gunned down anywhere at any time by unknown assailants has never been so high.
Already we have exceeded the 1,000 mark for murders in just eight months. All other things being equal we will be heading to 1,500 by December. And what has been our response so far? More expressions of condemnation by law-abiding citizens. More analyses and commentaries by the academics. More unconvincing repetitions of “we will leave no stone unturned until we find the perpetrator of this dastardly act”, from the police high command. And, of course, more laws and talk of even more laws from our moribund political directorate.
Recognising that it was not enough merely to continue pulling from the old bag of tricks — new laws, states of emergency, special squads, curfews, cordons, insincere calls for divine intervention, obeah man — the current administration decides to add a seemingly structured social intervention component to the mix. “Clear, hold and build” were the new buzz words on which the hastily enacted “Zones of Special Operation” (ZOSO) law would rest.
As it turns out, after almost two weeks in operation, the effort has produced nothing exceptional from Mt Salem, the first named zone — a community of fewer than 5,000 people accounting for seven of the murders committed since the beginning of the year.
With little to show for the “clear and hold” phase (11 kitchen knives and five guns) the success of this venture will depend on the outcome of the “build” phase. Presumably, the security forces have a plan for preventing migrated guns, gunmen and gangs from returning to wreak havoc in this and subsequently named communities once their 60-day occupation comes to an end.
Without such a plan and the deployment of adequate numbers of security personnel to support the simultaneous operation of multiple ZOSOs, this initiative is at risk of becoming little more than an expensive flash in the pan.
In the meantime, the police elsewhere continue to labour under severe pressure trying to keep a lid on the national average of 4 murders per day. At its best ZOSO is a long-term solution and is not likely to convince, at any time soon, our hope-deprived generation of young people that we have an answer to their murderous lifestyles.
We have long telegraphed to them that the right to life is not an entitlement but a scarce commodity only to be enjoyed by the powerful. The gang culture teaches them that they can acquire this power by the number of duppies they can produce, and what easier way to achieve this than with the ownership and wanton use of the gun?
Probably the most telling message, however, is that with all the hustle and bustle to pass new “anti-murder” laws like ZOSO (and before it, the useless anti-gang legislation) we have shown no disposition to use the most tried and tested of them all — the death penalty.
Despite the posturing to the contrary nothing really new has been done since 1988 (the last time a murderer faced the gallows here) to suggest to criminals that there is a high price to be paid for denying others their right to life or that our leaders have a clue as to how to stanch the ongoing bloodletting.
We have become so absolutely “civilized”, even as we viciously murder infants, children and old people asleep in their beds, that no longer is capital punishment ever mentioned in polite circles.
Any remote suggestion that we return to hanging convicted murderers in accordance with law is deftly brushed aside with “But you will first have to catch them!” End of story # 1: no acknowledgement that we do, in fact catch enough of them to make an example of. Or we are shamelessly fed story # 2: “the U.K. Privy Council (our final Court of Appeal) will not allow it” — 55 years after Independence! Or we pull for story # 3: “it’s barbaric for the state to murder its citizens” — without any consideration as to why said state dare not remove this law from its books.
Or enter assorted human rights activists insisting that the death penalty is not a deterrent so forget it. No problem that they are never able to cite Jamaican statistics to support that view. No problem that it is always in reference to some study done in some foreign country where the murder rate is but a small fraction of ours. But those of us who have lived here long enough, during the 1950s to 60s, know that there was a time in Jamaica when the death penalty was being delivered with some efficiency and that the murder rate was then minuscule compared with today’s.
The death penalty is admittedly not the best long-term solution. Social intervention must indeed be a critical part of any lasting solution. But ZOSO, as being currently implemented, holds no promise for the short term. The shock and awe value of the gallows is critically required at this time. Victims’ lives matter too.
Criminals convicted of viciously murdering innocent, harmless and defenceless people should have one option only — whether to exit the departure lounge by the gallows or lethal injection. Regrettably, our shameful murder rate will continue to spin out of control until we send this new message to the perpetrators-in-waiting.
For the time being, we would need put away no more than a half a dozen or so of the vilest convicts to send that game changing message twice every four months for a year.

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