The British are well known for their dry wit, often satirical humour and sayings accompanied by their exaggerated pronunciations. One of these “crime raises its ugly head” is, for us in Jamaica, a complete understatement, and perhaps we need some clarification or re-definition.
Violent crime has various phases and origins, and based on historical events, we may better understand these.
First there are the popular uprisings and rebellions that seemingly pit one sector of the society against the ruling elite who claim governmental authority. Such was the origin of the French Revolution (1789) where the peasants (led by the middle classes) had enough of the King Louis XVI and the infamous Marie-Antoinette. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, were the rallying words and “off with their heads” was the popular phrase for justice delivered. People are killed and sometimes whole governance structures are destroyed.
In the Caribbean the Haitian Revolution against the tyranny of slavery was a coordinated rebellion that became a revolution as it totally overthrew the French Government’s right of ownership. The result was total Independence but they were left with a huge debt burden. This also describes some aspects of the Cuban Revolution. Government and ideology were replaced totally.
In Jamaica we never had either of these (with the possible exception of the partial victory of the Maroons). We have had partial uprisings but have never achieved the full and unconditional removal of the tyrants. The much-vaunted struggles were economic, and the “pseudo victors” continued under the guise of independence and “sovereignty”.
Secondly, there have been civil wars where protagonists may be of the same country but divided by ethnic or geographical regions. The North/South conflict of the American Civil War is a prime example where root causes were the Southern continuity of slavery in the face of opposing Northern Federal opinions. This also had an economic base for the South with their commitment to maintain free labour seen as essential for propping up their inefficiencies.
Scotland, England, and Ireland have had their fair share of monarchy challenges, economic disagreement, and geographic and cultural divides. The Soviet Union fell into the disintegration of geography and tribal histories, albeit after a real revolutionary clash of monarchy and ideology.
Throughout the many examples of the first and second mentioned above there seems to be the constant of tyranny, inequity, classism, and greed. In times of distress there has always been a contrived unity between the political/government regimes and the holders of economic power (for as long as the threat exists). From such false premises/accommodations I would comment “unholy alliances” with the stiff upper lip.
A third scenario is when organized crime takes control of a specific economic zone or industry. This is like Chicago of the “Roaring Twenties” and the latter days of the attempted liquor “Prohibition”. Gang wars were commonplace in efforts to control the illegal (but profitable) trade in areas of the city. The Italians, Irish, Jewish, and Black gangs took the streets, and it took Elliot Ness to restore some order.
Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Las Vegas, and many other cities in the USA have fallen prey to these gang wars of the organized crime syndicates. Contraband, drugs, guns, prostitution, enforcement (protection rackets), have been key identifiers of this “private sector” crime. Legitimate businesses such as ports of entry, contraband shipments, garbage removal, scrap metal, and even trade unions, have been party to the new criminal influences. In addition the corruption of government, city officials and the police has been part of this crime syndicate design.
In Jamaica we have accelerated along a crime highway that has been relentless and recognizes no speed limit. We have escalated from political rivalry; political gangs; sequestered (garrison) communities; exclusion zones; tribal (gang) control; exclusion of government access (postal services, water, electricity, land taxes); and zones of common and brutish practices including their perceived right to wanton murder.
This escalation has been based on rapidly growing independent sources of income that do not embrace the formal economy. Even supposedly legitimate businesses embrace the new order of no company tax and no GCT, and are paying the “alternative government” the monies due to Caesar.
Like every other “nation” the incestuous economics cannot sustain growth, and that leaves two options.
First, population control and the forced reduction of rebellious factions (other gangs), and the removal of their connected parties and offspring (ethnic cleansing) is one strategy. This is perhaps the intention or direction of the least educated who are thrilled to be a part of the important new Gestapo. Their limited ability to move freely across borders has meant that violent abuse, sexual abuse, and other criminal acts have become the “spoils of war” to which they are entitled. They are the storm troopers occupying the portions of the city and their words and actions are law.
Second, the expansion of “inter-regional trade” as a method of local income generation is a growth factor target (like 5 in 4). This requires the merging of the gangs, the scammers, the protection industry and other illegal revenue activities. It means removing all relationships with the Jamaican Government, and declaring the new State of Lawlessness (and perhaps demand a seat in the UN). This could have been a thought of the now incarcerated strategic thinker Dudus.
Having introduced these elements, if you had an examination, how many of the characteristics would you find in the multiple choice section, and what would you diagnose our present condition to be? Please truthfully answer yes or no to these questions:
- Were politicians instrumental in encouraging partisan violence?
- Were politicians instrumental in arming political gangs?
- Were politicians instrumental in establishing garrisons?
- Are politicians now in control of gangs or garrisons?
- Are gangs becoming independent criminal units?
- Are gangs wantonly killing citizens?
- Do gangs respect the police?
- Do gangs respect the Jamaica Defence Force?
- Do gangs wish to overthrow legitimate government?
- Are gangs executing a deliberate and coordinated strategy?
If we are in an undeclared war, then we need to formally accept and ratify this and retaliate in the war mode. Persons with guns and ammunition are presumed to be the enemy, and are either shot on sight or, if they surrender, they go directly to prison camps. There would be no need for lawyers or protectors of civil rights as these are not applicable during a declared war. The ultimate goal would be the full surrender of the “enemy” and an unconditional handover of all weapons. This is a job for soldiers.
If we are deemed to be in a civil war then there needs to be an identification of the combatants. Are they like the Basque Separatists, the IRA, the FLA, or other similar groups who wish for separation from the current State? They then become specific enemies of the State and require a different approach than a declared war. The control strategies require significant intelligence and surveillance of both an overt and covert nature. Today that means undercover infiltration, street cameras, drones, and possibly satellite imagery. This definition allows for the participation of lawyers and a monitoring of human rights.
The third state of criminal takeover of sections of the country with the clear intention of spreading their areas of influence follows the Gangs of New York and Chicago that have been highlighted in many Hollywood movies. These required the intelligence gathering previously mentioned. In addition, the acceptance that the police may be or are corrupt required the transfer of investigation and action to the FBI, the Treasury, and specific vice squads in the USA.
Plea bargaining in this scenario is not simply an admission of guilt for a reduced sentence. It is a negotiated position for an agreement to provide information and testimony in furtherance of the arrest of other gang members in exchange for security for their families and themselves. Also, release should require the attainment of appropriate educational standards (7 CSEC, 5 CAPE, a university degree) depending on the previous base of the confessed criminal.
In terms of forging alliances the active support of the private sector and civil society is a requirement. Calling out for government to do something is not enough. When private companies prefer to pay protection money instead of GCT it is an unacceptable action. Controlled shooting is not the same as a peaceful community.
The current situation has evoked seeming support from tourism and other sectors. Let me remind us that the rapid growth and success of our vaunted all-inclusive hotels are as a direct result of the need to protect tourists in their own “garrison” environments in exchange for a tax free status that lasts for decades. Therefore they put no money in the government coffers for fighting crime (not even via import duty).
That being said, they have called for the protection of the local citizens as these often include their employees. They need to choose between law and order and a criminal growth that will soon invade their hallowed walls.
Manufacturers and exporters need to decide to become a part of the fight, for if criminality affects the ports and airports soon all travel and shipping will be affected, and we will indeed become an isolated nation. Lawyers will have no work as matters will be settled “out of court” by criminal decree or murder under the aegis of the gang leaders.
The unarmed and peace-loving human rights groups will cease to exist through intimidation and even more direct violent action. Political parties, politicians and their families will not be safe and soon their own blood will run in the streets like the ordinary citizen. Churches will only operate under the “patronage” of the new order rulers.
It is a time for re-definition and a subsequent decision about law and order, and the taking of sides in the fight for good over evil. This is our challenge, a type of moral referendum where everyone has to participate in the voting.