The means cannot become the end without a serious possibility of the condition of a National Security State emerging — with the permanent suspension of rights, often of some more than others, especially of those who have always been the disadvantaged or the least concerned about in actuality over time. This is not something to be scoffed at when security is made the highest good by devaluing true liberty in the process. This is so while rhetorical commitment is still being made to true liberty as excuses are being made for its ongoing demotion to security.

—  (Public Theology Forum Jan 2020)

The position paper of the PTF that the trouble with the ends justifying the means is that if the means persist too long, the means become the ends has proven to be prophetic.

I was recently confronted by this reality of how victims are being made, not merely of the people whose rights have been suspended but also of the law enforcement personnel who are called upon to implement the State of Public Emergency. Policemen and policewomen are literally dropping like nine-pins. Their family life has been put under great stress, their finances have been depleted and many are succumbing to lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease — and made worse by the extended hours of their deployment over a protracted period of time. Even members of the JDF, who are typically more fed and watered than are the members of the JCF, have begun to make their complaints publicly known.

It is time to review the extended use of the SOE if for no other reason that it is starting to do irreparable damage to the health and well-being of members of the law enforcement team.

I would like however to share an anecdote that was brought to my attention recently about what the SOE looks like from the point of view of those whose liberty and rights have been taken  away. Someone close to me called a few days ago to inquire about to whom she may make a complaint on behalf of the relative of a co-worker who has been detained by the police and who has been told that her detention could last for a period of 90 days. I agreed to listen to the complaint from the relative who told me that her sister had been detained after she went to the police station to report that she had seen a man with a gun chase her son and she did not want her son to be killed so she went to the police to get their help. 

In response, the police detained her sister and her sister’s daughter who had accompanied her mother to the police station. She told me that she has gone to the Cambridge Police station where her sister is being held and she has been told that her sister will be detained for period not exceeding 90 days.

I find myself in a period of heightened sympathy for the police, so I believed that there were details missing, because what she told me was exceedingly preposterous. I called the Cambridge Police Station myself to inquire whether or not they had a person in their custody in the name I was given for the sister of the complainant. The corporal of police who answered the telephone confirmed that there was such a person in custody in that name and that she was detained under the powers of the SOE (which means she could be held for 90 days as the lady had alleged). She, however, said that she was not the arresting officer and therefore could not confirm the circumstances under which the lady was detained. She gave me the name of the DSP who was the arresting officer and who was stationed at Freeport Police Station. 

I telephoned Freeport Police Station and was advised that the DSP was on the road at the time and that the the person with whom I was speaking was not permitted to give out his number. I left my number and asked that the DSP be kind enough to call me. He has not. He is no doubt quite busy finding others to scrape up off the street. 

Not to be outdone and still overwhelmed by my incredulity, I called other senior police and national security persons and invited them to check into the matter for me. The following day, my contact in the JCF telephoned to confirm the essential detail of the incident. The lady, they told me, was not from Cambridge as I had alleged in the details I provided, she was being held at Cambridge but she is from Farm Heights near Rosemount in Montego Bay. My contact indicated that there is a gang war going on in Farm Heights and families are warring against families. 

The police, under the powers of the SOE, detained this woman and her daughter who went to the police station to make the report in order to reduce any further likely casualties. My contact advised me that it is best to seek to get the assistance of a lawyer for this lady. This is the very point. It is habeas corpus that has been suspended by the SOE.

When Alexander Bedward was arrested on a charge of sedition in 1896 he preached that black people should rise up and let their numbers defend them against their oppressive circumstances.  He was detained by reason, they allege, of his insanity. He was released from his detention by a writ of habeas corpus filed on his behalf. That was 1896. In 2020 Jamaica, this lady cannot be released on a writ of habeas corpus in St James, Jamaica. Jamaican citizens have fewer rights now than they had under Crown Colony Government, when political parties and trade unions were yet unborn. 

Almost 60 years after gaining political independence and 80 years after national self-government, and nearly 200 years after the emancipation from Chattel slavery, a woman can be locked away for caring about the life of her son and seeking the intervention of the State.    

As far as I am concerned, gunmanship has and will achieve only one thing: the demographic re-configuration of communities. People will flee with their bungle to some hamlet in deep rural spaces or some yet unbuilt greenfield project, while their present holding left derelict and run down because of gunmanship will be acquired for cheap by some business mogul with nature’s passport. 

This strategy of policing locks up people who complain to the police in order to save them from the gun boys in the neighborhood. It tells them, the victims, that they are their own victimizers and no betta no deh.

The mother is still in detention, so check for yourself and contort yourself finding a good reason for her being there.

  • Garnett Roper JP PhD is a public theologian and the President of Jamaica Theological Seminary

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