Jamaica is a very strange place where many people ignore the truth (the available evidence) when discussing public issues. If we refuse to identify what ails us as a society and take the proverbial bull by the horn, then we will continue to wallow in mediocrity when it comes to achieving national goals. Take for example, the statement by Homer Davis, the Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, that there should be negotiations with gangsters to curb Jamaica’s crime rate. This suggestion was fiercely rejected by people from all sectors of Jamaica and Minster Davis felt compelled to recant the statement at a recent Jamaica Labour Party meeting to save the government from further public embarrassment. Any foreigner listening to the moral rebuke of Minister Davis would think meetings of this kind have never occurred in Jamaica. Nothing is further from the truth.
Politicians and the police have been meeting with criminals for decades. Some senior police officers still meet with gang leaders and serve them notice that they will be held responsible for anything criminal that happens in their communities. Just ask the former “bad man police” and the current ones who perform police badness against criminals without the public fanfare because of the watchful eyes of vigilant civil society groups and Jamaica’s international partners. Therefore, the counter statement of Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey that the police will not negotiate with criminals is laughable and should not be taken seriously. Not to mention those corrupt policemen who are hired killers for gang leaders that eliminates their rivals and engage in other contract killings.
Although politicians generally have significantly less control over the dons in their constituencies than in the past, there are a few MPs who still have a lot of control over the gangs. Some JLP and PNP politicians acting in concert have clandestinely met with gangsters in Western Kingston. Another politician who wanted to start a business in Western Kingston met with the dons to get their blessing. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding during his National Democratic Movement’s “new and different days,” confessed publicly that during his days as MP of Central St Catherine he was “associated with gunmen”. The PNP used this confession in subsequent election campaign advertisements against Golding and the JLP.
Michael Manley was criticized for attending the funeral of PNP don “Burry Boy”. Edward Seaga was also criticized for attending the funerals of the dons, Claudius Massop and Lester Coke, in Western Kingston. Seaga was also criticized for meeting with gunmen in his attempts to pacify the combatants in the “Rats and Cats War” between Tivoli Gardens and Rema in the early 1980s. Seaga countered that he met with residents and not gunmen. Omar Davies and Peter Phillips were publicly rebuked for attending the funeral of PNP don, William Moore. Gunmen affiliated with the JLP and PNP still attend political meetings during general election campaigns and interact with politicians. Prime Minster Andrew Holness is the MP for the garrison constituency of West Central St Andrew, and Opposition Leader Mark Golding the MP for the garrison constituency of South St Andrew. These maximum leaders cannot lose their seat because party gunmen defend the political turf from political challenges. The country appears to be undergoing national psychosis, a break with political reality in the response to Homer Davis’ suggestion.