Garth Rattray | From law and order to outlaw and disorder
Even now, after 60 years of Independence from British rule, there are citizens among us who rue the day that we separated from Britain. Some grew up under the law and order of British overseers. More than anyone else, they view the current general flouting of laws and widespread crime as nothing short of alarming and appalling.
Under colonial rule, class and colour prejudice kept many of us out of certain jobs and positions. We were second-class citizens in our own country. The entire nation reeked of a lingering, post-slavery mentation. But the sweet perfume of law and order that existed was enough to cause many to want to remain under the British government. And, even now, many strongly believe that the burgeoning anarchy occurring all across our island would never take root if we were still under British rule.
Taking into account the incalculable horrors of slavery, wishing that we were still a British colony may seem incredible. But there are some who openly advocate for anything, anything at all, even a communist government, just to rid us of the scourge of crime. Many will readily surrender some of their civil rights in order to live, go out and about, do business, attend school, worship, work, participate in pleasure activities, and relax at home without the fear of becoming a crash or crime statistic.
DOUBTS ABOUT JUDICIARY
People even harbour doubts about our judiciary. Citizens opine that justice is not fair. They say that there is one kind of justice for the poor and another kind of justice for the rich and/or famous. They believe that a raggedy-looking petty thief is more likely to do time for stealing a few mangoes than it is for an embezzler of millions of dollars to do the same time, in the same prison. The richer folks can afford better legal representation, and they can afford to pay the fines that are sometimes imposed. However, the poor can’t afford elite lawyers, and they end up in prison in lieu of the fine. This simmering displeasure with the legal system encourages rebellious disobedience and ‘alternative justice’.
People also believe that our social network is so widespread, well-established and strong that people who are members of the same organisations are likely to be treated favourably by the system. This is why there are those who cling to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the final appellate court. They view it as being more physically and socially distant, impartial and objective than our local or regional court. They would rather trust foreigners, who know nothing of our well-connected individuals, than trust a court system that may be somewhat directly or indirectly influenced by the social elite and/or powerful among us.
Many citizens are convinced that the police and the Government are very corrupt, or very corruptible. This is partially to blame for the frequent violent encounters that occur between poor communities and the security forces whenever someone is being detained or arrested. Crowds descend on the cops as they try to perform their duty. They mob, intimidate, threaten and sometimes physically assault the cops in an effort to have them release the suspects. This demonstrates a total disrespect and distrust of the police.
LAW AND ORDER
If law and order are returned to the streets, crime will automatically decrease. When citizens realise that they will not get away with breaking the traffic laws, doing whatever they please, or with endangering others, crime will automatically decrease. When people know that they cannot ignore the rights of their fellow citizens, crime will automatically decrease. When civil servants cannot encourage or accept bribes, crime will automatically decrease. Crime will automatically decrease because people will realise that Jamaica is intolerant of any wrongdoing, and that it is a place of law and order.
On the day that I wrote this piece, I came across an all too familiar situation. An elderly, bedraggled-looking lady bitterly complained that someone erected a makeshift night club across the street from her family home. It plays deafening ‘music’ all night. She and her family are unable to sleep. Reporting it to the police will bring retaliation. It always puzzles me that no one – no police, no one from the municipality – ever notices these breaches and the unmitigated infringing of the rights of our suffering citizens.
When we were under the law and order of British rule, people were assigned to look out for those things and to put a stop to them, oftentimes before they start. Nobody got away with assaulting others with excessive noise, especially at nights. Constructions were tightly monitored to prevent breaches. Our (per capita) murder rate was nothing like it is today. But, now that we have become victims of outlaw and disorder, brazen murders have skyrocketed. Obviously, successive governments either fail to realise, or choose to ignore the fact that there is an inverse relationship between a disciplined, law and order society, and crimes… including heinous multiple murders.
Despite all the organised prayers, zones of special operations, limited states of emergency, tougher sentencing for gun crimes, increased and more equipped security forces, serious crimes and murders will continue unless and until we address the root cause of our outlaw and disorder. Social intervention includes societal discipline. This is how we can significantly reduce crime and restore Jamaica to the peaceful island that it once was.