Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Mark Wignall | The killing fields were fertile last week

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2024 | 12:11 AM

Police comb the community of Burnside Valley, Red Hills, following the murder or two men and shooting injury of another.
Police comb the community of Burnside Valley, Red Hills, following the murder or two men and shooting injury of another.

I never knew Job Nelson, the Gleaner journalist who was shot dead last week, but his death and my mortality are linked. It seemed that in September 2020 when I was shot and on May 22 when Mr Nelson met his tragic and painful end, we were both at the wrong place at the wrong time. Somewhere on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica.

Just about the same time, I was mentally transported to another spot of the killing fields. It was at a time in the early 2000s. At about 2 p.m. I was seated on a barstool and she was seated on another beside me. I figured she could be about early 30s. A young child was expending its energy darting in and around the barstool. The woman said. ‘Sixteen, young gal!’

“Mi soon come,” she said as if we were out on a date. “Mi a go buy 16 fi fifty dolla.”

“Stop!” I said. I gave her $200. “Yu is a big woman. Fifty dolla is pickney business.” Less than 10 minutes later she was going crazy, repeatedly hopping in front of me like a rabbit in a short cartoon flick. She returned to the gaming terminal, collected her winning funds and asked me how much she should give me. I kissed her on the cheek and said, “A cold beer.”

As she left, she whispered in one ear.’’Mi neva have nutten a mi yaad. Thanks.”

Last week they shot up the place and a lady was killed. The peace of the past is dead. The late journalist Tino Geddes and I spent many hours in that bar on Shortwood Road, close to Grants Pen. We would talk politics, the criminality of the streets, relationships, philosophy, and the fun of our youth.

It was where I had the meeting with Frank (not his real name), a killer from the streets.

He was nervous about meeting me. He was afraid of three types: lawyers, khaki-suited policemen, and journalists. He was closely linked to gutter politics. Violence was his middle name. His father became ill one day. He sent a little boy to Grants Pen Square to fetch a taxi. One taxi man said he was unavailable. Frank walked out to the square and shot the taxi man dead. At one stage during his early incarceration he refused bail because too many guns in the street were aimed at him.

He was uncomfortable as we spoke quite possibly because the lovely spot on Shortwood Road was so comfortable and peaceful. That was back then. Now, gunshots have shattered that peace. Jamaica’s problem with the gun is not that where it is most concentrated, but that it offers us a choice to just avoid the obvious killing fields.

That’s too easy. Anger shows up all over.


It is admirable that both the JLP and the PNP are united in the view that Jamaica should move out of the dying colonial club and rid itself of its umbilical connection to Britain.

But there is the complexity surrounding Mark Golding. I sought advice from a lawyer friend of mine.

“Mark, the issue of the Leader of the Opposition’s (LOP) British citizenship has so many layers to it. First, the LOP was born in Jamaica. He is Jamaican by birth. His father applied for him to obtain a British passport as a child. He is entitled to a British passport as the son of a British citizen (citizenship by derivation). He did not have to take an oath of allegiance. It was a ministerial act that resulted in the passport. The Constitution of Jamaica does not bar an individual who is a citizen of the Commonwealth from serving in Parliament. Neither serving as the LOP. Mr Golding also meets the residence requirements of the Jamaican Constitution (one year residence in Jamaica). The Constitution does not, to my knowledge, have any additional requirements regarding being PM of Jamaica as to citizenship. So what is the issue? There is none. Where the current PM and his fellow party colleagues are flawed in their analysis is they were quite comfortable with Mr Seaga, born in the US, but who acquired Jamaican citizenship being the LOP and PM of Jamaica. Why was that acceptable? Oh! Because Mr Seaga was a JLP member?”

Another person, a veteran in foreign affairs said, “My take on all this is it is a distraction from addressing the valid points made by Mr Golding about constitutional reform. There is no need for a phased or gradual process to constitutional reform and ending the control of the British monarchy over Jamaica. It is more than high time that the Privy Council (PC) stop being the highest court of appeal for Jamaica. Really, with the CCJ in existence and more than capable. Does the reluctance of the JLP to turn to the CCJ have anything to with the current PM gladly accepting an appointment to the PC? Years ago, Michael Manley was offered an appointment to the PC. He did the right thing and declined. “

A reader is suggesting that I should not accuse the JLP of gaslighting the people.

“Your article is most timely, however, your corresponding readers are clearly PNP-leaning. The JLP-leaning could give an even longer litany of PNP scandals. However, re the governance of the Nation. Without the good financial management of this administration, we would not be in the position to do all the infrastructural and other critical things now on stream – health, education, housing, security etc.

“Your article should be a wake-up call to clean house and do better. Fact is, while it takes cash to care, the GoJ must not lose the common touch, or it will lose power. Unfortunately, if that happens, the PNP will run the country into the ground, as it always does, the JLP will come back, partially restore financial stability, and the Nation will continue its fits and starts.

“Do not give up on the government; shake them up; they at least are not mashing up the country.”

Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com