Launch 365-day campaign against violence and terror
Over the past six decades Jamaica has experienced a staggering 2,277.78 per cent surge in the murder rate.
The world stands on the precipice of conflict.
This past Saturday the Israeli Government formally declared war on Palestine, a response to the unexpected attack by Hamas. Quickly responding to the situation, the Jamaican Government utilised X (previously known as Twitter) to resolutely condemn, “in the strongest terms”, the ambush orchestrated by the Hamas militant group in Israel. This assault has tragically led to the loss of over 1,000 lives and hundreds injured, with the toll still rising.
In a swift response, Prime Minister Andrew Holness conveyed his deep concerns, remarking, “Jamaica staunchly holds the belief that resorting to violence and terror has no rightful position within the realm of international relations. Such acts, especially when targeted against innocent civilians, are unacceptable. We fervently urge all parties involved to cease hostilities, to seek peace within the boundaries set by international accords, and to navigate this crisis through diplomatic channels.”
However, the remarks by Prime Minister Holness carry a certain irony. Jamaica itself is grappling with an escalating wave of violence and terror. Desperate cries of anguish reverberate through its streets. Communities, which were once close-knit and nurturing, are now riddled with anxiety and trepidation. The terror is palpable — from the chilling spate of kidnappings and murders to the heart-wrenching tales of brutal crimes against women and children and the calculated contract killings that ruthlessly snuff out lives. Even in broad daylight banks are targeted by audacious robbers. The formidable presence of gangs (close to 300) is increasingly evident and their influence expanding daily with impunity. These criminal entities cast a long, ominous shadow over communities, jeopardising the aspirations and morale of Jamaican citizens of all ages.
The escalating violence casts a dark shadow over our nation’s future, particularly when it concerns the next generation. Our sons and daughters, the torch-bearers of our future, are growing up in an atmosphere of unease and distrust. This is not the legacy we wish to leave behind.
An increasing number of women and children have become victims of crime.a
Our women and children are not mere statistics that can be glossed over in annual reports, they are the heartbeat of our communities. They are our mothers, daughters, sisters, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Their safety and well-being are fundamental to our nation’s progress. They ought to move freely, their footsteps echoing with confidence rather than fear. Their dreams should soar without the weight of anxiety, and they should flourish in a land that shields and fosters them.
Similarly, our men, the backbone of our society, should not be ensnared in ceaseless cycles of violence and retribution. They should stand tall, embodying principles of strength, wisdom, and leadership. They should be mentors for the younger generation, guiding them towards a peaceful and prosperous future.
However, the daunting reality we face is evident in the numbers. Over the past six decades our nation has experienced a staggering 2,277.78 per cent surge in the murder rate, climbing from 63 in 1962 to 1,498 in 2022. This translates to a chilling yearly average increase of 23.93 per cent.
We must pose the question: Who will save our nation from this abyss of violence and terror? The future of our sons and daughters hinges on the actions we take today. As we reflect on the insecurity we’ve endured over the past 60 years, we must also look ahead with determination, seeking solutions and unity in our collective pursuit of peace and stability.
I propose the initiation of a 365-day campaign against violence and terror — a dedicated year in which every day becomes a symbol of our determination. Each sunrise should be a reminder of our commitment, and each sunset a reflection of our progress. Let each day be marked with prayers for peace, pledges to protect our communities, and an undying spirit to combat the dark forces that threaten to destabilise our nation.
The Government has taken some strides in setting up the necessary elements to address our nation’s challenges, but it is not enough. There remains a pressing need to cohesively integrate the different initiatives, particularly given the current fractured and fragmented approach to problem-solving. Here are two specific recommendations I propose to the Government.
Firstly, I advocate for the establishment of a pandemic-style, multi-stakeholder team. This dedicated team should conduct weekly or biweekly press conferences addressing the issues of violence and terror in Jamaica. Their role would be pivotal in offering a unified platform, allowing various government agencies and stakeholders to relay updates, share insights, and introduce initiatives related to our country’s security. Such press conferences could encompass diverse areas such as incident updates, law enforcement actions, legal and policy development, public safety guidelines, and intelligence insights, among others.
Secondly, I am advocating for the appointment of an Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) to the Ministry of National Security to work alongside Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang. The benefits of this move are manifold:
1) Bipartisan support: The integration of an Opposition member would be emblematic of unity and a collective drive against violence and terror, surpassing political divides. Such a gesture would potentially catalyse bipartisan backing for security-oriented initiatives and policies, ensuring that they remain intact irrespective of governmental shifts.
2) Diverse perspective: Incorporating an Opposition MP could infuse the decision-making process with fresh and varied viewpoints. Drawing from their party’s ideologies or personal experiences, they could proffer alternative strategies to address intricate security predicaments.
3) Increased public trust: Observing representatives from the primary political factions collaboratively labouring would undoubtedly augment public confidence in the ministry’s ventures. A consolidated stance would reinforce the notion that national security transcends party allegiances and stands as a mutual priority.
4) Enhanced accountability: The induction of an Opposition MP would instil a higher degree of transparency and responsibility within the Ministry. Their presence would serve as an intrinsic mechanism of checks and balances, ensuring judicious and ethical resource allocation.
5) Improved policy continuation: The active involvement of the Opposition in policy formation could pave the way for an uninterrupted continuation of strategies, even in the face of governmental transitions. Foundational measures against violence and terror would persist with minimal disturbances.
6) Strengthened international image: On a global scale, a bipartisan methodology towards national security would burnish Jamaica’s reputation, illuminating our united front against violence and terror. This could engender enhanced international alliances and support.
Together, let’s turn this campaign into a revolution of the heart and mind. Let’s inspire stories of change, of neighbourhoods reclaimed, of children playing safely in the streets, and of a nation that stands undivided. This is our battle cry, our call to arms, and together we shall triumph. Our 365-day campaign of No to Violence and Terror starts now. It starts with you, with me, with all of us.
Together we can and will reclaim the soul of our nation. Like the prime minister of Israel, let us declare that Jamaica is at war with violence and terror. #NoToViolence #365daysOfPeace.
Dr Henry Lewis Jr is an associate professor at University of Technology, Jamaica, in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is also a social scientist and executive life coach. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or [email protected].
Henry Lewis Jr