Tue | Dec 6, 2022

Mark Wignall | ‘God, Obeah, shoot don’t miss’ and other political statements

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2022 | 12:07 AM
In this July 2022 photo, police cordon off an area where a man was shot at the intersection of North Street and Orange Street in downtown Kingston.
In this July 2022 photo, police cordon off an area where a man was shot at the intersection of North Street and Orange Street in downtown Kingston.

Two years ago, on a September morning, I was driving to the A and E of the University Hospital of the West Indies. In one of the passenger seats behind me was a 75-year-old man who was clutchinghis belly because parts of it were spilling out of...

Two years ago, on a September morning, I was driving to the A and E of the University Hospital of the West Indies. In one of the passenger seats behind me was a 75-year-old man who was clutchinghis belly because parts of it were spilling out of his lower extremities.

Bullets from a drive-by had rendered him only able to utter low, haunting moans. He eventually spent three months in the hospital. It was all about an attempt to kill a wrongdoer who had been standing about 12 feet from where I was. I had also been shot in the arm. After I wrote about it, many Jamaicans offered the view that divine intervention was responsible for me surviving the horror of that morning.

My response was a simple one. If God had the power to save me on that specific day, why could He not utilise His awesome power to rid the entire world of gunmen on a rampage? I didn’t make any friends after that.

Just about all political leaders in Jamaica have drawn the God card whenever they are faced with the realities that launching a successful ‘war’ or battle against the heavily armed out-of-control gunmen in gangs is almost an impossible mission.

In early 2017, then Security Minister Bobby Montague suggested that he had an uncle who was an obeah man. And that obeah man had powers to … you can see where that was going. The minister eventually said that it was only a joke. He had no uncle with those powers to fight back against gunmen on their rampage. In addition, he found himself in the company of Peter Bunting, then security minister in the PNP administration which existed in 2013 when he called for divine intervention in helping Jamaica out of the trap of violent criminality.

Just about every political leader in Jamaica has drawn the God card when they run out of sound ideas and concrete plans that could fight back against the crime monster.

Very few of them are willing to admit that a significant percentage of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is ‘compromised’, meaning that they are corrupt and in hock to gangs and gang leaders. Money makes the constable run. No amount of increase in the wage position of the JCF will change that. A wholesale purge is needed, but as the rules inside the JCF are positioned, it is almost impossible to fire a dirty cop in the police force.

SYMPATHISE WITH DR HORACE CHANG

Two Fridays ago while I was hosting a talk show, I harshly criticised Security Minister Horace Chang for his stance on how the JCF should deal with gunmen on operations.

Shoot and don’t miss, suggested the minister. Surely the minister must have known that policemen operating in the dangerous climate of dense inner-city communities didn’t need him to tell them that. He also said that he would not be in the mood to dispatch ambulances to assist wounded criminals to hospitals.

The fact is, Dr Chang had captured the mood of the populace and was regurgitating it. My view is that the security minister was reaching inside of himself to show Jamaicans that his thoughts were aligned with theirs. But let me give him nuff, nuff kudos for not confounding them with another call to God to save us from ourselves.

We have long known that Jamaica is overrun by heavily armed gangs who finance themselves by extortion of many sectors of our society - transport, small business, and let us never believe that it does not extend to big business, especially in ‘sensitive’ areas of our economy. Much of what appears to be peace in these sensitive areas is driven by extortion, where bigger heads from both factions work out the arrangements.

PNP NEEDS TO RIDE ON ANY MOMENTUM

All political parties rely on their annual conferences to pump life into those who are lukewarm about their party and drag back those who have gone to sleep on support from the last elections. This country has moved a far way in our politics from the days when Tivoli Gardens and its strong-arm team, including a man called Blood, who led marauders hurling bottles at Pearnel Charles after he decided to enter the National Arena when he had fallen out of favour with the party leader, Eddie Seaga.

The PNP, under leader Mark Golding, who has not quite decided whether he is lion or sheep, must use the opportunity to reach out to as many young people as it can.

At the recent PNP conference Dr. Peter Phillips captured the urgency of the moment when he said.

“You will have to instil a new patriotic fervour, a new spirit of community where each one will teach one and not a country where each one, kill one. Jamaica is better than that. We can do better than that as a people.”

A new patriotic fever is specifically reaching out to a younger population of people and party supporters. The problem is that people of advanced age may have all of the knowledge wrapped up inside them but are, sadly, lacking in how best to articulate it to attract the likely voters in the 20 to 45 age cohort. The JLP has an overstock of ancient legislators who have lost track of their need to free up the party from their Neanderthal DNA.

But they remain ahead of the PNP because of the perceived energy of Andrew Holness and the very real fact that he can politically run and trot when all that the PNP leadership can do is barely lead a line dance on the podium - and not for too long.The PNP needs to breathe and energise itself in the communities.

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