Commentary: What is the colour of good governance after an election, Jamaica?

jamaica votes gleaner

Photo Credit: Jamaica Gleaner:

Every election has consequences, and regardless of what colour one identifies with, after the paint job has been completed, the nation has to deal with it until the rust emerges again. The people will always be the body shop to select the right paint and hope the dents are fixed from years of neglects, and bumps. Sometimes these new or recycled paints blend and other times it fades and does not shine as expected.

On February 25, 2016, the island votes in its parliamentary election amid an ongoing troubled economy. However, despite plenty of blame to go around, Jamaica has made significant strides in its election process. Several international and local observers have responded to its positive signs.

Over the past few decades, political violence seems to be on the decline. During the 1980s, over 800 people were killed in election related crime. People are still being killed, but the numbers have reduced, and more work needs to be done given the recent news on a few new election related deaths.

One cannot run or benefit from a 21st century election with barbaric ideology.

JA-votes1Elections in the Caribbean, despite its beautiful colour, can be extremely dangerous when it is simply an interest for good governance and democracy that should be colourless as people try to find the best canvas to represent them.

With speculation, increased pressure, poll numbers and questions of leadership, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Simpson-Miller called early elections. The population of about three million people will put to rest for a few hours the ongoing issues of organized crime, drugs, trade, low growth and high debt or even a positive sporting event, from the coastal areas to the interior to select the right colour with even a simple hope that the average life expectancy remains at 73 as reported in Jamaica.

Although the margin of victory, whether for the Peoples National Party (PNP) or the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), will be close, the psychology from political identity will still have discourse. Election settles debates, but that does not stop a few from seeing their party as the only good, and seeing the other side negatively.

Photo Credit: towson.edu

What is uplifting is that the constitutional parliamentary democracy will remain intact this time around. Sure, you still have pockets of bad colours that have resulted in roadblocks, and other criminal elements and that can be related to political tribalism, as many scholars have noted.

However, since its independence from British rule in 1962, politics, crime, management, economic stagnation, poverty and power has always been a struggle from the ballot box to Main Street in Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands. Despite smooth transitions of power, Jamaica still struggles under the multitude of colours to find the right mixture.

This election and its bountiful colours are beyond party identity and boisterous claims of accomplishments, or the lack thereof. Quietly, it is more of a personality contest where, on one hand, current Prime Minister Simpson-Miller perhaps seems more aware of the latest dancehall moves, and opposition leader, Andrew Holness, who rose to the top after former Prime Minister Bruce Golding stepped down.

Holness, who won the delegates from Shaw, a longtime member of parliament and finance minister, has  to constantly convince the public that he has put in his time, and has the right in-depth knowledge of what it takes and that he should benefit from his leadership victory.

Some are still unable to unlink him from Golding and still believe that his sudden departure was due to an internal fight, but others saw it to save himself and the party in the process from embarrassment.

Political power is seldom based on accomplishments, but time served in the Cabinet. However, one hopes the Jamaican people will look for sustainability on many fronts as it searches for the right colour to offer the highest quality of living where both the people and the currency have lost value in governance.

Jamaica Election Crowd 2016

As this election cycle grows in Jamaica, supporters will usually show up to political rallies ether in red, green or orange, as if it is carnival season, having a good time listening to speeches, dancing for their particular party.

Sadly, these parties operate like primary colours: you cannot mix them after an election cycle, or even bring others to the canvas; thus making it difficult to govern and paint a picture for a brighter future. These election colours should be by definition where other colours derive from.

Hopefully, after this cycle, there will room for mixing to move the nation forward.

This is not an opinion on election monitoring and difficulties faced stemming from influence on of the electoral process. It is a hybrid of finding a revolution that will uplift not only the poor, but also the middle class to continue to paint a better colour after the last ballot has been counted, the street are clear, and the markets are open again with fruits still looking for buyers.

As pundits hit the airwaves to argue about the failing economy and use ignorance as growth, there is plenty of blame to go around for people not to vote.

JA-Votes6The question you should be asking, what will be different this time around?
Can many continue to live only on remittances from Jamaicans living abroad, which seem to be a rise?
What next will be cut from public programs, and what other fees will increase?
I hope this election will be one where people vote their own self-interest, even on a single issue. One should not be fooled by selective amnesia, and change of language to cover diminished credibility and, in the end, the ultra-rich, plutocrats get richer, and everybody else get poorer.

The question you should be asking, what will be different this time around?

This election should not be only a high visibility of colours that will fade shortly afterwards but, like others, it should be won on the right mixture for the future. Jamaica will not escape from the dark colour of current governance, and even if the paintbrush has been changed, often it too carries the stains from the past. Therefore, it becomes difficult to paint a much needed new canvas and here many still hope for the best outcome.

 

This election is both internal and external aftershock as poverty lingers. As these aggressive campaigns continue to seal their platforms, it will not change most recent reports that have seen a deterioration in Jamaica’s trade deficit combined with growing imports, and spending

Fundamentally, this election will come down to what party can project itself as the best choice. As the paint dries, the quest for good governance should bring out the best in elected officials to get things done, and stop promising ideas that they knew in advance cannot be fulfilled due to other economic reasons.

Several promises have been made, from who is best to handle crime, to free education and medical care, and yet some medical centres could use an election to replace some their own leaders. This is not an indictment on one party, but put forth a solid plan that has a sharp difference from the other.

Being angry at each other does not solve anything.

Jamaica must find a way to make sure these movements and organizations involve a prosperity platform build tolerance, justice and equality for as the island continues to look for the best sunshine.

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Commentary: Boko Haram is not just a Nigerian problem; many are in the Caribbean, the U.S. and other countries in disguise

Boko Haram is not just a Nigerian problem; many are in the Caribbean, the U.S. and other countries in disguise

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Photo- Guardian Online

By Derrick Miller: May 16, 2014

Let us talk: Recently the world paused and, after three weeks, many have united across all socio-economic status. They emerged and denounced the April 15, 2014, kidnapping of over 250 Nigerian schoolchildren. These schoolgirls were taken at gunpoint when armed men who promised to rescue them proved wrong. These men were not government officials, but a ruthless Islāmic extremist called Boko Haram.

First Lady of the United States, elected heads of the Islāmic community called this action barbaric; and Malala, a girl from Pakistan, has joined the call for their freedom. She too was shot for promoting education for young girls. Weeks later, over 250 are still missing as many are wondering what next.

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, I attended Howard University’s 146th graduation. Sean P. Daddy Combs, music entertainer, delivered the commencement speech. Also in attendance, Wolf Blitzer, CNN anchor. They both received Honorary PhDs.

These young girls were fresh on their minds as they too called for their release. As I watched several graduates from all over the world with pride in their accomplishments, I wondered how many future women around the world were celebrating their graduation, and what amount of exploitation it will take to be noticed by the outside world.

H.U Grad BlogIn practice, Boko Haram established an ideology of Islamist-militant rule that denounces education for women. This recent crime against humanity has proved that it affects us everywhere. This latest attempt is not new and in essence, many scholars believe, this action is part of the human trafficking that is the new form of slavery. If there was a time we need to emancipate our minds from mental slavery, it is now.

Who is watching Boko Haram? On the other side of the globe, there are several Boko Harams enjoying the Caribbean sun, lurking on the white sands and in towns from Aruba to Trinidad and Tobago, including Latin America. They do not live jungles, forests, and or wear army clothing. However, one should take a few minutes to look around, and you might just find a few similarities to what had occurred.

Mary Ellsberg talked about sexual violence against women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean aged 15-49. She has reported that between 10 and 47 percent of ever-married women have experienced sexual violence, or rape by an intimate partner. Also, between 8 and 26 percent of women have suffered sexual violence by a non-partner as either a child or adult, and the health effects that are not limited to HIV, but other sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancy.

Today, there is plenty of blame to go around, from the lack of leadership by the Nigerian government to its first denial stemming from pride, embarrassment, and fear of retaliation, and lack of resources, despite the warning signs, and now these parents have to take on justice on their own and some have started the search themselves.

The implication here is not that residents of Caribbean islands should scan all global newspapers and make every issue their own. Sometimes it is very easy to decrease these atrocities, and especially let it vanish from the radar and not trying to find out why these problems occur. Location, location, location, often creates individual detachment. It also can be how one places a value on any given crisis as we tend to believe we are immune from these crimes but, as we educate ourselves beyond our boundaries, it is much easier to find these problems next door.

Sex slaveThe US government estimates that some 600,000-800,000 people are taken from their families each year and many millions are being held as forced laborers within their home countries. This is an estimated $10 billion business. The average sale price for a slave is around $1,250 according to the United Nation. The practice stretches beyond the African and Asian countries, but also up and down the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea like illegal drugs.

Furthermore, over 1.2 million children are sold each year, and an estimate that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 years experience forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact, and about a third of women aged 20-24 years old in the developing world were married as children, according what UNICEF and the World Health Organization have reported.

bokoWhy Boko Haram Matters: When Boko Haram threatens to sell these young girls for less than $10, it is not a far-fetched idea; it is reality. However, can we continue to allow ourselves to be detached? Often we portray this region through selective reasoning, and believe only a court can impose sanctions, by laws that are there to protect children and that can be a simply form of marginalization.

Minimization in some crisis is natural process when we are helpless, and especially if an issue has no significance. For example, what if i told you that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing about 8,650 Americans in each year, and millions will become affected from fake sun-tanning machines. With the natural sunshine, there is no need for such machine in the region, Yes! You are probably correct, one’s personal responsibility can be diminished.

Alternatively, when Mr Putin, Russian president, invaded Ukraine, and families were disrupted when pro-Russian separatists groups took over government buildings and disrupted normal lives, this might not have been a Caribbean issue, but we should watch.

On the other hand, if I told you every year, about 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence and countless others whose lives are forever changed by the deaths of and injuries to their loved ones. You might know some who has been affected, and only when one speaks up society can create the change it deserves.

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Activists take part in a protest in Tapei over Japanese troops’ use of “comfort women” during World War II, August 14, 2013.

The Caribbean Boko Haram: Is not a simple man in army clothes, it is an ideology, and the name is translated means [deceptive]. Today, the region must step back and look inside its own where Boko Haram is lurking in local churches, schools, on public buses, and town areas where young school students are being raped, kidnapped when going to school, and forced into relationships with older men. In 2013 according to  Reuters  report, Kim, now 89, said “she was only 15 in 1941 when a local official came to her village in South Korea and took her away, and sent her including others to a military brothel where she worked as a sex slave.”  This picture condemned those behaviour.  In addition, some fathers, uncles, and elected leaders are trolling the streets like predators searching for young girls and boys, while isolating their wives through emotional and financial abuse where the scars are not visual.

Not every ideology stems from slavery or colonization. Today, some cultures allow multiple wives for one man, young girls are being sold off into marriages at an early age, female circumcision (female genital mutilation). Incest is normal, and women are not allowed to file for divorce, or even drive. Sure, this region has evolved, which often makes it more difficult to fathom. Therefore, some issues seem as only noise, morphed into our sub-consciousness, as the modern world has moved on, or into a tolerant cultural attitude that minimizes itself in disguise.

Boko Haram prohibits education of young girls. However, their actions are closer to home than we can imagine. A State Department report said, “This organization receives bulk of its funding from bank robberies and related criminal activities, including extortion and kidnapping for ransom.” Does this sound similar where gang members often engage in these criminal behaviors? Some have even gotten too powerful for the local law enforcement to make an arrest or enter their neighborhoods.

dead footFrom Kingston, Jamaica, to Trinidad, several areas are becoming more unsafe, and these criminal elements have reduced tourism and even family members who are now hesitant to return. I believe such is a trip to Boko’s region,  these same criminal concerns reverberate today in several areas.

Often, just like the Nigerian government, the sad fact is that many in the Caribbean region spin and lower several of society’s problems. However, Boko Haram thrives on poor leadership, poverty, corruption, lack of education and poor governance.

Any society where trust is low, and a few reap justice based on wealth, crimes that are overlooked such as domestic and sexual violence, young girls forced into relationships with older men just to survive, unsolved crimes, poor economic policies, and educational system where only a few can afford it makes Boko Haram’s ideology more powerful.

Young-Girls-Sex article-Today, several brothels are strategically located in large and small towns and along the white sands. They have their client base from visitors to local business officials, and politicians. These people do not dress or sound like the Nigerian Boko Haram. They are church members, and will not raid malls with machine guns on a shooting rampage. However, the ideologies are a few blocks from your house and government buildings.

Try telling a mother that her child was missing from simply going to school, and she knows is alive. Although 250 young girls have not been taken off the beaches or local schools in one day; however, even one missing per day in the region will be more than  one year. Where is the outrage here?

Going Forward: The United Nations has always had protocols to prevent, suppress, and punish human trafficking. However, these laws are not adequately implemented to protect victims, and especially in cases of domestic violence. However, when government fails to delegate it responsibility to help the less fortunate among us, and continues to expose these people to risk, and fails to protect, they are just as “deceptive” as the word Boko Haram represents.

Several writers have noted protecting trafficked children requires timely victim identification, placing them in safe environment, providing them with social services, health care, psychosocial support, and reintegration with family and community.

In some respects, I am not condoning that nothing has been done, as these families endure a lifetime of pain, while governments alone sometimes lack the resources, and are incapable. On the other hand, some leaders seem worried about how they seem on the evening news and not creating policies, and stiffer sentences for child abusers.

This is a complicated task in the terrain to find these girls, and navigating these waters to get rid of Boko Haram can be difficult. It will take collaboration between psychology, economic policy, and criminology woven into what type of future they want.

Finally, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has asked for help. The Obama administration and the international community have agreed. Today, leaders in the Caribbean needs a gap analysis and they should ask for help to weed out their own Boko Harams before it is too late. many geopolitical, criminal, economic, and social issues are important to discuss, but unfortunately most of these issue will take a back seat based on location,  and social stratification.

Commentary: No Snitch! The new number one selling tee-shirt

snitchOver the past few months, I have followed Vybz Kartel’s murder trial. He was recently convicted for the 2011 murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams. What I really wanted to know was how the victim and families became lost in the debates. I am not sure if they feared retaliation so they laid low. I would have liked hear how they felt with support.

Previously, as I have noted here, the trial was all about the prosecutor, and the Jamaican government celebrity, money and a distrusted system under one roof. Now that he has been sentenced, it seems this trial will have a lasting effect on the communities. Again, the region still struggles to fight off skepticism when it comes to the criminal justice environment.

Recently, it was reported that Mr Kytel has spoken to the authorities, and they received more information, which led to over 17 guns confiscated from the community. I do not have any proof of that, and may be somewhat skeptical, but any guns off any street always save lives, and the department should be commended for its continued efforts.

I am not under any illusions that the department is not under pressure in recent years to change the criminal atmosphere; however, they alone cannot be blamed for every criminal element that is taking over the region. It takes stakeholders, from the local pastor to community organizations, and leadership in government, to make a difference and this is not just guns fighting guns.

If Mr Kytel has provided information to the authorities now, perhaps there should have been a plea deal if one had not been offered. This maybe would have resulted in more arrests of members of the gangs  as reported that were afflicted with the killing. Moreover, why would the police department update the public on this information without any arrests as this point? Does this information make a different or change opinions already formed about the system, not only in Jamaica, but also throughout the region?

Here is the point of the article: The other issue where does the word snitch fits into the ongoing criminal elements where everyone knows everybody. Today, there is still no sign of the victim’s body from the recent murder trial.

Nevertheless, on a recent visit to the islands, between my walk from the airport to the parking lot, I met two young men wearing tee-shirts with the infamous “No Snitch” printed in bold.

Snitching came to Main Street about ten years ago as I can recall. It has been part of the American criminal environment that was more known to be associated with the Mafia enterprise for decades. It gained mainstream attention in the black and minority communities when a video surfaced of drug dealers threatening violence against members of a crew not to talk to police. I do not have any other historical documents on this concept, other than the tactics used to drive fear, intimidation, and violence.

Ronald Moten and his anti-violence group in late 2007  Washington, DC, area tried to break the ice. He mentioned that, sometimes, prosecutors blamed witness intimidation for their failures to win conviction in homicide cases. One famous rapper Cam’ron, as Moten noted, was interviewed on “60 Minutes” about why he refused to coöperate with police after shots were fired in Washington during a botched car-jacking in 2005.

victimIn other cases especially, young school boys and girls were killed because people thought that they had cooperated with the police. In addition, several cases were not brought to the courts out of the witnesses’ fear of being killed. He asked the question, if someone shot your mother during a drive-by, would you have a problem with it. Since that time and as troubling as it seemed, I never saw another “Snitched” tee-shirt and then only when I looked at a YouTube Video, when most of the subjects’ faces were blocked out.

Looking back at the recent crimes in the region including close friends, where their crimes still have not been solved, I began to wonder how this dirty little secret reached the seashore. One of the proud arguments in the Caribbean is that one does not need a GPS to find a lost family. Everyone knows someone. The concept is that it takes an entire community to raise a child. No one knows this more than the Caribbean community, but it seems unusual in these occurrences that silence has become the new normal. Then again, maybe I am not one to talk about these issues because in my home state there are still battles between who is a rat or responsible citizen when trust and history collide.

Recently, we learned that famous civil rights leader, Al Sharpton, who has a popular television show on MSNBC, was once a snitch for the FBI. He later stated that he was not a snitch, but a responsible citizen. Some members of a previous Mafia, and the fear of ongoing criminal elements in the community and his own safety threatened him, he spoke up.

We cannot equate the level of protection he received that a rich country such as the US can afford to some in the Caribbean where crime is still a major problem and the community knows the perpetrators. However, what we can learn, he stood against violence, and spoke up against the “Stop the Snitch” underground campaigns.

During the political era in the 1800s local politicians had a heavy influence in the criminal justice system. As society modernized through the 1960s, which is today community policing, citizens now have a voice, but there are still significant disconnects between police and the communities they serve. It seems as it was the segregation period or when colonialism ruled.

One side claimed that the historical mistrust of law enforcement by citizens when they brought information, especially in the black and other minorities, makes it difficult to trust the authorities for fear of retaliation. Many have also argued that when an incident is reported, far too often they never received any follow-up — another argument blamed on slavery.

Updated: 10-2-2014 Mother of 13-year-old Aliesha Brown found dead.  Observer.

Updated: 10-2-2014 Mother of 13-year-old Aliesha Brown found dead. Observer.

This is not one of those emancipate yourself from mental slavery issues when someone is gunned down. The region already gained independence, in my humble opinion, still searching for a perfect union. Having information and not coming forward, in spite of the threat of becoming a victim without proper protection. However, it does not amount to an historical document, but simple aiding and abetting, which carries the same penalty as the perpetration of the violence:

Therefore, now let’s get back to why a few of these tee-shirts now look like a badge of honour. I am not sure if it is a fashion statement, or lack of remorse for victims. However, as noted, sometimes law enforcement treatment of citizens often makes it difficult to come forward. On the other side, the community cannot blame law enforcement for countless crimes where rape, abuse, robberies, schoolchildren and business people killed and still missing, and no one has come forward. This was a circumstantial case, and it could have gone the other way without a body.

The island is always proud, and wears colourful gear in solidarity, and it can be a fashion statement of liberation, but when had the “No Snitch” tee-shirts become so vocal. What happened to let’s promote non-violence against women, education, child abuse, and tolerance, or fight AIDS and cancer? I am hoping to buy a few on my next trip. Sure, other countries have their problems, and before this topic is completed, someone will be killed from gun related violence, and one in four women had already been a victim of rape or some sexual violence, but where are they heading, as a society with this mind-set has to be reversed.

Although his body might not be found, someone lost an uncle, a father, a son. I hope you ask yourself the same question, what if people who may be buried in your backyard, at sea, fed to alligators or burned and buried, were your family members.

If society does not change this new-found fashion statement, how much have they evolved from the early century, where vigilante justice ruled the day, such as the Wild West, and where politicians, the well-connected, rich and, yes, law enforcement decide the value of one’s life. Is that where we want to go in preparation as the next generation grapples with economic stagnation?