The world is again agog at a new violent flare up on the Caribbean island of Jamaica that now has the enviable distinction of being one of the most violent places on planet earth. And while I completely agree with this characterization based on the fact that violence is an endemic and widespread epidemic in Jamaica, there is cause for much concern with this new and deadly round of domestic conflict. Without a doubt the violence that claimed nearly 1,700 lives in 2009, and more than 1,300 to date in 2010 alone, is a deeply disturbing trend as is the perceived inability and powerlessness of successive Jamaican governments even before independence in 1962 - to contain it and institute methods to curb its growth.
This new round of bloodletting no matter what the causes, reasons or rationales only strengthens the foundation and sets the stage for more continued violence down the road. Prime Minister Bruce Golding's credibility and prestige is shot to smithereens. To me it is very difficult to see how he can recover from this political and social debacle especially when the full body count is tabulated after this violent unrest subsides or at least contained. The funny thing is he created this mess for himself, all by himself, and no matter his newfound tough stance against a reputed drug lord his initial response was foolish and arrogant at best. He thus bears direct responsibility for the body count and the deadly violence on both sides government and civilian.
Beyond the political hopscotch of the ruling Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) is the fundamental fact that systemic and pervasive violence in Jamaican society is not a new development and in all likelihood will not disappear any time soon. And while the roots of this violence goes back to at least 50 years, over this period it has adapted, changed and morphed into the deadly, organized and deliberate institution that it is today. That is because both politics and economics play and will continue to play pivotal and crucial roles in Jamaica's spiraling violence and the development of its criminal, lumpen sub-strata.
So any resolution, solution or effort to deal with this problem must start with politics. First, let me begin with Prime Minister Bruce Golding who promised much and positioned himself as Jamaica's new modern-day business savvy "messiah" but who after two and a half years in office has done very little to solve his country's deep and lop-sided economic and social problems.
In fact, any examination of the present political situation places Mr. Golding squarely in the middle of this awful and violent mess. The reputed drug-lord Christopher Coke lives and resides in his West Kingston/Tivoli Gardens constituency. Mr. Golding cannot feign ignorance of this embarrassing fact because to do so would have him appear out of touch with what goes on in an area of Kingston that he represents in the Jamaican Parliament. And herein lies his Catch 22. To admit knowledge of this fact would beg questions as to why he did nothing about this? Why did he take 9 months to make up his mind about Mr. Coke's extradition to the United States? And if he was genuinely ignorant of Mr. Coke's presence in his constituency how could he be so out of touch and not grounded in his community? or did he simply do what generations of Jamaican politicians have done just look the other way?
Still, Mr. Coke's support is not only among his reputed criminal ilk but with ordinary, poor, and disenfranchised Jamaicans who have lost faith in their government and political leaders to deliver the goods and services that will improve the quality of their daily lives. One woman said it so eloquently: "Dudus (Mr. Coke's nickname) helps us. When your grandmother dies he buries her. When your children have to go to school he pays for it and when you are hungry you go to him." With such a man replacing the established government and usurping its traditional role garrison residents now view the Jamaican government as ineffective and uncaring. So extraditing Mr. Coke was bound to be confrontational and volatile.
Poor Jamaicans in the Tivoli Gardens community saw this as literally taking bread from the mouths of their children. The sophisticated nuances of the Jamaica-US extradition processes and the like was lost on them. In fact, they could care less about such things. All they saw was government socking it them again by taking away from their impoverished community a man who helped to make their difficult lives a bit bearable by his ability to spread money around. The source of that money is of little consequence to a hungry, starving and largely forgotten people.
Did Mr. Golden think that a man dubbed by a former Jamaican minister of national security as "perhaps the most powerful man in Jamaica" would simply allow himself be arrested by police many of whom are on his payroll, or whose family he's helped in the past? Still, government any government is duty bound to stand up to any force domestic or foreign in the defense of its citizenry. And too, Prime Minister Golden is well within the scope of his duty and responsibility to say yea or nay to the United States' request for extradition after examining all of the available evidence.