The Development Challenge
Jamaica must achieve sustainable economic growth in order to eliminate the root causes of crime and violence. Even though poverty has decreased substantially over the past 20 years, this is attributed more to the impact of migrants’ sending money home as opposed to any economic growth. At the end of 2002, the country’s debt had reached 140.3% of GDP.
The percentage of government revenue used to service debt remained essentially unchanged at 63% as compared to the previous year, an indicator of the stifling impact of debt on the government’s ability to invest in today’s citizens and the leaders of tomorrow. Furthermore, extremely high interest rates on the government’s domestic debt are stifling other more productive economic activity. Meanwhile, the government continues to grapple with ways to control sharp exchange rate fluctuations, while working to reduce the potential negative impact of inflation (12.2% in October 2003 versus 6.7% one year before).
Jamaica and Crime has become synonymous as this activity continues to dominate the lives of Jamaicans. In 2005 the number of murder hovered over 1670, breaking a previous record – again. Most Jamaicans are now living a life filled with fear. The capital city of Kingston is largely deserted at night and it is without a doubt that the impact of rampant crime and violence is being felt across the Island.Many have consciously, or unconsciously altered their lifestyles in order to enhance the little security there is.
Some for the most part intentionally avoid driving through ‘volatile’ communities, disregard traffic signals at late night, refuse to walk even a quarter mile in the day and nights, install low cost to expensive security mechanisms and arm themselves with knives, machetes, and for the lucky few guns. How much longer can Jamaicans continue to live a life consumed with fear?. How long can living in the ‘murder capital of the world’ be tolerated? Social Structure Theories
Heavy-handed policing will not break the back of Jamaica’s crime dilemma. The negative social and economic factors such as high unemployment, underemployment, shabby housing, high school drop out rate, single parent households and teenage/young adult gangs need to be addressed more than an influx of aggressive policing tactic.
The Social Class Divide
Scholars, politicians, commentators and the man in the streets have spoken ad nauseam on the causes of all the spiraling crime and violence. There seems to be an emerging consensus on all sides that social and economic conditions along with the criminal justice apparatus must to be improved, before crime and violence can be brought under any real control. Despite this however much of the debate on a solution to the huge number of crime and violence plaguing Jamaica, centers on the utilization of Jamaican style heavy handed policing and its typical offshoots of extra judicial killings and the deprivation of human rights.
Like any society across the planet, middle and upper income Jamaicans engage in criminal activities albeit they do so at a much lesser frequency. It is a fact that the most violent crimes occurs in poor inner-city communities. Arcadia and Grants Pen are both located in the same geographic area, yet Grants Pen residents are accustomed to standard violent flare-ups whilst Arcadia residents are largely unscathed by such violence. The only nuisance related to violence experienced by Arcadia residents is the sound of gunfire coming across from Grants Pen. The same phenomenon exists across many parts of the Corporate area, St. Catherine and Montego Bay.
In this economic context, social pressures are inevitable since after debt service and payment of public sector salaries, only 5.5% of the government’s yearly operating budget is available for all other expenditures. Crime and violence remain high, with Jamaica having the third highest murder rate in the world as well as significant amounts of domestic violence – this is significant because Jamaica is technically not experiencing an form of full scale war, external or even internally. These high levels of crime and violence erode the social fabric, chip away at the concept of rule of law, and weaken the very foundation of the bond between a government and its citizens.
Further, high crime and violence lead to exorbitant financial costs that divert otherwise productive resources into increased security measures, and for managing in the aftermath of criminal acts. Moreover, crime and violence are symptoms of much more fundamental social ills such as weakened family structures, poor education, high unemployment, failed justice systems that are unable to bring redress in a timely manner, and political tribalism.Since 2002, high unemployment at 15.1% remained essentially unchanged from subsequent years. The quality of primary education remains generally low in the public school system, due mainly to a shortage of resources.
Fueling the fires
in the party-dominated societies of the first (third) world including Jamaica’s, there is an unjustified overbearing pressure to go along with the views of this or that party even when great wrongs are being committed by those parties. There is an overbearing and unjustified pressure on the “small man” or “woman” to opt for the party of the “lesser evil” and so on. Who ordained such approaches? Who are the individuals saying we “must” support this or that party? To vote for this or that Party?
In the 1970’s Jamaica struggled for a way out of poverty, economic dependence, joblessness, racism and as a result she became a pawn in the Cold War, between America Inc. and the U.S.S.R. After Michael Manley replaced his father in 1969 and defeated the JLP (Jamaica Labor Party) there were great changes made to domestic and foreign policy. Michael Manley’s People’s Socialist National Party (PNP), represented the have-nots fighting to hold ground against Edward Seaga’s conservative Jamaican Labor Party (JLP), representing the haves.
In the 1976 election, the PNP campaigned against oppression, imperialism, and capitalism, strong attempts were made to include the urban poor, blue-collar workers, youth, and the unemployed and underemployed in politics. Philip Agee, former CIA officer (in an interview on the documentary, “Rebel Music”) confirms that the CIA was supplying guns and anti-PNP propaganda to the conservative JLP. (Some Jamaican’s began calling Seaga “CIAga.”)
Agee states, “The CIA would look upon the radical political content of reggae as dangerous because it would help to create a consciousness among the poor people, the great majority of Jamaicans.” In 1976 Bob Marley was approached and agreed to play a concert entitled ‘Smile Jamaica’ which had been organized by the Government of Jamaica, in order to quell much of the violence taking place in the country particularly between rival political bandits who lived in areas controlled by political parties who would exchange food and homes for political allegiance.
Three days before the intended concert Marley along with his manager, his wife Rita and others, were all injured in an assassination attempt. The PNP administration wondered if he would go through with the concert, but despite Rita’s reservations Marley did play at the concert, and used his music to show defiance. Manley’s supporters claimed that the CIA was supporting Seaga and covertly supplying him with arms, while Seaga’s supporters characterized Manley as a closet revolutionary who would turn the island into another Cuba.
It eventually became clear that the voters blamed Manley for the country’s economic crisis. During his eight years as Prime Minister had made some significant contributions to Jamaica: a minimum wage, free education, equal pay for women, newly built health centers and 40,000 units of low-income housing. But endemic poverty remained, and critics charged his administration with woeful mismanagement. His relationship with Fidel Castro frightened the middle class as well as foreign investors. Soon Jamaica found itself with a severe brain drain and an inability to finance the increased cost of oil imports. Food shortages, in fact, provided Seaga with a key theme. “We are in a country that produces sugar, and you can’t get a bowl of sugar.”
The election soon boiled down to a choice between proffered economic solutions: Manley’s Third World socialism vs. Seaga’s Western-backed free-enterprise monetarism. Reckless rhetoric from both parties also tried to turn the election into a false battleground between “godless Communism” and “sinister fascism.”
A Harvard graduate (in sociology), Seaga -now retired- spent several years in a rural part of Jamaica studying child development and also wrote a book on the island’s spiritualist cults. At the age of 29 he became the youngest member of the legislature, where at the time he was considered more leftist than Manley.
He held Cabinet posts in both the Labor governments that ruled from 1962 to 1972; as Finance Minister he earned a reputation as a tough administrator, especially in plugging tax loopholes. He and his wife Mitsy, a former Miss Jamaica, have three children. In an interview sometime back, Seaga dismissed accusations that over the years have painted him alternately as a Communist and a fascist. “The fact of the matter is that I am very much in the center”. His immediate problem, he explained, would be to renegotiate the country’s $1.5 billion debt and deal with the country’s virtual bankruptcy.
As to continued violence, he had expressed optimism that he would be able to bind the nation’s wounds “Once the decision has been made.” he said, “the people who are the losers usually move out of the way because they don’t have anything to fight for any more.” Some of Seaga’s decisions included sending troops to help the US invade Grenada in October 1983. As the PM of Jamaica at the time Seaga had always been part of the problem that Jamaica had been facing since Independence.
October 25, 1983
This was the day when the Corporate United States, committed armed assault on Grenada. Grenada, is an even smaller and poorer Caribbean country than Jamaica. The invaders killed hundreds claiming they went in to “rescue” American students. The Jamaican Prime Minister at the time, Edward Seaga, a close friend of the US President Ronald Reagan, sent in Jamaican troops “to help” his American compatriot. Only a couple of other Caribbean countries followed Seaga’s example. To this day this Anglo-Saxon born in America still continues to have certain elements in Jamaica under his mythical spell, in a case of the colonized worshiping the colonialist
This is an excerpt from the excellent book ” High Crimes of Murder” by the Conscious Rasta
CIA involvement in the arming of the JLP-linked gangs
CIA involvement in the arming of the JLP-linked gangs was revealed by the former agent Philip Agee. By the end of the 70s, JLP and PNP politicians bought gunmen as a means of sustaining political influence and handing out jobs and favours. After the 1980 election in Jamaica which brought the CIA stooge Edward Seaga to office, Jamaica became a sweatshop for American manufacturers, with Nike paying 20 cents an hour to handpicked cheap labour. Seaga turned the police and army onto the gun gangs whose expansion he’d overseen. By the mid 80s, the Americas Watch human rights monitoring group estimated that one third of the island’s homicides were committed by the police.
The gangs moved to New York and Miami, and many of them became street soldiers for the Cali cartel. In 1976, Jamaica, because of the intensity of political violence, was under martial law. Political warfare was taking place in the streets of the island’s major cities. The populace was divided along class lines with the masses of the working class, poor and dispossessed supporting Prime Minister Michael Manley’s People’s National Party (PNP) and the elite backing the opposition Edward Seaga’s Jamaican Labor Party (JLP). Both camps made use of armed street gangs recruited from the ghettos of Kingston and outlying areas.
Additionally, offshore influences deepened the conflict; the leftist PNP in solidarity with regional socialists and the JLP backed by the wealthy Western powers. In reference to the 1976 peace concert the book states: There was a lot of jealousy. As a result, a number of people conspired to assassinate Marley in the days before the concert. The men who tried to assassinate Bob were never brought to trial; they were all murdered themselves. Vigilantes hung them in the ghetto long before the police could even find out who they were. It was pretty grisly. …After Bob was shot and he survived, he went on to perform at the concert, which was December 5, 1976, in Jamaica.
He was supposed to be under government protection, but many of those men vanished. He was supposed to take a plane out of Jamaica the following day under police protection. And those guards vanished. It was a very mysterious thing, the point being that he was left vulnerable again if someone else wanted to try to kill him. It was a very spooky, sinister set of circumstances. Pictures that were taken of Marley and people hanging around his house, where the assassination attempt took place, later vanished under very mysterious circumstances.”Any kind of record of who those people might have been just vanished.”
From High Crimes of Murder: “CIAga and Ronald “Raygun”
A confidential CIA airgram dispatched to the State Department from the American embassy in Kingston on April 28, 1981-about four months after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration-revealed the cynical motive behind Seaga’s oddly timed bestowal of the Order of Merit, to depict as disreputably unpatriotic Opposition leader Michael Manley’s People’s National Party. As the classified communiqué carefully explained: “Jamaica’s Governor General, Florizel Glasspole, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on April 17, four weeks after Prime Minister Edward Seaga had announced the Government of Jamaica’s decision to allow Jamaicans to accept foreign honors…(The Governor General received 150 congratulatory messages and cables on the first day after the announcement and many more on subsequent days.)
Government members in the House of Representatives paid tribute to and congratulated the Governor General when the House met on April 22. At the same time that Jamaica House released the news of the Governor General’s knighthood, it was announced that Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley, who is being treated for cancer in the Federal Republic of Germany, had been awarded the Order of Merit, Jamaica’s third highest honor. In responding to the government’s tribute to the Governor General, the Opposition moved to congratulate Marley at the same time and allowed itself to be maneuvered into a position of not paying tribute to the popular Governor General.”
Thus, in one stroke, Seaga had both humiliated Manley’s democratic socialists and defused the explosive legacy of the Third World’s most renowned rabble-rouser. Once it might have been unseemly for Seaga’s Reagan-steered regime to have celebrated a musician who actively endorsed black leftist struggles for freedom and self-determination in Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique and South Africa. But Marley’s terminal illness and Seaga’s election mandate of October 30, 1980, had allowed the canny new prime minister to cloak the courage of the reggae firebrand’s convictions with a cultural garland that smacked of a gratuity.
We can thus conclude through such documentation that there had been quite an interest in the Rastafarian reggae movement and those who had risen to lead such a progressive struggle. And as indicated in the previous paragraphs, the issue of the British Crown issuing such titles to non-British subjects leaves room for suspicion and speculation. It’s very important for people to realize two things: The Third (first)World is most of the world, and that, from a philosophical standpoint, no one is free until everyone is free. People in government realize that. There’s so much of a focus on the Caribbean in the last 20 or 25 years as a strategic point in the Western Hemisphere, in terms of both military and cultural significance.
So someone like Bob Marley, who was supporting freedom struggles around the world, in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and behind the Iron Curtain, was a very threatening figure for the conservative presence around the world… The United States government disagreed with Bob Marley in terms of who he chose to support, and the way he saw the freedom struggles in South Africa or wherever.
In modem times, certainly in the post-war era, the United States government has been very conservative in its perspective. It has supported a lot of sleazy dictatorships, for cynical reasons, figuring that if the government that’s in power is friendly toward us, especially from a business standpoint, they’re the lesser of two evils. Marley felt that was a lousy way of looking at the world.
Excerpted from High Crimes of Murder
By Keidi Obi Awadu-Conscious Rasta