Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | September 28, 2009
Home : Letters
Lessons from a tragedy

AS THE nation was reminded daily by the Armadale enquiry about the unfortunate events which unfolded on the night of May 22, one cannot help but hope that all the invaluable lessons will be learnt rather than being consigned to the scrap heap of history.

For, if these lessons are not absorbed, then we as a people will be resigned to revisiting shock and horror as we helplessly observe another tragedy of a similar nature. One thing is certain, enquiry or not, a tragedy of this magnitude must never again unfold. It is extremely unfortunate that seven young lives had to be extinguished - their fellow young wards as well as the entire nation shaken up - before we reluctantly awoke from our collective slumber to the sobering realities of our society and culture.

Shrugging responsibility

This is a society in which young promising lives are lost due to the fact that those who are not only entrusted with their welfare, but are also compensated for 'doing their duties', often chose not to go beyond the call of duty or to go the extra mile to ensure that those whose lives they oversee are being properly cared for, as well as positively rehabilitated. In any event, in the aftermath of such an event, the following serious questions will have to be raised and answered:

1. Would the wards have suffered the same fate if left in the care of their parents or guardians as they did while in the care of the state?

2. What steps are being pursued and implemented as to ensure that the other institutions similar to Armadale do not suffer the same fate and are transformed into rehabilitative centres of excellence?

3. Will anyone claim responsibility for these unfortunate events? Or better yet, will any punitive actions be taken against those in charge?

Degrading girls not the way

Whether the above questions (as well as others) are asked and answered, the fact remains that these young ladies were treated in an absolutely dehumanising manner, all of this was done in the name of 'rehabilitation' by no less than those who should have engendered hope and a feeling of belonging, as well as change their lives for the better.These young women were no saints by any stretch of the imagination, by no means 'choir girls', but by creating a misguided perception of these young women as societal rejects and treating them as such is definitely not the road which leads to greater self-esteem and self-worth.

As unfortunate as it is, there are some who are of the view that the wards deserve no less as they were mischief-makers and future societal hazards, but in true Jamaican terms, "dem a smaddy pickney too". Besides this, the fact remains that people deserves a second chance, as well as they are human beings and they deserved to be treated as such, not caged and degraded, but rather empowered and inspired.

It is my hope as well as the hope of others that, as a country we learn from a shameful piece of our history, which is known as Armadale as to ensure that we are not doomed to repeat it.

I am, etc.,



St Elizabeth

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