Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Wednesday | February 6, 2013
Home : Commentary
Fighting the same battles
Dennie Quill, Columnist

It's amazing how much countries have in common - be they big and powerful, or poor and small. Today, the cries for justice echo from all corners of the earth as ordinary people seek to challenge the status quo and arrive at a better place where they can sustain themselves and their families.

For example, one finds a striking similarity between the United States and Jamaica in terms of the battles that both countries are fighting. First, let's put things in perspective: America is a rich country where millions of poor people live, while Jamaica is a poor country where there are a few rich people.

Both countries are staring at huge national debts which are exacerbated by the financial crisis; their populations face shrinking job opportunities; and the scourge of crime and gun violence is creating mayhem all around. Though the root causes may be different, the battles are just as tough.

Jamaica has not experienced mass shootings of children in school, but beautiful potential-filled Jamaican children are being slaughtered in their homes, on the way to school, and elsewhere. The impact of gun violence on our children is particularly chilling, and our society has failed to protect these children. We have a responsibility to these victims and we must see the barbarity against our children end now.

Americans are said to have an obsession with guns, and the same can be said about Jamaicans. Guns appear to be accessible to criminals in every little village, judging from reported incidents from all across the land.

It seems there is a real opportunity for Jamaica and the United States to stage a major summit on guns. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 57 per cent of illegal guns are traced back to 1.2 per cent of licensed gun dealers. These dealers profit from the misery of men, women and children who are caught up in street violence. Many of these guns have found their way on to our streets.

I doubt whether politicians will ever be able to fix the gun problem; and they certainly cannot do it by themselves. I believe that civil society, thought leaders, and academics need to become part of the solution by studying these worrying trends and defining the challenges and opportunities.

solutions

Can we hold hands with America to find solutions to some of the common problems that we face? How about America making a greater effort to staunch the flow of guns to Jamaica? How about Jamaica redoubling its efforts to shut down the criminal network of lottery scammers? Little Jamaica and big America - yes we can.

A recent column of mine has received the following note from the Court Management Services Department of the Ministry of Justice.

"The column dated Wednesday, December 5, 2012, titled 'Ganja and the Supreme Court', made reference to statements in relation to the support of marijuana smoking on the Supreme Court building in an effort to soothe 'extremely boisterous' criminals. The judiciary is equally concerned about such reports and the police have been requested, made prior to the publication of your article, on occasion to carry out investigations into the matter.

"In her last request, the chief justice wrote to the commander referring to the matter and requested, 'Please give this matter your urgent attention as the situation is unacceptable.'

"The chief justice has directed the police commander at the Supreme Court and he was asked to carry out investigations into the matter. It is noted that contraband, such as ganja, matches, cigarette lighters, and cellphones, is strictly prohibited inside any police lock-up. Prisoners are, however, in the custody of the police, who are expected to deal with illegal activities in accordance with the law.

"The commander at the Supreme Court is in discussion with the commissioner of police to address this issue. Because of regulations relating to certain types of searches, the Canine Division has been contacted and is currently assisting with the search of inmates."

Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and denniequill@hotmail.com.

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