Politicians using criminals

Stabroek News
September 25, 1999

Speaking to The Jamaica Exporters Association Public Forum on the topic "Jamaica United Against Crime for Economic Development and Social Justice" on the 3lst August, l999, Mr Richard Small, the well known Jamaican human rights lawyer, had some remarkable things to say about the relationship between politicians and criminals in the ongoing violence in Jamaica which has recently achieved terrifying proportions.

Referring to a recent apology by a politician for a remark he had made about some infamous murders at Green Bay 20 years ago Mr Small said:

"We place in charge of the management of our affairs, including the management of law and order, which is a principal responsibility of any Government, persons who have slept with, lived with, benefited from the organisation of crime - both to get where they are and once they get there to stay where they are (applause). In addition, many of us give the support knowing that that is how they behave. We give both financial and organisational support. In that quest, we lose our tongues, we suppress our consciences, we talk double speak to avoid recognising it and we continue in the hope that we will get some small gravy or crumbs as a result (applause). (Interjection: I would rather hear a shame instead of a clap, say shame, not clap. It's a disgrace) (Shame, shame)".

And again:

"The involvement of the major political parties and others, and I have made it clear, that in my view the W.P.J. is also involved, (Applause) - the involvement of large sections of our society complicit in criminality and violence is so serious that it may well be that there would be very few people left to run this country if they were all to talk (Laughter)(Applause). That is why I support the call for a statutorily established Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Applause) with immunity for those who genuinely, may I use the word "confess", those who genuinely confess, those who wholeheartedly confess, so that (a) they can bare their souls, (b) that those who suffered at their hands can have some form of closure and the opportunity for forgiveness and that this country can move forward (Applause).

"The silence, the silence of the J.L.P., the cry for silence from the P.N.P., the shout for silence from their own Delano Franklin for silence from the P.N.P. is stunning. This country , this public, this people urgently need to say, we have had enough, there is a time for turning around, we are not going to lose any sense of context, there will be every opportunity for everybody to say their (piece) this society needs to move forward. I think without going into more details, that one has said enough to indicate that all the sins, the problems, the difficulties that have been described so graphically tonight by people who live in the inner city cannot be resolved and we cannot move forward until the whole society can see that those who are involved or continue to benefit from criminality do not have appended to their names The Right Honourable or the Honourable" (Applause).

Strong and moving language which will resonate in Guyana and other parts of the Caribbean and further afield. The use of criminals by politicians for their own purposes is a most dangerous and unprincipled manoeuvre that has led Jamaica to its present impasse. As Mr Small said in his address "no serious discussion about how the economy of this country has ground to a halt can be undertaken until we recognise that this (the involvement of politicians in criminal violence) is the main problem".

People have been emigrating from Jamaica for decades largely due to political and criminal violence. They have had a diaspora analogous to ours. It shows the dreadful consequences that can follow when politicians seek to use criminals opportunistically and the frankenstein monster they can create. It is a cautionary tale that we must keep very firmly in mind. The final tragedy for us all would be a country in which criminals or narco-terrorists hold sway.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples