Answers needed
Stabroek News
November 11, 2002

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On October 28, when two men including prison escapee Mark Fraser were shot dead by unknown gunmen on the East Coast, a series of questions immediately arose.

Ultimately each and every citizen wanted to know who these mystery gunmen were and whether they had been a part of the official law enforcement operation which saw several other men including escapee, Dale Moore being killed. These questions and their answers are the very essence of what makes for a lawful and orderly democracy. No one wants shadowy gunmen running wild and killing people even if they are notorious criminals. It is a slippery road to further societal breakdown.

In their first opportunity to answer the questions, the police said they were not involved in the shootings on the East Coast and intimated that the deaths might somehow be related to gang feuds - as if that would prove any more comforting to the public.

The situation has become even more pressing following the incidents of last Monday when five more men were gunned down cold-bloodedly at the corner of Robb and Light streets. Virtually a week later the police don't seem to know anything about these frightening shootings and true to form no one has been held. Were the deaths of these men in anyway linked to the events of the previous Monday and who were the gunmen? The familiar questions. The familiar silence from the police. The shroud of anxiety weaved by the escapees and their cohorts could hardly be lifted in the wake of the unchecked activities of these gunmen. What do the police, army and Home Affairs Ministry have to say? We await the findings of the army investigation into the October 28 events at Annandale.

Who are their parents?

A savage feature of the post-February 23 crime wave has been the rampages of gangs of youths. Whether on foot, bicycles, motor bikes or in conjunction with their older compatriots, these youths with guns and knives in hand have been cruel and on some occasions murderous. Whether it was the holding up of buses outside of Buxton and the robbing of defenceless women and children or the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the farmer Motilall, these youths have added a chillingly new dimension to the wave of crime. Their actions beg the question: where are their parents? Are they sitting by and knowingly allowing their children to shred the fabric of society? Or is it that they have long surrendered their parental responsibilities and don't know or don't care to know? Even so, what of the villages that they live in? For instance Buxton, do the village elders at all have any sway with these youths or are trying at all to steer them away from these heinous acts? After all, before they started committing these acts they weren't hardened criminals with guns at the ready waiting to drill holes into their targets. They were children, who despite the admitted lack of employment opportunities and other means of making useful contributions to society were like those of any other village. How could their parents allow them to take up this life of crime? How could their community leaders? How could their village? How could society? Something must be done for these youths otherwise they risk being consigned to a lifetime of criminality that will ruin their dreams and turn them into threats to state security. If any group should benefit from the mercy of the state via an amnesty it should be them. Village leaders and social workers should set about trying to find out more about these youths and re-orienting their lives.

The flow of arms

With each and every find of arms and ammunition it becomes so much clearer how well equipped the escapees and their cohorts were and how easily these tools of death can be brought into the country. It follows that once there are more desperadoes around like Andrew Douglas and Dale Moore willing to plunder and take up a cause, equipping them won't be a problem. This is an extremely serious problem which the government and the police have to address. The trafficking of small arms has been one of the menaces that have contributed to Jamaica's entrenched crime over many years. With the lax border controls here, a similar risk is faced. The arms cache found on October 28 in Lamaha Gardens points to the opportunistic collection of weapons by the bandits from businessmen and other sources and perhaps the odd purchase. The finding of more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition however indicates some formal purchase and shipment into the country. How and where did this happen? Doubtlessly there are other stockpiles of weapons and ammunition. The police have to find these and begin to implement some strategy to thwart the trafficking of weapons otherwise the rearming of dangerous groups could start all over. The government should ensure that it is following the plan of action adopted in July 2001 at the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons and use this as a platform for seeking assistance to enhance border and other controls.

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