an area of the map for world news.
the October 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No.
is not a Nation
Boyne, The Jamaica Gleaner (on-line, centrist), Kingston, Jamaica,
July 15, 2001
7 in Kingston, Jamaica, was a familiar refrain from the 1960s: the
rough-and-tumble of party politics played out by police and gangs.
Three days of clashes left at least 25 dead. The latest disorder erupted
after a series of tit-for-tat killings precipitated by the murder
of a gang leader tied to the ruling party. The government sent troops
into the Tivoli Garden neighborhood, ostensibly to disarm gunmen,
but the opposition claims the action was really an assault on its
man shot during fights in Kingston, Jamaica arrives at the hospital
for treatment (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner).
In the same weekend that Minister of Finance and Planning Omar Davies
went to the nation to brag about the number of international institutions
and agencies that have commented favorably on Jamaicas economic
achievements, his message was shot by blazing guns in West Kingston
that concentrated the nations attention away from the economy.
Whats the use of having a great economy if you are not alive
to enjoy it?
The weeks turmoil in Jamaica should be enough to prove my thesis
that Jamaicas fundamental crisis is cultural/sociological, not
economic. And for those who doubted the fragility of an economic superstructure
not bolstered by a strong foundation of supporting cultural values,
the recent terror of West Kingston should make them think again.
There is nothing besides football that gives us a sense of common
purpose. This is the tragedy of Jamaica, not simply our years of negative
growth. Any growth that we were predicting for this fiscal year is
surely threatened by the mayhem and anarchy that erupted not just
in West Kingston but all over the corporate area [of the Kingston
Many people sense that what is missing is this sense of unity: the
sense of being part of a larger cause, the sense of nationhood. [Bar
Association President] Derek Jones was wailing with [talk-show host]
Wilmot Perkins that we need to put Jamaica first. Others were saying
the same thing. [Economics professor] Damien King put it poignantly
on the Breakfast Club radio program on Thursday morning: What is the
sense of [Prime Minister] P.J. Patterson and [Jamaica Labor Party
(JLP) leader] Edward Seagas meeting if they dont trust
each other? The major problem is that of trust, Jones
When I hear an economist, a member of the dismal profession, speaking
like that, I nurture a sense of hope that we can somehow grapple with
what is the fundamental problem, after all. If you dont address
this fundamental problem of the lack of trust, of the difficulty in
forging win-win situations, and of our disastrously poor conflict-resolution
skills, all the power of civil society will be dissipated.
It is one thing for the powerful private-sector people to force Mr.
Patterson and Mr. Seaga into one room. But unity and uniformity are
not the same thing. The men can respond because of public pressure
and as a political compromise, but if their hearts are not in it,
all the work of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, Jamaicans
for Justice, the trade unions, and the churches will be in vain. This
lack of trust is the greatest present and clear danger to Jamaica.
The people dont trust the security forces, and, therefore, we
cannot unite to overcome the criminals. Society is bitterly divided
on how to deal with these criminals.
How can we restore law and order when substantial sections of the
Jamaican people and highly influential opinion-makers believe that
what is seen as the constituted authorities for law and order are
themselves a threat to law and order? Mr. Perkins is saying openly
that if the state cannot protect the people in the inner cities, they
have a natural right to defend themselves. When as a society you have
reached a stage where a leading commentator can hold such a position
and get support for it, then you know we are teetering on the brink
of anarchy. I am interested in peace and law and order,
but what about justice? Which again underscores the point that the
divisions in the society are so deep and sore that there is no common
point at which the various perspectives or minds can meet.
A most important speech, which got no publicity, was given by [banker]
Sir John Goddard at the Le Meridien Jamaica Pegasus Hotel during Exporters
Week in mid-June. It looked at the Barbadian [example]. Sir
John talked about the years of economic crisis in Barbados. In 1990,
1991, and 1992 the economy declined 3.3 percent, 4.5 percent, and
5 percent, respectively. In 1991 foreign reserves were down to just
a weeks cover. Unemployment reached 25 percent. Sir John showed
how a social partnership agreement was brokered in the midst of the
economic and social crisis.
This is what this country has not shown a capacity for. In the midst
of the Barbadian economic crisis, Sir John told the exporters: As
has happened so many times in our history, Barbadians realized that
they would have to rely on their great love for their country.
This is what Jamaicans lack. All of the JLPs grand economic
schemes will mean nothing if tourists and investors are scared to
come to the island. Make no mistake about it: The [ruling] Peoples
National Party has the capacity to mash it up, too, if
they decide to sabotage an incoming JLP administration.
The thousands who live in abject poverty and deprivation in
the ghettos will not be rescued overnight by economic growth.
If we dont find a way to have them buy into something
besides their stomachs, then be prepared for many more weeks
like the last one.