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Will we move from mudslinging to bloodshed?

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by Dr. Richard A. B. Cox

The first time I met Jamaicans in any great numbers was at university, and, their main preoccupation with me was that I was from a tiny island. They would run any number of jokes on me like, if someone hit a six while playing cricket in SVG we would have to retrieve the ball from the sea. Or that Ben Johnson couldn’t run a 60 metres dash on SVG at full pace for by the time he slowed down, he would be at the southern tip of the Grenadines. But in a moment of rare candour, one we called Fitzy admitted to me that he would give anything for Jamaica to have the peace and tranquillity of SVG. {{more}}

Today Jamaica is so gripped by violence that the very existence of the state is now threatened, at least this is what the Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips implied by saying that the state would not surrender to criminals. My peep into the history of this Jamaican social cancer revealed there is really no one cause.

I was able to ascertain however, that since independence, politics plays a great role in orchestrating, motivating and sponsoring this virtual daily haemorrhage which hit an all time high during the 1980 elections. With the boom of the drug trade, there was a marriage of convenience between drug lords and politicians. This is now the oil greasing the wheels of this runaway train of violence, crashing daily into, inter alia, the so-called ghetto communities of Kingston, Mo Bay and Spanish Town, causing incurable wounds to the social and political health of Jamaica.

I had always hoped and prayed to God that my country would never become afflicted by such self-destructive political folly, for like Jamaica, we would never recover. I was at home during the ’94 election when political violence claimed the life of a young woman participating in a motorcade, leaving her infant child motherless. This awakened my senses to the fact that if we continue along this path, it would be only a matter of time before the Jamaican-style gun slinging, murderous political campaigning is upon us. After all, we are master copycats.

Serious violence in our elections had signalled its arrival even before I went off to university for I remember that gunmen for an opposing party had shot up the Redemption Sharps campaign headquarters of NDP candidate Cammie King in 1979. I had left the block not 10 minutes earlier. But this shooting targeted at King’s headquarters and the 1994 tragedy, as unfortunate as they were, did not set a pattern. However, today, when you listen to what is happening on the radio and on the platform as the election temperature rises, you wonder if this type of violence is not now set to become a permanent feature of electoral politics in this country. I am convinced that going down this road would set an avalanche in motion which will only stop at the bottom’ take all in its path on its way there with a deadly destructive force.

Yes, it’s alright to think me alarmist and I would be the first to rejoice if during the coming elections my warning proved unfounded and baseless. But just to take you down memory lane, after the results of the penultimate elections, there was a real threat of social chaos and violence on a national scale. The disgraceful behaviour of that headless, untutored and uncultured crowd at the opening of parliament after those elections is best not mentioned here, if only out of respect for one of its innocent victims, a man of unquestionable integrity and decency, the late Sir Charles Antrobus.

This was then followed by a period of social and political unrest, frightening our neighbours into intervention to prevent bloodshed as the battle for political power threatened the very sanity of the nation. The sitting Prime Minister, feeling besieged by the belligerence of the other side promised, “if is war they want, is war they go get” and reminded us from whom “my police force” takes orders. I shuddered when I thought of the implications of those words. These things disturbed me greatly and I wondered if these men didn’t see that their motto of power at all costs could reduce this nation to rubble.

History will show it is a sheer miracle that politics and politicians have not yet brought this country to complete national mayhem and serious bloodletting. The question now is, will this so far merely threatening evil now be let loose? No you say, can’t happen here. Well look again, for I have heard key party members declaring with full authority that mud pelting of the other side will not go unanswered this time, and that the principle of every action has an equal and opposite reaction will be fully adhered to come next elections. In local parlance we say: Tit for tat. This is clear indication that there is going to be an escalation of this political confrontation which could well move from tit for tat to an eye for an eye, and, as Ghandi said, this would be making the whole country blind.

Yes, I might sound insane, but there are many others who share my view. While at home last December I checked and from the CobbleStone to my discussions on the streets and yes in the rum shops, many are of the view that the coming elections are going to be violent. I indicated to some that this was my feeling but didn’t want to say so publicly as I could be totally misunderstood as happened with one Randy Aberdeen not too long ago. I however resolved that taking the present political reality of the country in consideration, this needed to be said for, as calypsonian Leader pointed out after the stalemate in ’72 a generation ago, politically speaking, SVG is a small garden full of bitter weeds. The reason for this is simple; our type of democracy is one of winner takes all, so we go into campaigning with the philosophy; if your right hand offends you chop it off. I agree that presently in this election we are only at the point of mud pelting, but when the real war begins will stones replace the mud?

Oh, so you think I am taking it too far. Really! Well, it was because stones replaced mud that the young lady lost her life on the NDP motorcade in 1994. Yes, it was indeed a stone that killed her and this is fact, not the imagination of this writer. And what is worse, is that the value of life seems to have fallen drastically on the Vincentian market of late, last year we averaged more than two murders a month and with 2005 being an election year will there be a further drop?

Power is precious and priceless in the eyes of the politician and he would do anything, including destroying the very state he wants to rule (the wastelands of Somalia is a perfect example, if that’s too far off, check with Haiti) to achieve or keep it. The mudslinging that we are seeing now is only the smoke, there is much more behind. But, there is still time for reason to prevail for we must not, simply cannot sacrifice the future of our children by reducing this nation to being another Jamaica.

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