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Crime in Hairouna

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16.MAY.08

EDITOR: The BBC recently hosted its “Caribbean Crime Forum”. The much anticipated discussion which impaneled experts from around the region was yet another disappointingly sterile and innocuous exercise in academia. The only concept treated in any significant detail was that of “better policing”.{{more}}

Any contributors to the discussion who dared to pose the question of influence of morality on the crime situation were treated in the most condescending manner. Upon reflection on the definition of crime, we see that it is an action or omission that constitutes an offence that may be prosecuted by the State and is punishable by law. When we look at our laws we see that each and every one of them makes a moral determination than some action or lack thereof is wrong or right and, therefore, to be prohibited and punished, or encouraged and rewarded. For example, SVG’s Laws hold that tax evasion is wrong and, therefore, penalties are attached. The law also holds that timely payment of tax is good and so a tax refund is attached. It is, therefore, impossible to divorce the question of crime from morality.

I am not suggesting that better policing should not be discussed and attempted, but a focus solely on better policing will not produce results, as evidenced in the developed world. The crime problems of SVG must be dealt with in a multi-pronged manner. We must examine the causes of the decline in public morality. We must also address the lack of availability of social services (counseling, psychiatric care,) especially to young victims of violence. Our politicians must have the courage to legislate with a view to eliminating or mitigating those influences that foster public immorality. Last but not least, action must be taken to reestablish confidence in our judicial system.

At the heart of much of the violent crime in our society is a pervasive lack of respect for human life and the human person. We have only to look at recent events to verify this; my heart goes out to Lorna Small’s family. Look at the violence in our schools and the violence perpetrated by the students and the young in general. How can a nation that allows abortion for almost any reason that can be dreamed up hope to pass on to its youth a respect for life? Mother Teresa of Calcutta once invited the world to ponder, who is safe if mothers can choose to kill the children in their wombs? How can respect for women be fostered when pornography and pornographic impulses bombard us so comprehensively? How will our sons become fathers of tomorrow if we don’t father them now? How will our daughters find their own strength and self-esteem if they don’t know a father’s love?

Our laws must change to reflect a stance that is more respectful of life, to restrict pornography, to crack down on sexual harassment, and to crack down on statutory rape, which occurs sometimes with the approval of parents, or guardians who benefit from it. We must start with the injustices we have been ignoring if we want change. It has been said that Justice must not only be done, but it must appear to be done. What good will come from talking to a young man about rape while his sister’s boss forces her to perform sexual favors with impunity, and the parents of the girl next door sell her to the highest bidder?

The people of any nation must be able to trust its judicial system if vigilantism and general discontent are to be avoided. Two recent cases in particular caused me alarm, and shook my confidence in the judicial system: the Glen Jackson case, and that of the slapping of Ipa. If two such prominent citizens can have violent crimes committed upon them with no one being brought to Justice, an unsettling question arises: who can this not happen to? No one may think him/herself safe. We must decide what kind of society we want to grow old in, and if we hope to grow old we must decide quickly.

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