For thirty six years, Jamaica has seen a rapid increase in homicides, greeted by such small declines that we celebrate when under sixteen hundred are killed.
For over forty years gunmen have roamed the streets unchecked, whether with political support as in the 70’s-80’s or without it as seen in the past twenty years, what do we do to stem the flow of blood?
That is the constant refrain we hear, how do we end the madness? Well we can first start by calling it what it is, an insurgency. A violent insurgency against the state is taking place before our very eyes, gunmen have areas that are no go zones for the police and military and as such have set up proto-states where businesses are taxed and people are terrorized into submission.
Acknowledging that we have an insurgency is the easy part, dealing with it is the hard part and I do not envy the current security minister and his position as he has to answer that question.
The way I see it there are three ways to deal with the rampant crime/insurgency. The first option is the most draconian, the Sri Lankan way. The Sri Lankan state was in a civil war for over thirty years with the insurgent Tamil tiger rebels and it seemed to be stuck in a stalemate. That is until the Sri Lanka army took the initiative and bombed Tamil tiger positions indiscriminately, killing many rebels while also slaughtering countless civilians. This was followed up by internment camps for persons viewed as Tamil tiger sympathisers that continue to this day. Drastic methods were used but a thirty year civil war was ended in weeks by that course of action, the trade off being the increased hatred the ethnic Tamils feel towards the state.
Another example of ending an insurgency can be found closer to home in neighboring Colombia. For over fifty years the state has been at war with many groups, mainly the FARC. After half a century of conflict and decades of stalemate the Colombian government took the decision to hold a negotiated settlement of the conflict. This comprises of truth and reconciliation committees, the re-burial of thousands of ‘disappeared’ and the FARC laying down weapons to become a political entity.
And finally we have the Brazil model of slum cleansing. Brazil has a huge violence problem fuelled mainly by the drug trade and rampant corruption, the state was forced to react because they were and are hosting major international events. What the Brazilian government decided to do was send in ‘swat’ teams to clear the slums of the thugs, while later sending in for want of a better phrase social workers to try and mend societal fences. Unfortunately the social workers are undermanned so don’t venture regularly. So instead we hear reports of extra judicial killings, kill squads and the like as the police try to clamp down on areas with a resurgence in crime.
Jamaica can discount the first two options. We can’t shell these communities into submission because that would defeat the purpose of re-integration, nor can we offer an olive branch to these persons because this is not a political war but one of thugs verses the last remnants of law and order. That leaves the Brazilian option, and while it is obvious that the program has not been implemented well, it is still very good on paper.
Going into garrisons with force is needed yes, but force alone will solve nothing. Insurgencies come alive for many reasons but are sustained because a large enough swath of the population wills it, because of ignorance and lack of opportunities.
Social workers must be apart of the solution, re-education and re-integration are a must, providing disenchanted youth with realistic opportunities is a must or else we will end up like Sri Lanka winning the war and losing the peace, or like Brazil, just sweeping issues under the rug.
The answer at the end of the day is simple in theory at least. Force must be used, but calculated force, along with an incursion of state aid and social care, the social care and aid is the key. All too often we think that we can use brute force alone to deal with ‘societies dregs’, but we forget that they are people with hopes, dreams and aspirations.
If a serious effort was done by the state as it relates to care and aid then after the security forces go back to base, which they must, then instead of being greeted by an angry uprising ten years down the line, we will be met by people who while scarred will be ready to meet and be less apprehensive about entering the state.