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Martial law in Kingston: The Church of England Newspaper, May 28, 2010 p 6. June 6, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Crime.
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The Rt Rev & Hon Alfred Reid, Bishop of Jamaica

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Jamaica has descended into lawlessness and moral anarchy, the Bishop of Jamaica, Dr. Alfred Reid told his diocesan synod last month, with social distress greater today than during the “worse days of slavery.”

Jamaica has had a “long history of violence and terrorism beginning with the holocaust of chattel slavery and the limbo existence of colonialism,” Dr. Reid said on April 30,  but “never before has people’s social distress been as extreme as it is now.

“Poverty, sickness, criminality and social chaos have reached unheard of proportions,” the bishop said, and has left people without hope.

“Even at the worse of time, the slaves lived in hope of a new day and they endured with the conviction that even if they themselves did not live to see that new day, their children would,” the bishops said, but the “present generation” has “surrendered to a terrible fatalism that does not envisage any other scenario and feel that we will always be at the mercy of merciless might.”

The bishop’s warning comes amidst a breakdown of law and order in Kingston.  On May 23 the government declared a state of emergency in two west Kingston parishes after gunmen supporting alleged narcotics kingpin Christopher Coke firebombed a police station and exchanged gun fire with police.

Barricades were erected in Hannah Town and Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston by gunmen loyal to Coke, as smoke from burning cars rose above the city’s slums.  Police withdrew from the torched police station and took up defensive positions in four other stations that were sprayed with bullets from roaming bands of gunmen carrying assault weapons.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said “scores of criminals” from gangs across Jamaica had traveled to West Kingston to join the fight. “It is now clear that criminal elements are determined to launch coordinated attacks on the security forces,” he told a press conference over the weekend.

Coke has been indicted on drugs trafficking charges in New York, but Prime Minister Bruce Golding has refused extradition requests for the past nine months.  However, in the wake of intense pressure from Washington, Mr. Golding relented, and authorized the extradition of Coke last week—sparking the riots.

In a national address broadcast on May 23, Mr. Golding said martial law had been declared in West Kingston, allowing the army to search and detain suspects without warrants.  The city “is not being shut down,” he said, and schools and businesses outside the two parishes remained open.

Labeled one of the world’s major crime figures by the US Justice Department, Coke has close ties with the governing Jamaica Labour Party, and has had de facto control over West Kingston—an area represented in parliament by Mr. Golding.

Bishop Reid told synod that Jamaica was being “held hostage by hoodlums.”  The “myth of Robin Hood cannot redeem the ugly and nasty reality of crooks being held up to our children as benefactors and heroes.”

“If these are the models of aspiration and the ideal of success that we present to the next generation, then we have de-futurized our children and our country,” he said, noting that it was “pure hypocrisy and a cruel deception to say that these people rob the rich to support the poor.”

Those “affected by extortion and violent exploitation are the hard working Jamaicans seeking to overcome poverty by dint of industry and effort, and the “so called” beneficiaries are still poor and, in fact, made more pauperized and dependent on a few heartless, soulless brutes who buy out their freedom, their dignity, their minds and souls for a mess of pottage,” Dr. Reid said.

The real agents of change, those “who are the real hope for national development and wealth creation are being ruthlessly destroyed” by criminals, while the government has been made “irrelevant” and “real power is ceded to criminals. The situation is compounded when officials, businessmen and ordinary citizens meekly or willingly accept that the only way to do business is to get involved in bribery and corruption.”

In the midst of this chaos it was the Christian’s responsibility to rekindle hope and by showing that through Christ “a victim mentality, a horrible psychology of hopelessness and helplessness” can be overcome.

“We must be prepared to be the voice of the voiceless and the public face of those who are invisible,” Dr Reid declared.

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