The rule of law and democracy are under severe threat in Jamaica. From by all accounts, the situation is extremely dire. Not even Usain Bolt’s world record efforts can save us now.
On Thursday, November 1, 2012, a male student at the University of Technology was set upon and severely beaten by security guards, after being chased by a mob of his peers. The reason? He was suspected of being gay and was presumably one half of a duo caught in a ‘compromising situation’ on the campus.
Mob attack/ nightmare
Having run to the security post to escape the mob attack, the ‘gay’ student had his worse nightmare come true. His source of refuge turned into the very thing he was fleeing.
Degraded and dehumanized in the worst way by the security personnel on duty, the ‘gay’ student was mercilessly beaten while an entertained audience filmed the obscene event, their bloodlust clear in the expletive filled chants for him to be killed. This was, undoubtedly, a surreal scene from the theatre of the macabre.
But sadly that was real life and this is relatively commonplace in Jamaica. Indeed, mob violence has been routinely used to intimidate and in some instances kill those against whom it’s been directed in the past.
Recall, the killing of a man two months ago by a mob in the community of Zion, Trelawny. The man’s neighbours felt he was the father of a man alleged to have raped and murdered two little boys in the community. The deceased’s daughter was also injured in the attack.
Before that, a policeman shot and killed a woman seven month’s pregnant for using a curse word – another clear example of a society stuck in the ‘Dark Ages’. The policeman also shot and injured the woman’s sister in the incident.
So it is clear that, in the absence of an effective and meaningful state response previously, the UTech students felt no compunction in their savage venting of their ‘hatred’ of their colleague’s actions. Thanks to their frightening display of incivility and barbarism Jamaica’s name is now, effectively, in the toilette.
The students must be very proud of themselves. They did seek to deny one of their colleague’s right to his humanity, even while others reportedly sought to justify their actions in the aftermath, by declaring their belief in a ‘higher form of morality’.
The Bible, in effect, justified their near fatal abuse of a ‘gay’ student. After all, homosexuality is an abomination, according to Leviticus 18:22. All discovered to be so ‘guilty’ should be put to death in Jamaica and several other places like it.
Homophobia; hatred of life
But while this incident was certainly homophobic, it also smacks of a telling and deep-seated hatred of life; law and order and the basic democratic principles of the right of self expression.
Note, this is not to deny the stunning lack of thought which may have initially prompted the ‘gay’ student to express him and his partner’s desires in the manner which reportedly lead to this gravely unfortunate incident.
But these are negligible matters which must be expended with, at least so it seems for the UTech students in question. Their indiscriminate use of violence coupled with their demand for blood and an obviously rank stupidity devolved into anarchy and mayhem – a reality about which they do not seem especially concerned.
Why then has the state never effectively addressed this problem before now? How is it that students set to lead a nation in a few short years are not able to see the implications of their actions and what it means in the context of a wider set of issues such as governance, rule of law and national development?
Furthermore, whose agenda is served by this apparent silence, even as the ‘rabblement’ turns on itself? That nebulous group called ‘the authorities’? Do they not have an investment in fixing these issues?
Business as usual
Or, is this ‘business as usual’ and in the ebb and flow of life here on the Rock?
The alarming erosion of the rule of law vis-à-vis citizens’ democratic rights to life and self-expression in Jamaica is an extremely serious issue. It must be addressed as an act of great urgency. A strong, clear and fulsome response is vital.
Condemnation alone not sufficient
The routine condemnation of ‘lawlessness’ and ‘violence’ alone is not enough. More is needed.
The state must take a stand; regular citizens included. This is especially if the guarantee that the the rights of all, regardless of race, colour, class or creed is protected under the Jamaican constitution is to be believed.
For Jamaica to take its rightful place in the world then silence cannot be the appropriate response.
Jamaica needs to wake up! This cannot and should not be allowed to continue unaddressed.