JAMAICA | In Defense of Horace Chang’s Dialogue with the Diaspora

JAMAICA | In Defense of Horace Chang’s Dialogue with the Diaspora

JAMAICA, April 14, 2021 - “Offensive,” “Disrespectfu,l” and “Shocked,” were among the words used by Gleaner’s New York correspondent Lester Hines, to describe the sentiments expressed by diaspora 'leaders in relation to remarks made by Minister of National Security Dr. Horace Chang during last Thursday’s on-line town hall meeting, hosted by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks.

 I logged on from the ‘git go,’ as I wanted to hear just what the National Security Minister had to say to the diaspora, in relation to the government’s policy out-look on crime fighting. 

I continue to maintain that a government cannot predicate its crime fighting policy on the basis of “states of emergencies,” where poor people’s children are ‘scraped-up’ by the security forces, and thrown into jail cells and detention centres. In doing this, they have no discretion in the use of their powers and victims have no recourse to the courts, or a tribunal for the duration of the “emergency” where their innocence or guilt can be proven.

This position is commensurate with that of the nation’s supreme court, which said that the prolonged detention of five men under the states of emergency was unconstitutional.

It creates bitter young men who grow up with hate, not only the system, but the police and the army and the political system at which they direct their anger and hatred. This does no good for Jamaica as a developing nation.

Dr. Chang’s appearance on the “Lets Connect with Ambassador Marks” discussion series was an excellent idea.

But Minister Chang, in his address to the diaspora, which was short on policy, pointed out that the government will be implementing a more robust legislative framework to punish those who engage in illicit gun trade, as 80% of the homicides are committed with firearms.

His other piece of policy enunciation was that the government was embarking on a programme to engage youths who were considered ‘at risk’, by keeping them in school, and giving them a skill, which was crucial in the effort to curtail and deter gun culture.

Opposition Leader Mark GoldingOpposition Leader Mark GoldingA culture which Mark Golding in his 1921-22 budget presentation, pointed out “has been a major cause of Jamaica’s economic underperformance for decades. According to the World Bank, crime results in direct costs to Jamaica of nearly 4% of GDP, which is higher than most other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Golding observed that “the human toll of violent crime in Jamaica was so severe, that “apart from the tragic impact on the victims, their families and friends, it depresses national morale and undermines our hopes and aspirations for the future.” 

“The causes are complex, and include the impact of transnational organized crime, local criminal gangs, poor social conditions in many communities, and dysfunctional aspects of our culture which are sometimes legitimized in the popular culture,” he explained.

But diaspora leaders feel they have the answers and have a right to be allowed to come to Jamaica and ‘fix’ the problem. Clearly, with the high level of murders taking place on that “small” island, all they have to do is to round up the few “pissin’ tail criminal bwoys” creating the problem and either lock them up and ‘throw-whey’ the keys, or shoot the hell out of  them!

Rtd. JDF Captain, Dr. Rupert Francis Rtd. JDF Captain, Dr. Rupert Francis

I am disappointed in what is quoted as the response from Retired JDF Captain, Dr. Rupert Francis Head of the Diaspora Crime Task, who should know better.

According to Francis “Many of the participants found his remarks condescending and offensive since a number of eminently qualified persons of Jamaican Heritage have been offering their services for free over the years. Well thinking Jamaicans at home and abroad are praying for such engagement and successive governments have also been promoting the idea. We were left wondering how he could be using the same expertise by non-Jamaicans and paying them and not willing even to have ours for free,” Francis is quoted as saying.

Of course, given the comments, the diaspora leaders were not listening to Chang, who tried to impress upon them that given the experience of the past, the government is no longer using overseas expertise except in highly specialised technical areas not available in Jamaica.

I guess this would also extend to the super-secret Jamaica/Israel cyber security arrangement that the government is reluctant to speak about, and which the opposition has been questioning without success. 

The National Security Minister went on to explain to members of the diaspora a few uncomfortable truths that prevents their participation in this aspect of government operation: 

The face of crime has changed in Jamaica
2. The methodology in attacking this type of crime is high tech.
3. In order to deal with this type of criminal activity one has to be on the ground.
4. One has to have knowledge of the terrain
5. This cannot be a part time or weekend junket
6. Jamaica has creditable, skilled police who are tackling the problems.

Chang stopped short of telling them that national security is not a dinner party. With all the good will in the world, members of the Jamaican diaspora have very little skill sets to fight the murders taking place in Jamaica! 

Stopping the murders requires raw intelligence! Short of being a part of the conspiracy, or have family and or friends who are part of the gangs, speculation and pontification can do very little to stop the killings.

What the National Security Minister has done is to invite diaspora leaders to do what some have the skill sets to do: train young people to develop entrepreneurial skills so they can earn. At the same time, they need to leave policing to the police and offer information to them about guns and ammo shipments from the US to Jamaica.

He has also invited them to route their concerns through the Jamaican Embassy in Washington in order that their recommendations will reach where they want it to go.

Members of the Diaspora can also lobby their congressional representatives and senators to put in measures at US ports to track the export of guns to the Caribbean.

The perennial argument from the diaspora is that they remit millions of dollars to Jamaica yearly, which gives them a not only a say in the happenings, but also first preference in the “go to” category as regards to overseas contracts and services where necessary.

First of all they do not send money to “Jamaica.” For the most part, in much the same way that Jamaican immigrants have for over a hundred years travelled to Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica, Belize, England to find a better life and help their families back home, Jamaicans in the US are doing the very same thing. They are committed to helping their families, and this they do !

The majority do not love their adopted homes, and hope to return to Jamaica as soon as they are able to do so.  Most of them never do, as they get trapped in the survival game and can never save enough money or courage to “go back home.”

Hence, to argue that they “send” money to Jamaica is disingenuous. However, politically, they are an important sector, a force to be reckoned with, and political operatives like Dr. Chang has to be guarded about what they say to the diaspora, and how they say it.

Dr. Chang, while being somewhat diplomatic, was rather candid. But what he said was the fact of the matter and there was no other way to put it. I have reviewed the tapes and Dr. Chang was spot on!!

The crime problem in Jamaica is primarily homicides arising from gang feud and domestic disputes. He has invited the diaspora members to put forward how they can help by way of proposals through the Jamaican embassy.

The argument that has sparked outrage among some leaders, saying that the Government only wanted to get funding from the diaspora but do not want to use its expertise, is pure poppycock and bears very little relationship to the truth. Selah!


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