Jamaica: Situation Improving?

Four days into the state of emergency imposed on the Jamaican capital, the situation is becoming clearer – not simply in terms of statistics – but in understanding the chain of events that led to the current impasse.

Diaspora blogger Geoffrey Philp was taken right back to 1979 when he left Jamaica because “because [his] mother was worried about the rising level of violence in Jamaica and the close ties between gun-men and politicians”:

If only she could see us now.

The same conditions that led to the undeclared civil war in the seventies have come full circle. The origins of current crisis begin in Jamaica with a mixture of urban poverty and political ambition and extend America's hunger for drugs. The capture of one “don-dadda” or the replacement of a politician will only be a quick fix to a larger problem that only Jamaicans can solve. For Jamaica.

As Brother Bob challenged us in “Exodus”: “Open your eyes and look within/ Are you satisfied with the life you're living?”

We need to answer that question. Now.

Tivoli Gardens, Kingston Jamaica. By bbcworldservice, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

As of yesterday, the city was still too embroiled in its predicament to be introspective. Stunner reported:

It is the third day since the State of Emergency was called for the city of Kingston and St. Andrew and since then, the violence, tension and battle between the security forces and gunmen has only escalated with casualties. The joint police and military forces made their way into the fortified and well defended garrison of Tivoli Gardens on Monday and was greeted by the expected heavy gunfire from those defending the Dudus stronghold, now termed by some as the Repuplic of Tivoli. However, the gun battles were not limited to just the Tivoli area, as it seemed that the entire Kingston was yesterday engulfed into this war between criminals and the security forces.

As the battle rages on and the security forces fight to regain control from these highly armed criminals, stability is still a goal to be achieved and normalcy a dream being pursued. It is a harsh reality, but at this rate more blood will be shed and more tears will fall in this battle for control and the apprehension of the wanted Tivoli ‘president’ Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. We can only hope that this will end shortly and that the city can once again bustle with life and that some good will come out of this battle between our security forces and the many criminal elements that grip our capital.

Jamaica's PM, Bruce Golding. By bbcworldservice, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

International mainstream media have been issuing reports which point to alleged connections between key political figures and ‘Dudus'; Tweeple were retweeting them and linking to local mainstream media videos on YouTube asking:

@KyleMacpherson_: http://bit.ly/9vIC8x The Gleaner's Vox Pop: How to separate crime and politics? #jamaica #kingston #voxpop

Some were not entirely convinced it could be done:

@JustSherman: @MisterHarding bredren how can u talk about crime and not focus on the politicians. dats like talking about diabetes & not talking bout diet

@JustSherman: what we are talking about, the root cause is the political party and we living in denial if we dont know that yet

@afflictedyard: RT @bigblackbarry: @afflictedyard an the rats will always come back if the holes arent patched and the kitchen remains dirty. < Agree

The government has responded by calling the claims libelous. Meanwhile, the death toll has been rising. @j007li asked @anniepaul on Twitter:

are things getting worse?

…to which Annie replied:

RT @j007li: @anniepaul are things getting worse? no but they're not abating either, most ppl not going to work, school etc @PHAS44

Shortly after, @j007li posted another question, which @anniepaul addressed:

wait n see, 2 soon 2 say RT @j007li: @anniepaul i've volunteered in kingston for 13 years, and scheduled to return in june, any advice?

It may indeed be too soon to say, but Jamaicans are trying their best to return to some level of normalcy. This tweet confirms that the Calabash International Literary Festival, which is celebrating its tenth year, will proceed as usual:

@JustSherman: @anniepaul spoke to Channer last night, Calabash still on

@anniepaul: Gr8! Hopefully war will subside by then RT @JustSherman: @anniepaul spoke to Channer last night, Calabash still on

The barricades outside Tivoli Gardens. By bbcworldservice, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

There have been more signs today of things getting back to normal. The sitting of CXC examinations are to proceed as scheduled, roadblocks are being cleared and the Kingston airport is once again operational. The Office of the Prime Minister has been tweeting updates which offer assurances that things are under control; journalists are also reporting encouraging news:

@lauraredpath: More than 500 arrested #Tivoli #Jamaica

@jamaicaobserver: 12 wanted men surrender same day http://tinyurl.com/3yv7qgk

@ChrysalisCEO: Hi @alizaevybes look at my last 10 or so tweets. Criminals turning themselves in; overall conflict down; state dept refutes ABC report re PM

Of course, there are reminders that the capital is still under a state of emergency. @jamaicaobserver appealed to citizens to donate blood:

Donate! Blood supplies still critically low http://bit.ly/aD2kKz

but @lauraredpath noted that:

Kingston Public Hospital's atmosphere is eerily quiet according to sources. No shots heard so far #Tivoli #Jamaica

@ChrysalisCEO also posted news that suggested Kingston was beginning to function again:

Everything in Kingston seemed fine to me today; I've heard nothing new re Spanish Town though. Any word out of Tivoil or Denham Town?

Those areas at the core of the conflict undoubtedly hold the answer to when Jamaica will actually return to business as usual – but according to Chez Hsia, who has provided some of the most comprehensive commentary on the situation, “what was clear from the outset: this is war. War between the garrisons and the government”:

From the jump, this has been a tragedy of Shakespearean measure, each of the protagonists moving unheedingly to their doom. Once the US cast the die, there has been no choice for anyone involved: every actor, from the innocent and hard-working citizen who lives in Tivoli to the Prime Minister himself, is acting almost in a predestined way. Dudus will die: it’s just a question of when and where – in Tivoli, guns blazing, or in a Jamaican jail, awaiting extradition, on orders of the government who he would implicate as criminals were he to talk. Bruce Golding will resign, tainted by scandal and the bungling of the entire Dudus affair. The innocent civilian in Tivoli, who could not leave his community to escape the violence, for fear of being labeled a traitor or a coward, will likely lose their job, and stay mired in a vicious cycle of poverty. Many gunmen will die, and their children will grow with vengeance and bitterness burning in their hearts, ready to die to avenge the deaths of the family and friends who went before. An entire country will be destabilized, and yet the world will keep spinning…


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