We’re often surprised when we hear reports of mob killings in rural Jamaica. Those of us in the urban centres of the island usually express outrage at the “uncivilised” and “barbaric” tendencies of our more simple countrymen; but make no mistake, for all our urbanisation and university education, we are no different from those who set upon their own and hack them to death. The students of The University of Technology (UTECH) proved that much last Thursday. How many more must be beaten before we realise something is very wrong in Jamaica?
Anyone who has ever watched the nightly news in Jamaica would be all too familiar with those words; words spoken across the length and breadth of this country. It has become a characteristic of the Jamaican society to see protesters armed with picket signs and placards (spelling usually way off) campaigning for rights and “jostise.” The recent shooting by a policeman of an alleged murder suspect in St. Ann has brought my mind to our sense of fairness and justice in this country.
Having been videotaped shooting the man to death, the police officer; yes, he is an officer, not a mere constable, has been charged with murder. However, residents who witnessed the policeman’s excessive use of force are asserting that the he has done nothing wrong and ought to be released. They argue that the deceased man was a trouble maker and therefore met his just fate. However, isn’t justice supposed to be about due process and fairness? What could possibly be just about being beaten and shot to death on the ground like a dog?
How many of those calling for the policeman’s release have themselves protested and called for “jostise”, when they felt the police had used excessive force? Is it that because the man is an alleged murderer then he ought to die, without his day in court? And if this is so, then why do we ever complain that justice isn’t being done when police personnel are alleged to have murdered our relatives and family members? Why not call for the release of these officers? Because surely they acted properly and professionally in executing “jungle justice”. Or is that justice in this country is selective? Only some deserve it? Some deserve their day in court and some deserve to be beaten in the streets and shot to death like animals?
We are only demanding justice when we, or those close to us, have been wronged, but apparently justice shouldn’t extend itself to this man shot to death like a dog. Critical to this whole thing is the fact that we all like to say “innocent until proven guilty”. Why wasn’t he given his day in court? A chance to prove his innocence or a chance to be found guilty? And in the policeman’s case, why shouldn’t he face a court? He acted improperly and now must face the consequences. We would demand no less for an alleged gunman. Police officers are not licensed to kill citizens as they see fit. This must be a country of laws, not one of jungle or tribal justice. Then again, if students at a tertiary institution can set upon and beat a man on mere hearsay, am I expecting too much of the average citizen? I mean, if those educated can mete out jungle justice so swiftly and recklessly, surely the this is a cultural problem we have in this country. Is jungle justice now a characteristic of the Jamaican society?
Do we really even care about justice?
Often times we sit in our comfy, cushioned realities, far removed and aloof from the suffering of our fellow citizens and it only hits us that Jamaica is losing all sense of civility when a prominent individual is victim to the lawlessness. I remember looking on as the dancehall fraternity rallied and cried out for peace and justice in Jamaica when a member of T.O.K was murdered, but what about the average man? What about the man with no name and no identity? The one who will be put in a pauper’s coffin and buried in an unmarked grave at May Pen Cemetery? Who has cried out for him?
You see, if jostice is what we truly want in this country, then it must apply for all of us. There can be no greater than, or less than. There can be no excuses or exceptions. Justice must apply across the board. The treatment that is good for one, must be good for all. And in the same way those onlookers condemned that man to die on the ground by a policeman’s bullet, I submit that the policeman should be made to stand trial for his actions.
“Mi waan jostice!”