From an article in The Christian Chronicle by Erik Tryggestad (I remember Erik being on the Lipscomb "Babbler" newspaper staff) titled "Churches mourn seven Jamaican slaying victims":
The recent slayings of seven people â€” ages 3 to 40 â€” with ties to churches of Christ in Jamaica has church members across the country mourning and Jamaica's prime minister denouncing the tide of violence sweeping the island nation.
Mourners packed the Morant Bay Church of Christ for the funeral of six members of a church family â€” Patrice George McCool, 28; her children Sean Chin, 9; Jihad George McCool, 6; and Lloyd McCool, 3; her aunt Terry-Ann Mohommed, 40; and another family member, Jesse O'Gilvie, 9. Their bodies were in three locations, some with slashed throats and one stuffed in a barrel...
Minister Michael Dehaney conducted the funeral, which included a speech from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who called for a time of prayer and fasting as Jamaica struggles to cut its high crime rate.
Days after the funeral, the Mona Church of Christ in St. Andrew laid to rest 15-year-old Jordano Flemmings, who was fatally stabbed in a robbery while walking home from church.
An article in the by Carol J. Williams in the LA Times mentions the Morant Bay slayings, calling them a "suspected revenge attack for a failed drug deal":
Contrary to the islands' laid-back, reggae-rocked, calypso-serenaded image, the Caribbean is awash in murderous anger.
Homicide rates have soared â€” Jamaica last year achieved the alarming distinction of being called the homicide capital of the world, and Trinidad isn't far behind. With suspects walking free because of ineffectual courts and corrupt law enforcement, vigilante justice is also on the rise....
Although the roots of the violence differ from island to island, some striving to contain it point to the region's shared afflictions of poverty, social inequity and racial resentment stemming from its history of slavery and colonization.
"This is not just about people losing confidence in law enforcement. This is an eye-for-an-eye society," said Deputy Commissioner Mark Shields of the Jamaican Constabulary Force. "Even if you had an effective system of criminal justice, when children are murdered, you'd have mob rule."
He was alluding to one of the more grisly recent slayings, the Feb. 25 suspected revenge attack for a failed drug deal that left a Morant Bay woman, her aunt and four children with their throats cut and the neighborhood enraged. Residents of the quiet community east of Kingston, the capital, stormed the police station demanding, "Give him to us!" after the suspect turned himself in for his own protection...
Jamaica has been tabbed the world's most homicidal country since reporting 1,674 killings last year, a rate of 62 per 100,000 residents. The country had ranked third in the most recent U.N. global assessment, in 2000, with 32 per 100,000, behind Colombia's 61 and South Africa's 49. By contrast, anarchic Haiti, usually seen as the most unstable country in the Caribbean, had fewer than 20 homicides per 100,000 last year.
Jamaica's shootings, stabbings and rapes mostly occur in Kingston, but bystanders and even tourists may be at greater risk as the incidence increases.
"No one in his right mind goes to Kingston," said Rensselaer Lee, a security analyst and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Washington, who has long studied crime in the Caribbean. "People can be shot walking down the streets. The violence is mainly turned inward, poor people killing each other. But increasingly people are getting caught in the cross hairs of these gangs and getting killed."
From an article in The Jamaica Observer:
The deaths sparked much public outrage amongst residents in St Thomas, and after a suspect was apprehended, many of them descended upon the Morant Bay Police Station, where he was being held, and demanded that he be turned over to them. This prompted a speedy transfer of the suspect from Morant Bay to a police station in Kingston.
Still seething, the residents found recourse in setting fire to a house allegedly belonging to the suspect last Tuesday. Two rooms and the contents of the back of the house were scorched in the blaze.
Another article in The Jamaica Oberver describes Jamaica's new prime minister's remarks at the memorial service held at the Morant Bay church of Christ:
"Let us use this occasion of immense grief to make a safer Jamaica for our children," Simpson Miller said in her tribute. "We must stop the slaughter of our children, mothers, fathers and grandparents. We need to engage all sectors of society to play their part."
She noted that nearly 100 children were killed last year and called for an end to the "savagery and barbarism".
"We need to take back the power from the criminals and restore it to peace-loving citizens by influencing change in the society," she said.
In a symbolic gesture of unity, she invited Golding, the MPs and the police commissioners onto the platform to stand beside her.
"We need unity of purpose and to demonstrate that we are serious, because we need to secure the future of our children," Simpson Miller said.
The six were honoured with numerous tributes in song and poetry by friends, family members and former schoolmates of the children.
From an article by Danna Harman in The Christian Science Monitor about crime and murder in Jamaica:
...on Friday, local papers celebrated the least violent February in three years: "Only" 99 murders, compared to 129 last year, "only" 177 robberies, down from 178, and "only" 53 reported rapes, as opposed to 85.
With its staggering rate of violence fueled by political rivalries, the drug trade, unemployment, a breakdown of the family, and a weak police force, Jamaica, says Dan Erikson, a Caribbean expert at the InterAmerican Dialogue in Washington D.C., "is in crisis."
New crime-fighting initiatives, including importing detectives from Britain's famed Scotland Yard - along with more holistic, community-based approaches - have recently been rolled out to halt the downward spiral before the Caribbean island nation becomes better known for its high murder rate than its turquoise waters and glitzy mega resorts.
In 2005, there were 1,669 recorded homicides in this country of 2.7 million, meaning Jamaica now competes only with South Africa and Colombia for the dubious distinction of having the highest per capita muder rate in the world.
According to a poll published Monday in the Jamaica Gleaner, 72 percent of Jamaicans say violence is the country's worst woe today. The wave of violent crime is often traced back to the 1970s when political leaders turned to neighborhood gang leaders, or dons, to rustle up votes. Since then, the resurgence of the cocaine trade through Jamaica has changed the dynamic, with drug lords replacing the politicians as patrons, and turf wars and extortion rings replacing politics.
...the downhill trend in the economy has played a part in feeding that violent proclivity.
"Virtually every factory has shut down in the last 15 years," says Mr. Chuck. "We used to make toothpaste here, soap, paper.... Now we import everything. We even ship in fruits and vegetables that are grown here."
"Social and political disorder is resulting in criminal behavior," Chuck says.
The high level of unemployment among young males in particular, says Meeks, along with the relatively strong position of women in the Jamaican workforce, has, over time, led to terrible frustrations and restlessness.
The Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF), with help from Shields and other US and British law enforcement agents, initiated a murder reduction action plan in January and committed themselves to reducing crime by 5 percent over the year. The plan involves improving intelligence work, changing policing style, adding 2,000 police, and working to stem corruption in the force. It's a program building upon the relatively successful "Operation Kingfish," an intelligence-driven anti-crime task force set up in October 2004 to dismantle transnational networks of drug kingpins and dons.
According to a Reuters article on MSNBC.com, it looks like Jamaica is going to get its first female prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller. From the "Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership," a summary of the current female heads of state and government:
There are 191 members of the United Nations and a few independent states outside. 17 have got female leaders.
Of the monarchies, there are reigning Queens in Denmark, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom - and the latter is represented by female Governor Generals in Canada, New Zealand and Saint Lucia, who function as their countries' de-facto Heads of State.
The 5 female Presidents are in Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Liberia and The Philippines. And a President-Elect in Chile who takes office in march
There are also 5 woman Prime Ministers; in Bangladesh, Germany, New Zealand, Mozambique and SÃ£o TomÃ© e PrincÃpe and women are designated to take over as chiefs of government in both Jamaica and The Netherlands Antilles.
As you may know, I went on a mission trip with my friend Mark W. to Jamaica in January of 2004 to help build an addition onto a church building in Grange Hill. In anticipation of making a return trip someday, I've been paying more attention to Jamaica in the news since then. I've posted several times before with bad news about the prevalence of violence in Jamaica in recent years. A recent article from the AP in The Washington Times comments about the source of violence in Jamaica:
The violence has its roots in the 1970s, when political factions armed gangs to intimidate opponents before the 1980 general elections. About 800 people were killed in election-related violence that year. Twenty-six years later, the politicians have lost control of the gangs. The slums have become patchwork battlefields, the ever-changing front lines between rival gangs marked by barricades of old refrigerators, junked cars and burning tires.
Although the gangs do use strong-arm tactics, and even kill those who refuse to pay extortion, gang leaders, known as "dons," at times act as ad hoc civic leaders.
Mr. Bennett, whose nickname was Bulbie, extorted money from businesses and ordered scores of rivals killed. But when he strode down Spanish Town's pitted streets, merchants would walk out to talk with him and seek favors or loans.
Mr. Bennett was feared, but he also might pay the school fees for a promising neighborhood child, help provide hookups to electricity or work with politicians to get roads paved.
Many poor Jamaicans, with few opportunities for advancement, have joined gangs to obtain material goods and respect.
1,476 homicides in Jamaica, an all-time high, with 37 days remaining in 2005.
More bad news from Jamaica...
Two Catholic priests were gunned down while visiting Jamaica in October. Reports said that the two missionaries were killed after they had seen a crime being committed days earlier.
On a related note, the country plans to augment the police force by 30 % to address the surge of murders and crime in recent years, attributed mainly to the drug trade.