Portia missed the target

This newspaper has some sympathy for the concerns raised by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in her speech on Wednesday to the Adventist Development Relief Agency.

But we warn the Prime Minister against joining the growing sport of, pardon the metaphor, shooting the messenger. That doesn’t make for solving problems, of which there are too many in Jamaica; among the biggest of which is criminal violence.

Last year, for instance, more than 1,600 people were murdered in Jamaica, for a murder rate of over 61 per 100,000 of the country’s population, placing us very, very near the top of the league table of homicides. The majority of these killings is by young men in the 15 to 24 age group.

Mrs. Simpson Miller, therefore, has genuine cause for concern when she considers the status of young males in Jamaica and finding solutions to their problems. In her speech at the launch of an ADRA project to deal with this issue, the Prime Minister chastised the media for supposedly glamorising “big criminals and the Dons” and suggested that the Press’ reporting of murder provided an opportunity for the young killers to celebrate their deeds. Perhaps what Mrs. Simpson Miller said is true.

But, we beg to differ with the Prime Minister and the legion who find joy and comfort in taking pot shots at the Press. Fundamentally, they are firing at the wrong target. The media are not the problem. Indeed, the claim of media glorification of the hard men of crime or of lifestyles that embody anti-social behaviour is hyperbolic. Moreover, if serious and contextual content analyses are done, the critics would determine that the media do far more in portraying and encouraging positive values and attitudes than they are given credit for.

Ultimately, even as it leads the Press is at the same time a mirror, reflecting a picture of society, which it also seeks to interpret. A serious and credible Press cannot airbrush the society. The warts remain real.

The fact is that the most pressing problems confronting Mrs. Simpson Miller and her government in tackling the anti-social behaviour of young males are: a national security and justice deficit; an inadequately performing economy; and a dysfunctional political process.

For example, young criminals might ‘page’ potential victims, which is to say, have their crimes reported. The solution is not to pretend that these crimes do not happen and fail to report them, but rather to catch, prosecute and convict the criminals. Yet, the police in Jamaica have suspects for a little over 50 per cent of murders and few cases even reach the courts. At the same time little or no economic growth means few jobs and little resources for social spending. The result: run-down infrastructure, inadequate spending on social services and gritty communities.

Add all this to a politics that for a long time depended on muscle, the garrisonisation of communities and the very matter about which Mrs Simpson Miller has complained: the glorified community leaders, a.k.a. Dons. We urge Mrs. Simpson Miller to insist that all in her party reject the drug men, the Dons and the hardened hordes and other suspicious types riding around in fancy SUVs.

From the Jamaica Gleaner