Can Bush be West Bay's peacemaker?

West Bay MLA McKeeva Bush is doing the right thing by attempting to bring his constituents together in a conversation about gang violence, a persistent scourge that has most recently led to the shooting deaths of two young Caymanians, David Ebanks and Victor Yates, who themselves are not believed to have been seriously involved in gang activity.

Mr. Bush is tackling the problem from both sides, so to speak. He started off last week by assembling pastors from eight West Bay churches to discuss the coordination of youth and community outreach efforts. He also said he plans to engage the young people associated with the Logwoods and Birch Tree Hill gangs, the two hostile groups blamed for many of the shootings in West Bay.

“I believe I have enough respect and capital in the community to get to the right people. I know families in Birch Tree Hill, in Logwoods, in Goat Yard. I have to try to get to these young people and talk to them and then try to bring the two sides together,” he said.

“We know there is goodness in every man; we want that to come out.”

Perhaps, Mr. Bush. Resolving the disputes between the Logwoods and Birch Tree Hill gangs would be a monumental accomplishment, akin to the reconciliation of the Hatfields and McCoys or the Montagues and the Capulets.

But if there’s anyone who can do it, it just might be Mr. Bush, the longtime district representative, chieftain among West Bay politicians and former leader of the Cayman Islands.

At this point in time, any sustained armistice (or even temporary ceasefire) that Mr. Bush is able to broker between the two gangs would be considered a significant victory for the people of Cayman.

We may not agree fully with Mr. Bush when he says that greater community engagement, not more policing, is the right approach to fighting gang crime (We believe both are necessary); however, we do believe Mr. Bush’s focus on community engagement is well-suited to his person and his position.

When Mr. Bush says, “Catching the killer afterwards doesn’t help the situation that much. There is much work to be done before it gets to that point,” he is correct — in a way.

The surest way to stop gang crime is to prevent the formation of gangs. Churches, youth groups and community workers can do much by creating positive alternatives for young people who are susceptible to the ruse of stability, commonality and direction proffered by a gang’s “surrogate family structure” (an artificial construct that in Cayman is often bolstered by actual familial relationships).

That being said, a prerequisite for a long-term peace is a short-term peace, and the only immediate antidote for tit-for-tat gang violence is a prevailing certainty that our system of law and order will bring individual perpetrators to justice.

That’s where the police come in. We are encouraged by the news that police (armed with information given by members of the community) have arrested three people in connection with the recent shootings — a 25-year-old West Bay man in relation to the Jan. 23 shooting of Mr. Ebanks; 22-year-old Justin Manderson in relation to the Jan. 3 shooting of Mr. Yates; and a 20-year-old man in relation to the Jan. 5 shooting of Mr. Manderson, who was struck in the wrist in an act believed to be in retaliation for Mr. Yates’s death.

Once police finish compiling evidence and collecting witness statements, the cases will be handed over to the Director of Public Prosecutions. From there, it becomes a matter for consideration by lawyers, judges and juries.

If any link in the chain is weak, Cayman’s apparatus of law and order will fail. It is the individual and collective duty of us all to promote peace, support the police and, when called upon, to facilitate the workings of our judicial system.

As Mr. Bush said, “We need everyone to be involved. It has to be a community effort.”

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  1. I certainly agree that if one person can make a difference is Mr Bush, and I also agree that everyone needs to be involved one way or the other. It is a community effort, and many of those young men came from good parents. One of the worse things you can do is telling a young person that they are no good and will come to nothing. Those words will have an impact which will make them think that they have no use. One on one, we cannot do it, it has to take a sit down talk to find out just what is the problem.
    Anywhere in the world you go you will find that people do not want to share much with the police. People fear the uniform, and no matter how nice a police approach maybe; people’s antennas will go up in their presence.
    If we have gangs in Cayman I believe we need to approach each side individual, find out what one side problem is with the other. Then try and get the two to meet.
    I am happy to hear that the church pastors are getting involved, because truthfully speaking when you get to know what is taking place in some churches on the Island you just want to stay at home. One church I can truthfully say reaches out to their members, and that is the Adventist Church. To me they are the kindest church to their members.
    Parents if you take your child in hand from the time they are young, make them consistently go to Sunday/Sabbath school and youth fellowships they will always remember their teaching.
    Many Churches however have leaders with no outreach program and contribute absolutely nothing positive to young people in their respective areas. You will hear many young people don’t want to go to church because of how they are treated and looked upon and despised by the church elders. They choose a few and could not care less about those by the wayside. I have to give credit where it is due, you do not find that behavior in the Advent church. It has the best outreach program involving their youth.

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