Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Mark Wignall | Crazy policeman

Published:Sunday | June 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Last Tuesday at the troubled and highly extorted Chancery Street travel hub, the 14-year old youngster boarded a minibus on his way to his home at a valley community in semi-rural Red Hills.

A student of Meadowbrook in eighth grade, I have known him since he was five years old.

"Is pure schoolers on the bus. As it is about to drive off, a police car is nearby, and as it is about to drive by the bus, a yute shout through the window and seh, 'Police, go s... yu modder!'"

The policeman stopped the vehicle from driving off and approached the door in a menacing manner. "A who seh so! A who tell me fi s... mi modder?"

A schoolboy points at the youngster I know, who just happens to be in the windowless back of the bus, and, logistically, could not have shouted at the policeman. The policeman grabs him out of the vehicle and tells him, "Bwoy! A gwine tek yu a remand centre!"

The child is traumatised and on the verge of crying while futilely appealing to the policeman that he did not open his mouth while on the bus. After bundling the scared child into the van/truck they were driving, they made their way instead to Meadowbrook High School.

As the policeman makes his case to a teacher there, the teacher insists that wherever the policeman says he is taking the youngster, the teacher is prepared to go there with them. Matters threaten to get out of hand.

"At one stage, the policeman tells me to spread, and I didn't know what he means, and him just kick weh mi foot dem," says the youngster.

Probably recognising that he was in a situation that he could no longer reasonably defend, the police left. By then, the youngster had made contact with his father.

I have the number of the police vehicle and will be personally pursuing it through effective channels. While I know that male children are troublesome (I just happened to be one, so I know), I am prepared to lay my neck on the block that the youngster did not utter those words of condemnation to the police.

But whoever the youngster was that said those words, did that empower the policeman into an appreciation that all he could use against a minor was force?

 

One big box across my face

 

It is close to 4 a.m. one day in 1965. I am 15 years of age and coming from a party in Arlene Gardens. I live in Pembroke Hall, not half a mile away.

A police jeep drives up and a 'big-belly' policeman jumps out and asks me what I was doing on the road at that hour. I tell him that I was on my way home from a party, something normal for youngsters my age.

At some part of our interaction, he tells me, "Yu full a mout, bwoy!" And then he 'flashes' his hand and brutally slaps me across the face. It connects directly with one eye. He then tells me to run. I refuse, even while stepping away and he menacingly strides towards me.

Eventually, the jeep drives off, but I fear that it is going to circle back to me, so I head to a large clump of bushes and hide in there until daylight. By then, the eye is swollen shut.

I have been there, so I know who to believe.

 

Jamaica not doomed

 

It is quite fashionable for Jamaicans to say, in a discussion among articulate friends or in an argument among inebriated idiots, that the country is either doomed or is about to scale the monumental heights of Everest.

Life can be hard in Jamaica for too many and, I know, life is a constant cruise for a significant minority of us. The better-off among us engorge themselves on steak and lobster and lamb and assorted fancy brands of cheese when their spare time allows them to enjoy the raw pleasures of life.

Others not so economically enhanced find culinary reason to hang out overtime with chicken back and versions of seasoned rice.

That band of people who float among 'middle class' and 'lower middle class' are somewhat socially and economically damned. That is the band most susceptible to an economy, not significantly growing and their wages stuck in neutral for the last eight or 10 years.

Those people live month to month and must suffer because their collective pride will never allow them to tell their neighbours that they have only one cylinder of cooking gas, it ran out yesterday, and today, they do not have the money to purchase gas. They are forced into a big pretense because they want to be better and are too proud to whitewash and too poor to paint.

That said, the present JLP administration is slowly but surely tilting the economic indicators in a positive direction while starting to push back against our murder problem. Our employment rate is up and the poverty rate is down.

Increasingly, one is starting to get the sense that the PM is that kind of boss who prefers silence even as he wants to shout you to the floor, and he is making electoral advances just by what he presents to the nation in policy and how he openly delivers it.

At this time, some would think it is an ideal if we could now discover a political leader who could have us eating out of his or her hand. Hey, were we not there in 1972 under Michael Manley and in 2006 under Portia Simpson Miller? Were both of these individuals not political gods who would convince us that through them, our economic salvation was sure?

And, what did they deliver outside of fear of looking through the window and financial uncertainty as their political incapacities became exposed?

We must move ahead of the past of political guns on both sides firing at each other with real bullets and begin to embrace the idea and practicality of getting our economy humming again.

Two years in from the last election in 2016, the JLP administration, warts and all, has begun the job of reversing negative economic and social trends. For now, violent crime is just a flea's length away from the same period last year. Added to that are the positive numbers on employment and the broader aspects of the economy like the inflation rate and the drop in the poverty rate.

 

Good reason for fuss over Petrojam?

 

There is good reason to believe that Government and the bureaucracy it produces are many times fuelled by corruption, overregulation, and a broad power grab. In line with that, I would not be surprised if PCJ and Petrojam should show up in surveys as companies that Jamaicans do not trust.

Most recently, a lot of political air has blown hot over Petrojam hiring a lady at $12 million per annum when her last salary in the private sector was 75 per cent below that. The question is, how can any individual leave the private sector at $X, and in an employment contract with the Government, earn $4x?

A source close to the Ministry of Finance (MOF) told me last Wednesday that it is that ministry that sets the wage scale for those working at Petrojam. "The band in her scale has been set for at least the last 15 years. I know it sounds crazy, but statutory bodies like Petrojam have to stick to that band.

"But here is where the complication arises: the market. These petroleum companies - PCJ and Petrojam - pay much higher than others, and bright and extremely competent young people would just love to get a job in such companies as it builds their rÈsumÈ for the future.

"It may seem like a big dilemma, but in a market-driven economy, that is just the reality."

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@glaenerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.