Saturday, October 19, 2002

Some Jamaicans have objected to Jimmy Carter's condemnation of that country's "garrison politics" in the wake of their elections last week. (Carter, freshly flushed with Nobel success, led a team of international observers.) How then do you explain what happened yesterday?

"A pregnant teenager and her two infant siblings were shot dead early yesterday in the community of Rema as post-election violence escalated in Kingston's volatile western belt.

"Two other persons were injured in the attack by gunmen, who residents claim came from nearby Tivoli Gardens. They also fire-bombed three homes.
Undertakers remove the body of one of the three people slain in Rema yesterday.

"Speculation was rife yesterday that the attacks on the Rema residents, which is in the South St Andrew constituency of ruling People's National Party (PNP) finance minister Omar Davies, was in retaliation for the fire-bombing of three homes and the murder of one man in adjacent Denham Town, Wednesday night.

"'Because of the attack on Race Course Land and Elgin Street on Thursday where three homes were destroyed by fire allegedly set by men from Rema, we believe the attack this morning is a reprisal by men from Denham Town,' said Superintendent Talbert White of the Denham Town police.

"Such retaliation was 'almost a reflex action' in these communities, White said."

What I find it hard to wrap my outsider's head around is the fact that this murderous political rivalry is blatantly artificial—there's no ethnic or economic or class basis for this hatred between Kingston's PNP & JLP garrisons. Jamaica thinks of itself as the most civilised of the English Caribbean nations (Bajans disagree)—it boasts a thriving artistic & intellectual community with cultural institutions the rest of us can only envy—but how deep does that civilisation go? How does it—how can they—reconcile with the barbaric violence of the desperate masses roiling in Kingston's slums? A real country, with real problems? (Apologies to my Jamaican friends for speaking so bluntly.)

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