Joint Press Release: Civil Society Calls for Respect for the Right to Life and the Upholding of the Rule of Law

Civil Society Calls for Respect for the Right to Life and the Upholding of the Rule of Law

 Monday, June 3, 2013, Kingston, Jamaica – Today, we stand with our fellow Jamaicans in a place of grief as we are faced with the recent horrifying murders of our children. As a country, we have been here before – feeling sick to the stomach and deeply shaken. We have said before that enough is enough and have vowed that this time will be different. However, little is done from one incident to another.

We have a collective responsibility. The largest problem we face is our lack of consistent focus and our incomprehensible reluctance to mobilize and act.

Under our watch, the murder of children such as 4 year old Natasha Brown and 8 year old Tamera Laing are no longer rare and isolated events. The consequences of our inaction are deadly:

–          Since 2000, over 700 children have been murdered

–          On average, 4 children are murdered per month

–          Between 2000 and 2012 the number of children murdered increased by 486%

Today we are again at a point where we are driven to look at what we can do differently, so that our society can be more peaceful and that there is a true respect for life. Our policy strategies need a radical change to prioritise social and community-based interventions. We must also recognize that we cannot protect our children if we remain a society that devalues lives and the rule of law. We cannot be surprised when the violence that we condone in some situations becomes directed at our children. If we believe that some lives of any group of persons are not valuable, then we must accept that the signal we send serves to devalue all lives.

These recent deaths must not be in vain. There is a lot of work to be done to strengthen our communities and there are models that work. Let these events force us to muster the courage to take responsibility to be our brothers, sisters and children’s keepers. Let us recognize our own responsibility for fighting crime by speaking out against violence, reporting incidents and working with the police. And, let us call on our Councilors, Mayors, Senators, Members of Parliament, Ministers and Prime Minister to:

·         Invest in community mental health programs

·         Implement community policing across the island

·         Boost the resources of the Peace Management Initiative

·         Strengthen community-based family and child support services

·         Ensure equal access to and timely delivery of services from our Justice, Health and Education System

And, however deep our anger, we cannot accept silently that any part of the solution is the murder and tagging of two men who someone suspects to have been responsible for the murder of a child.   We’ve created this society and so we can and must change it to one that puts the respect and protection of the most vulnerable among us first. We must change it now. We must change it together.

Brandon Allwood, Help Ja Children

Jaevion Nelson, Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network

Gillian Rowlands, Hear the Children’s Cry

Dane Lewis, J-FLAG

Carolyn Gomes, Jamaicans for Justice

Susan Goffe, Jamaicans for Justice

Alexis Goffe, Jamaicans for Justice

Carol Narcisse, Jamaica Civil Society Coalition