Saturday, November 10, 2007


I just found out that a high school classmate of mine was senselessly killed in Jamaica on Thursday. He and his girlfriend were trying to be good Samaritans after hitting a cyclist on Wednesday. They took the cyclist to the hospital and made arrangements to help him out. The next day, my former classmate and his girlfriend were last seen as they went to bring crutches and medicine to the man. Later on that day, in the early afternoon, my former classmate made a call to his father asking him to send him a large amount of money very urgently and his girlfriend's debit card was shown as having withdrawn $15,000JAM (the max daily limit). Their bodies were found with their throats slashed on Friday. See the newspaper article here.

In Jamaica, we always used to say when you hit someone, especially in certain neighbourhoods, the best thing to do is to continue driving then call the police or go to the police station. My former classmate, RIP Taiwo, and his girlfriend were trying to do the right thing by not only stopping but also offering as much help as they could. They ended up dead.

There were 300 murders in the last 70 days in Jamaica. 300! That's over 4 murders PER DAY. I didn't know Taiwo personally, i.e. I never really talked to him, but I certainly remember seeing him in class & around campus and I know others who spoke to him often so I can put a face to the story in the paper. While all the murders have an effect on each of us, it is, of course, these ones that hit close to home that hurt the most. The sad reality is that with such a murder rate, it is very difficult to find someone in Kingston, Jamaica who has not been personally affected by the frequent murders.

A few years ago, while still in Jamaica, I remember reading about a a survey done in Jamaica which showed that crime was the number one thought on Jamaicans' minds - 24/7. Sometimes, because I now live in safe Toronto, I forget how I used to feel but trust me, I have not forgotten the actual feeling. That constant fear - It would overtake me while waiting for my father to pick me up from school in the evenings when there weren't many students left on-campus, while waiting at the bus stop, when walking down my street by myself in the evening (even in a residential neighbourhood), when going to sleep at night...It was always there. In my last few years in Jamaica, my parents' nerves were shot. They got so scared they used to take turns staying awake keeping vigil for strange noises at night. Our car was broken into twice before it was stolen, clothes were stolen from our laundry room while we slept and we'd heard far too many stories of people being held up in their garages. And we lived in one of the safer neighbourhoods! Plus, that's not even counting other incidents. My cousin's throat was slashed (a very bad time for our family). My uncle (his father) had previously been shot but, unlike my cousin, had miraculously survived. My aunt was held up at knife point while shopping down town. I even remember, when I was little, my mother being held up while my cousins and I were in the car.

So, as far back as I can remember, the murder rate and crime in general has always been bad in Kingston. While the crime is spreading to the other cities, tourists who come to the island don't know about any of this because they're kept insulated from everything in those all-inclusive resorts. I'm not knocking those resorts because I know that tourism is one of the few things we have that help the Jamaican economy and is one of the things we can feel good about. So to tourists, please continue going to Jamaica - for you it is the land of wood and water.

Anyways, with regards to crime, all Jamaicans agree that murder is the number one priority. It's funny and sad how we Jamaicans are always thankful if someone was only held up or only got stuff stolen because that means the perpetrators LEFT THEM ALIVE. Although it happens far too frequently, we are equally or even more angry when they take all the victims' money and other valuables yet still end up killing them, like they did with my cousin, my classmate and many others.

Jamaicans love our country. I would go back to live there in a second if stuff like this didn't keep happening. This was the reason my parents left the country. We had a good life in Jamaica but the crime was getting to be too much. When murders are committed, we feel so helpless. I ALWAYS FEEL SO HELPLESS when I think about the murder rate. How do we get people to stop committing these murders with wanton abandon? How do we get others to inform when they have information? How do we stop others from hiding information after being bribed? How can we assure the ones who have information that their life will not be in danger if they share the information? How do we stop the corruption which helps in keeping the criminals hidden? How do we change the mentality of a country?

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