Commentary: Jamaica’s self-inflicted wound

-By R.D Miller


Another Dark Cloud: On Sunday, May 1, 2016, in St Mary Parish, Jamaica the bodies of Harold Nichols, 53, and 48-year-old Randy Hentzel, two US missionaries, were found during what appeared to be a routine evangelist mission to one of the nation’s impoverished rural communities.

Randy and Nichols enjoyed their duties and were scrupulously respected in the community. They were not strangers and have been doing missionary work in Jamaica for over a decade. Today the nation is wondering what next and how did this happen?

According to the report, these men came from a “Pennsylvania-based Christian charity that seeks to give medical care and spiritual comfort to the people of the Caribbean island nation.”

Sadly, their premature deaths are not breaking news. Jamaica and several other islands have been plagued with ongoing crime and violence including economic turmoil for decades.

These barbaric ideological killings threaten to erode the perception of other breathtaking coastlines. Businesses and leaders are now quickly gauging the image impact, and the economic and emotional effect is causing many to reconsider their travel plans.

Just like a drug addict, several pockets of Jamaica have severe criminal mentality issues that she must work to overcome immediately. A few parts of that region could use a detox, but with limited resources, and an unwillingness to accept makes this path to rehabilitation more difficult.

This is not a random act; many have said quietly about an increasingly uncomfortable feeling being viewed as a weak animal in a jungle where a few in disguise wait for an opportunity to attack their prey for their own survival.

How many locally self-made businesspersons have been targeted and killed this year alone not because of any criminal involvement, but a mindset by few who regard success as part of the problem.


Looking for Hope: Political strife has annihilated many of the youths, and the leadership from the police commissioner, community leaders, to national security minister, has to begin to take more steps on what has already been begun to eradicate this disease and an impression that no one has the tools to tackle it adequately. As a result, these barbaric acts are hatched based on the crime of opportunity.

Although hopelessness, lack of opportunity can breed crimes, these troubled people would be better served by seeking guidance on how to become successful, and not practically using violence to satisfy an emotional and economic disconnect.

The headlines that have emerged on CNN and other media outlets seemed like a shock to viewers; however, for those looking in with close ties, or after the local news sporadically; it is not a farfetched headline.

Many locals have suffered similar premature deaths and few answers after the cameras are off. These criminals are still roaming the streets, and if someone can find an offender, fear for one’s personal safety may create silence.

That image thing: Although Jamaica is not alone seeing a high murder rate per capita, based on a recent United Nations report; however, it would be a mistake to draw a comparison to other nations. Comparison alone cannot combat crime; it should be a motivation.

Although some in the media have spun the news in trying to improve these negative headlines that it is not a reflection of the island in general. Sadly, it might be late to regain its boisterous image until fundamental changes can be implemented.

It is time for a massive march against crime to take back the island.

These crimes cannot be in street retaliation, carefully placed blames, or gun for a gun settlement or even a court sentence. A systematic problem can only be solved when leaders begin to develop opportunities for a dying group of youths who stay stagnant.

They must form community involvement built on commitment and an acknowledgement that this increasing criminal mentality has to be addressed proactively or even capital punishment.

This recent killing is an image problem and confirms what many have feared a beautiful mango fruit with a bright and beaming skin is rotting from its core. Poverty and the ever-widening gaps between the haves and the have-nots are one aspect of disparities and a moral compass that has no direction.

Though no one can predict one’s behavior from external influence, reversing a barbaric mentality will take a holistic approach from the community

Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer

Today, despite graduation there are few opportunities. Furthermore, in a new global economy that requires excellent talent, many are unequipped. Therefore, graduation seems to be only based on age attained, and not an accomplishment to be competitive.

These two individuals dedicated their lives to supporting others for decades. Today families are left to ponder why? The impoverished people also lost, as a decade of a medical the mission is cut short.

No one wins from a criminal act. Today the targeting of visitors is forcing several potential returning residents to look elsewhere for retirement. Moreover, others who have returned are preparing to exit. Few will admit to this trend.

Leadership cannot continue doing photo-ops, believing that as long as there is an image of one love, things will solve itself. In fact, most of the successful people’s have permanent homes outside of their native land.

No country can survive if crime becomes an influence where criminals enrich themselves at the nation’s cost. Furthermore, a willingness by a few elected officials to squash laws, because they were introduced by the other party, fails to compromise to fight these issues.

Ship in Cuba orig
Photo Credit: ABC News (US)

Who will gain: Given the recent report of a decline in the tourist industry, high debts, low manufacturing output, coupled with crime, one of its close neighbors, Cuba, is rising since new diplomatic relations with the US.

Having this headline does not help the cool and relaxing vibes this island sells.

As these missionaries’ deaths dominate global headlines, Cuba is showing an American cruise ship docked at its ports, looking to discover what has been missing for over 50 years.

A successful service-oriented economy is vital to support a good standard of living for people who work in that industry.

Despite the economic gap, they are connected and the impression of safety based on gated communities does not make it those problems over there. Crime anywhere is a safety problem everywhere

Photo Credit: MRD-Library

Looking Back: Today, many are longing for those days when one could rent a vehicle with a visitor license plate, travel anywhere with frequent stops throughout the entire country.

In addition, the only safety concerns parents and friends provided for on vacation were to be alert of the roads or a goat rushing from its banks or a few blind corners and an unheeding truck driver who believed since he maintains a bigger vehicle he had the right of way but however gave you a smile.

Moving Forward: These criminals are now emboldened, establishing an innovative strategy of kidnapping, and demanding ransom, but the nation cannot yield and they must be eliminated.

Although many are saddening by this act, the majority looking on still hope that future breaking news will not give people second thoughts about a visit to the island. This can only be possible if everyone accepts the role of community policing, advocates, and mentors and gives back in some capacity.

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