Any state that is helpless to defend itself or its citizens against those who wish to commit crimes within its borders is a failed state. The government of the island of Jamaica is desperately trying to face up to this paramount responsibility. The Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force have been confronting lawlessness over the past two days at the cost of, at least, 49 Jamaican lives. Some reports set the death toll at 60, including a child. In addition, 211 people including six women have been detained.
Police stations in Kingston have been firebombed and the access road between Kingston and the international airport has been closed from time to time because of gunfire. There have also been reports of fighting in other slum areas in Kingston and the former capital, Spanish Town.
At the centre of this latest flare up in violence on the Caribbean island is Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a man who the United States government alleges is one of the world’s most dangerous criminals, responsible for trafficking cannabis and crack cocaine around the Caribbean, North America and the United Kingdom.
Coke is resisting arrest and extradition to the United States to face drug charges. Curiously, his father Lester Coke, who was a leader of a gang called “Shower Posse,” died in 1992 in a fire that mysteriously broke out in his prison cell where he was awaiting extradition to the United States on drug charges.
Apparently, Dudus Coke replaced his father and is running the Shower Posse that in the 1980s was blamed for more than 1,000 murders. Until recently, Coke allegedly enjoyed the protection of the ruling Labour party. The Jamaican prime minister, Bruce Golding, represents the local constituency of Tivoli Gardens, the epicenter of the violence.
The power and influence of the Shower Posse and similar criminal gangs stem from their affiliation with the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), currently Jamaica’s ruling party. These and rival gangs working for the the Peoples National Party (PNP) were armed by politicians in the 1970 and 1980s to do their bidding during elections and in return were protected from the authorities.
It was not long before these political gangs turned to robbery and drug trafficking in Jamaica, the UK, the US and in Canada. And in Jamaica, at least, they continued to receive the protection of the two main official political parties.
Earlier this month in Ontario, in a sweep involving 1,000 police officers and 78 arrests, police connected the same Shower Posse to Toronto criminal gangs in a crime network that allegedly extends from Windsor to Sault Ste. Marie. At that time, police said that the Shower Posse brokered the sale of drugs shipped through the Caribbean to Toronto street gangs.
Should Dudus Coke eventually be captured, I doubt he’ll be handed over to the Americans. The more likely outcome is that he’ll meet a fate similar to that of his father because, like his father, he knows too much.
So when you hear Jamaican politicians deploring the violence that now grips the island, pay no heed to their laments, for it is they that are to blame. The partnership between the posses and the politicians has been well known for decades. It was not a secret.
Jamaican politicians unleashed an uncontrollable force that quickly became armed criminal gangs that preyed on the Jamaican population, and Jamaican voters condoned this despicable practice by tolerating it for over thirty years.
Sadly innocents have and will die, but as the idiom goes: as you sow so shall you reap.