In Jamaica a political garrison is an area where at least 90 per cent of the eligible votes are cast for either of the two major political parties. Those votes are usually secured by way of coercion, intimidation (both implicit and explicit) or through bribery. Another distinct characteristic of political garrisons is the refusal of many residents to pay utility bills. There is minimal investment in the area by the established private sector and whatever infrastructure is still standing is decayed and there is usually an absence of civic pride.
One of the latest buzz phrases in Jamaica is “dismantle political garrisons”. This is not new; it has been around for at least the last 20 years. And based on how long the country has been grappling with this monster, this intractable dilemma, one could be excused if one were to assume that there is no clear-cut solution. But nothing could be further from the truth; the solution is as simple as ABC.,
The life blood of political garrisons is lawlessness. This is bred and fed by criminals especially gunmen who have imposed themselves on the communities. They intimidate the residents and forcefully take control. They are usually aligned to either the People’s National party (PNP) or the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and serve as their enforcers. Contrary to what many believe, the incestuous relationship between politicians and criminal gunmen is alive and well. However, the nature of the relationship has morphed because most politicians no longer hand out guns to criminals. Criminal enforcers now purchase their own guns from the proceeds of crime and violence and the drug trade and community-based contracts dons receive from politicians.
In order to successfully dismantle political garrisons and thereby set free the law-abiding citizens, trapped mentally (and some physically) within its borders, the security forces must reassert themselves and start again to enforce law and order in these political enclaves. In other words, the dispensing of law and order must be overseen by the legitimate security forces, not political henchmen. The security forces must make their presence felt in these communities. They must isolate and/or eradicate the criminal enforcers. And they must remove the illegal guns thereby making the criminals powerless.
When this is done, the dispensation of jungle justice comes to an unceremonious end. When citizens are confident that they will eventually receive justice from the State, they will not feel compelled to seek out alternate sources of justice.
When law and order returns, political garrisons it ceases to exist, thus the phenomenon is dismantled, because lawlessness is its life blood. With the removal of lawlessness, the established private sector can move in and fill the void left behind with both light and heavy manufacturing as all the prerequisite infrastructure needed is already in existence there.
I was recently told by a client who still resides in Jones Town, one of the inner city political enclaves, that before it became a garrison community, the only business that was not established was a gas station. Jones Town had every other small and medium size business operating there once upon a time. Of course, the place is practically a ghost town now where commerce is concerned. With the return of law and order follows commerce. The residents will also be able to buy and sell and rent property or offer it as security for loans as is done in communities governed by the rule of law.
In one sentence, in order to successfully dismantle political garrisons, lawlessness must be abolished and legitimate forces of law and order reintroduced. It is as simple as that.
In my next article I will explain why a mountain has ben made out of a molehill – why the PNP and JLP are not interested or motivated to dismantle political garrisons.
Carlos R. King, lives in Old Harbour, Jamaica