HORACE LEVY: Good afternoon, everybody. After a few words of introduction to the unacquainted with Jamaica, I want to dwell on three matters. The first one being the deep hold of violence on two political parties that have led Jamaica for the past 70 years. The second one is the value of an entity called the Peace Management Initiative in relation to the violence. And from the third one, from current research into gangs and violence in Jamaica, a glimpse of a shift, still very tentative but potentially seismic, away from the violence pattern. That's one of the two events. The other one is the arrival of a civil society coalition.
So Jamaica, see it there, located 90 miles south of Cuba and not quite position geographically correct here. 190 southwest of Haiti. And it's up near the northern tip of a circle of islands that go all the way down to Trinidad and Tobago at the top of the northeast corner of South America.
The early history of Jamaica and other Caribbean islands is sugar, sugar production using enslaved Africans to enrich Britain and Europe. After World War II, the British ones at least, in fact perhaps all of them, came into the US sphere of influence, which they hadn't been in before. And then, in the modern period, from the 1970s, Jamaica got independence in 1962. But from the 1970s, Jamaica gained some prominence through Michael Manley, who is known for his work for the Non-aligned Movement, which was very prominent in those Cold War years, for those of you who know the history.
But also for Robert Marley, Bob Marley-- most of you know more him than Michael Manley-- who has made global fame for reggae. Today, Jamaica is known as a tourist destination. It's known for its track and field achievements in Usain Bolt, the fastest man around. And it's known for its murder and its homicides and other crimes, which have numbered it among the top three in the world. And that brings me to the theme of this paper.
So deep class and race aside-- I'm not going to go into that-- the issue is not so much crime and violence, though that's popularly in Jamaica too put as the number one issue. It's really in my view, and in the view of others, the political parties as the number one problem. And disgust and distrust of the political parties have reached unprecedented levels in Jamaica. And this shows up, the distrust side, you see there on a recent survey done by Vanderbilt University and jointly with the University of the West Indies, a survey that covers the entire hemisphere, but especially the Latin American countries.
The distrust, the standing of the system in Jamaica, the political parties and entire governmental system, stands at 33.5 points compared to the Army's rating, which you see there as 65.9. So it's low down. And compared to the rest of the countries, the other 26 countries in the survey, it's near to the bottom.
And the sympathy with the military is the perhaps the outstanding. One in three people in Jamaica now favor a military coup. Which is just stunning, absolutely stunning. The evidence for the disgust is perhaps impressionistic, but the Gleaner newspaper, which dates back from a couple of years after the freeing of slaves in the Caribbean by the British, which was in 1834, and the newspaper goes back to then. So it's the outstanding paper, the main paper in Jamaica-- there's just one other, really, which is something promoting a big tourist mogul.
But this one has begun to really label, and in the past two weeks has been discussing the parties and calling them gangs, and basically calling on civil society to rescue the country from these gangs. And this is very telling evidence. If the Gleaner is doing this, and the Gleaner has a reputation of being a conservative paper. During recent years, it has really changed.
In the '70s, when Manley was in power, the Gleaner linked up with the CIA to help to topple Manley, in effect. But in the last decade, the Gleaner has really turned around extraordinarily. So there is a growing view that the parties have reached a point where they are so decayed that they are unable now to correct themselves. Hence the Gleaner calling on civil society, while popularly one in three are favoring a military coup.
There are two things which have led to people beginning to recognize the dire position of the two parties. And those two things are the extradition of Christopher Dudus Coke, which has made some international news-- some of you may have seen references to it in your press-- and the violations of the Constitution by both of these parties.
There are two main parties, the Jamaica Labour Party, which is the more conservative one, which is the one presently in government, and the People's National Party, which was the one led by Michael Manley, which is more socialist in orientation in a broad socialist sense. He was labeled as communist by the CIA and so on, but he was never anywhere near that. But because of his friendship with Castro, Fidel Castro, the labeling stuck.
The extradition affair is perhaps better known because of the prime minister Bruce Golding's attempt to deny it at first, and then to say it was his party not the government that was trying to block the extradition. He blocked it for some nine months before it finally went through in May last year. So May 2010 was the turning, the galvanizing point for a lot of the things that have been happening since.
And what that extradition meant was that, for many people in Jamaica, the presence of Christopher Dudus Coke meant that the country was on the verge of becoming a criminally dominated country. Why? Because Coke was situated in a community called Tivoli Gardens, which is the seat, it's the basic element in the constituency from which the prime minister comes. And this community is virtually viewed as like a state within a state. The police are unable to enter it, and all the criminals found refuge there.
And therefore when the extradition went through, it was a matter of the police and the army assaulting this. And in that assault, some 73 civilians were killed, which is a huge number, of course. At least 73. Some people figure as many as 100. People in the area claim that there were 200 deaths. So it was quite an event.
And then the other thing is the violations of the Constitution. The Constitution says that you may not have dual citizenship. And there are seven parliamentarians with dual citizenship, five belonging to the ruling Labour Party, and two belonging to the opposition. And the people of Jamaica are ambivalent towards that, because there's a lot of popular goodwill towards the United States, which is where most of these parliamentarians have their second citizenship. And so in addition to that, there are anomalies in the Constitution allowing Commonwealth countries, actually, to be represented in the parliament.
But the fact is, the Constitution is against it. And then what has brought the thing more to the fore is that a few weeks ago, on March 8th, the prime minister got up in the House, in the parliament, and said openly that he knew all along that there were five of his members with dual citizenship, but he delayed doing anything about it. He spread it out over 3 and 1/2 years, the removal of them, because of the close position, the fact that he only had a lead, a majority in the House of four. And therefore, if he had done it abruptly, he would have jeopardized the standing of his government. He would have been forced to resign. He would have been forced to call a new election. And therefore it was a matter of putting party power over the national good. So he violated the Constitution.
Next slide. So the motive of party power over the national welfare was thrown frontally in everybody's face. People basically gasped at this. Power for the party preferred over the welfare of the country, over the Constitution, basically. Most people don't realize the implications of this, what this really meant, right? It's a preference, I'm arguing, against argument. It's a preference against persuasion. It's a preference for the use of power, and preference for turning to charisma, the leadership of the country. Right? Those are the alternatives to saying policy over power.
If you prefer power over policy, then that is what you are preferring. You are uttering are-- you're taking a stand against rational argument, against persuading people by rational argument. You're making the option, therefore, for the alternatives. And I'm arguing that the only alternatives to persuading people, which is what you do in a democracy, by rational argument. The only alternatives are violence or charisma, turning to those.
So that is the argument, the central argument, of what I'm presenting. And the lens of history in Jamaica shows that this is what has occurred. There is a tendency. It's not automatic. Tendency to violence. And in Jamaica's case, there has been an actualization of this tendency to violence.
On the other side, it will be argued that Jamaica's had 70 years of unbroken fair elections. And elections have been fair, in spite of glitches and so on. And this is an achievement, undoubtedly. Many young countries have had violence to make the transition from one party to the other. Jamaica has not, right? It's an achievement, and it's rightly celebrated.
And also, during the Michael Manley regime in the '70s, Michael Manley threw a raft of legislation, opened up what was a very hierarchical society. White people at the top, brown people like me in the middle, black people at the base. And through a variety of pieces of legislation, that was opened up, and black people for the first time felt that the country was theirs.
As one person expressed it, a domestic helper, who invariably is black, could walk through the front door of the house where she was working. So this, it was a major change. That is a contribution to democracy, also. So there have been. I mean, Jamaica is a democratic country. And in a recent-- a very recent investigation into the extradition affair, the prime minister was put in the stand and had to be quizzed and queried and challenged very frontally.
He was told to his face he was a liar. And what was the phrase? I know this. I'll remember it in a minute. Anyway, so I mean, that is an instance, an illustration of the democratic quality of the country. I mean, we have a free press, a very free press, one of the freest in the world.
So there is democracy in Jamaica. But there are elements which militate against that democracy, very strong elements. And one of these has been the use of and the reliance on violence. And with that reliance on violence has come a reliance on lumping elements on the unemployed rather than the workforce, right? And the second, the other thing has been a failure to expand the democracy in Jamaica, a prolonged failure to institutionalize expansions of democracy. I'm going to come to those.
And those two failures, those two factors have led to major divergences in what had been previously internal party organizations, particularly in the People's National Party, the opposition party now, which was favorable to a reliance on policy and on persuasion rather than on violence.
So I'm going to talk therefore on a bit of history to show the power over policy. We started off with two leaders. This is Norman Manley. This is the father of the Manley I've been talking about previously, and Alexander Bustamante. These are the two leaders way back in 1944, the first election. I'm not going to be long in this history to bore you.
Manley declared for socialism, and he prescribed that candidates for election had to be chosen at a parish conference that had a minimum of 11 party groups. And that was an organizational method which foregrounded policy, actually. Because they discussed policy, and they discussed policy issues.
And while making two exceptions, his party fielded only 19 candidates for the 32 seats available. So automatically, he wasn't going to win the election, or very hardly win the election. Bustamante, his rival, on the other hand, personally selected 29 candidates, selected them on the basis of their loyalty to him and on their support for his position, which was for property and for business.
Of course he won. He won hands down. He won by a huge majority and gained power. So on the one hand, there was a preference for policy in one party. On the other hand, there was a preference for winning election, for power. And that was the one that won. It set two clear trajectories. And to some extent those were followed.
But pretty soon, in fact, it was the preference for power, for winning an election, which took over. And so they began a partisanship which has been very, very destructive in Jamaica. And of course here in the United States, we are aware of the partisanship as well element, and of the kinds of things that one party will say about the other party and the efforts to try and counter that here in the United States too. But in Jamaica, it's gone to a considerable extreme. And that is what I'm saying here.
So from the early '40s, we began to see harassment. Bustamante used-- he was a labor leader. He controlled a workforce. He used the workers to harass the meetings of his rival, the People's National Party, to make things difficult for them. And the People's National Party retaliated by organizing a group called the Fighting 69s, which was a community group from an inner city community.
And so the conflict began. The clashes were serious enough for the two parties, the two leaders, to sign formally, in the presence of the then-governor, British governor of Jamaica, a peace treaty. Which did nothing, however, to stop the violence. Within a few months, a first killing took place actually by the People's National Party followers of a Labour Party member.
And then there was war in an inner city community called Rosetown, which forced Bustamante, the leader of the party who represented that community, it forced him to retreat, to give it up and go to a safer constituency. Most of the violence in the '40s and '50s were trade union clashes. They were serious. People died. This has been normal in the democracy, development of democracy in many countries. So Jamaica is not exceptional in this regard in those days.
Bustamante himself, the leader of his party, his trade union, and at the time he was also the mayor of Kingston, the capital city. So he occupied multiple posts. He, actually, was indicted for manslaughter as a result of the killings in one of the trade union clashes that took place. The trial had to take place outside of Kingston to make it fair. And of course, he was exonerated. But just to illustrate the fact of the death.
Then, in the '60s and '70s, the clashes moved to the communities. And you had the institutionalization of something called a garrison, a community in which-- the garrisons are later named by a commentator. But it's a community in which the adherence of only one party are allowed to vote. Not officially, of course, but unofficially.
If you belong to another, the rival party, the party that's not dominant in that community, you simply better not raise your voice. You'd be threatened physically. So you'd better get out or be silent. That's a garrison community, at least in its initial definition. Today, because people's tolerance has grown, the definition is broader. It would be a community in which there is violence or intimidation, the threat of violence.
But this is what it meant initially. The first one to be set up was Tivoli Gardens, the very one where, in fact, Coke, Christopher Dudus Coke, came from. And that was established by the then opposition leader, Edward Seaga, who later on became prime minister, and has since resigned from that position. But that was the first garrison. And it was very successful. And guns were distributed by both parties, and there have been tremendous clashes between them throughout the '70s and the '80s.
A garrison resident got free light, got free water, got free housing, basically. It's not the case today. They're being forced to pay for these things, for these utility bills. But this is what made a garrison so attractive to a lot of people, to the residents. And the leaders in there, in the garrison, got contracts for government jobs. They were able to distribute these jobs to their followers. So the garrison got that kind of support.
But what it also meant was that the kind of support that came to parties was not support from the working class. It was from more a lumpen element. And what it meant was that the parties, instead of being in a developmental mode are moved really into a welfare mode. As the general secretary of one of these parties said to me, a lot of his time is spent with dealing with people who come soliciting favors, begging help for a job, asking for help for housing, asking for help for this thing or the other thing.
So the parties have been damaged by this. And this kind of thing continued throughout the '90s and into the new millennium. So the political parties will have to take responsibility, not only as a historical source of the violence committed between these two parties, but for its continued outbursts. Because in the '70s, things reached a tremendous peak-- a virtual civil war, people having to migrate out of their communities.
And in 1980, where this violence reached a peak, 889 died, and at least 600 of these were the result of political violence. So this is the result of the parties' support for the violence, which started off very simply, just with throwing stones and verbal abuse, but escalated in the 1970s to the use of guns. The police raided the offices of the rival, Seaga, and his PNP opposition member, and found guns and dynamite in their constituency offices.
So the distribution of guns was there. And from the building of Tivoli, the first garrison, the opposition copied it and built garrisons across the entire city. In other words, housing which is reserved for the members of their own party, and therefore would vote only for that party, and nobody else could vote there.
Now, the parties have departed from and overt link with this kind of violence. You no longer can catch them distributing guns in this country, but the fact is, the young people in these communities have drifted away from the parties and lost-- they're not so willing to die for a party anymore as they were before, to take up arms for them. But where there is a particular person, particular candidate who wants to hire, is prepared to provide the money and the goodies, which a set of youth will opt for because they're very poor, it will happen.
And so in a particular constituency that I'm familiar with and have worked with, Mountain View, in 2007, the murders in that area jumped from the previous year of six to 24, as a result of one candidate distributing guns and so on. So that just illustrates the continuing and continued link between the parties and violence and criminality.
The second failure, and I've gone through this already, so we can jump on to the next one, is the failure to extend democracy. And when you stop and reflect for a moment on the history of political parties, political parties started to come into existence after the American Revolution, after the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century. And the parties basically came into existence to further the democratizing of government.
People rose up in rebellion in France, against the King and the Queen, overthrew them. And what began to fall then were political parties. Of course, it took the better part of a century throughout the 19th into the early 20th century for parties really to begin to develop in that way. But the fact is, that was the beginning. And they were there precisely to carry on the transition from rule by a king or a queen to rule by people.
Of course, It was an ambiguous tool, the political party, because the political parties have been dominated by middle class and elite elements. And so the actual rule of ordinary people in ruling their country has always been limited. But that is the actual raison d'etre of parties, political parties, to widen democracy, to expand it. Because it is an ongoing process. It's not something that happens once and for all.
And the widening has gone on through education and through the expansion of technocratic means of extending communication, so people can communicate more easily. And so you have polls and that kind of thing today which can state people's views on things. People have an opportunity to state their views.
The record in Jamaica has been particularly bad in the failure to build local government. It's been bad in two respects, local government and reforming in the Constitution. Back and forth, a 70 year seesaw. One decade, the People's National Party, which has favored local government, would try and push it through. The Jamaica Labour Party in the next decade would crush it. And that's gone on from the 1940s, '50s, '60s, '70s, right on, until finally, in 2007, when the Jamaica Labour Party came to power, it actually agreed at that point, it took on the importance of local government.
To its credit. Not many things that people would want to put to the credit of the present Bruce Golding government, but that is one, a very positive feature. Mind you, nonetheless, it has dawdled on its implementation. But still, it put it into position. Much remains to be done.
The next is the failure to reform the Constitution. Our first constitution came with independence, 1962. There have been 49 years of discussion and commissions since then. And I won't go into details of that since my time is limited, but it's taken 49 years to reach, in 2011, last month, a charter of rights. A charter of rights. And even in that charter, there are many deficiencies.
For example, the most important one-- well, there are two that people have pointed out. One is the failure to give a right against discrimination for against sexual orientation. And Jamaica is known for its homophobic tendencies in this regard. But the other one, which is more important for many Jamaicans, is a language one. Because many Jamaicans speak a Jamaican or a patois, which is a distinct language. And the majority of Jamaicans easily only speak that. English is a foreign language to them. And not to make provisions which allows for that is a failure in this charter of rights.
But there you have it. And as a result, you have constitutional issues which are outstanding. The Caribbean Court of Appeal, we are still sending appeals to the Privy Council in England. Entrenchment of local government that would prevent postponement of local government elections. Local government is not entrenched in the Constitution. And therefore, just recently local government elections have been postponed for the third time in a row by the present government.
Both parties have done this in the past, when it suits them. When it suits them because they feel they're going to lose the local government election, and therefore they want not to expose themselves to that loss and so on.
But clearly, people's rights at the local government level are being infringed in a major way. Republican status. The queen is still the head of the state in Jamaica. The majority of people have long wanted to change that. Haven't done so. The Constitution.
These are just some of the issues. There are many others. And they have been blocked by the parties, putting party concerns over national concerns. Extraordinary thing is that parliaments sits only one afternoon into the evening per week. Recently, it has begun a second such sitting, but not on a regular basis. It's just extraordinary. The result of that, of course, is that things have slowed up, business that should be done takes years. There is discussion and discussion and discussion. There are agreements between the two parties.
So if not only partisanship but bipartisanship, you think that when the two parties agree that would be for the benefit of the country. And in some respects, that agreement, that does hold. But in many respects, the bipartisanship operates against popular goodwill-- popular benefit, national welfare. It operates for the benefit of the two parties.
I mean, the outstanding example is a piece of legislation which gives each member of Parliament a lump sum for use in his or her constituency. Not physically in his or her hand. The money, it goes through various bureaucratic measures, but those measures do not prevent that member of parliament from using it in a pork barrel fashion nonetheless.
And both parties want that and have voted for it, a clear case of bipartisanship which is not good for the country. Because that particular thing actually works against the local government. Instead of the money going to enhance the local government authorities, which is where it ought to go, it goes to the constituency leader, who is a member of parliament. And that conflicts with the other thing.
Time is running on. So let me go on to the second part of my presentation, which is the Peace Management Initiative. In a context of relentlessly rising rate of homicide, with new thresholds of violence crossed daily, and by thresholds you mean that instead of simply killing shooting somebody at night, to say in conflict, somebody is shot in broad daylight in a plaza. Instead of simply killing, somebody is killed and beheaded. Multiple murders three, five, seven at a time instead of one or two.
So fresh thresholds crossed regularly. Not just men killed but women and children and so on also can become victims. That is the context. The next one, please, Jenny. And this is this illustrates it. The one exception in that climb, of course, is in 1981, which was the election year between the two parties. And that was the year I said 889, 600 of those political murders. But that aside, you see how the murder rate has climbed.
In 1963, 62 murders, which is fairly normal worldwide. But now, in 2010-- no, that's a mistake. That's 2009, 1,682. Actually, last year, 2010, it went down to 1,430 as a result of the onslaught on Tivoli, which then stopped the murder rate. Because it had been on a very high pattern up until that point, which would have brought it in excess of the 2009 of 1,682, would have brought it higher. So that's my mistake. That's not 2010.
But that was the picture. Though of course in 2002, it wouldn't have been quite as high as that, which is when the Peace Management Initiative was instituted. Next slide, please.
So PMI, the Peace Management Initiative, set up by the minister of national security, Peter Phillips, Dr. Peter Phillips. And basically what was unique about this was that civil society was invited into an area which until then had been dominated simply by the security forces, by the police, invited in to put an end to community violence. That was its charge-- to diffuse or head off community violence.
And it was made up of civil society people, university people. There were two of us. I was one. It was headed by a bishop. There were several clergy on it. And the head of the Dispute Resolution Foundation, the sole woman at the time of that set was also on it. There were also one or two women who were in it because they represented the two parties. Because the two parties were also represented in it, the two main parties, Labour Party, People's National Party. Each party had three members on it.
So it was a civil society entity jointly with the state. So it was an unusual creature, really. The next one, please, Jenny. And of course, it went about its process in a civil society way, through mediation, through dialogue, through talking to people. Simply went into a community. In the beginning, we had no staff. After a few months, we got one, and over about four years, we gradually built up to four field staff, who now do the work. But initially, it was that set of people on the board on a volunteer basis. No stipends whatsoever.
You'd simply go into a community where there was violence, shooting, people dying, and engage the warring groups of youth in talk, in dialogue, persuade them to talk to each other and to hold down the violence with a hint that, if they did this, there would be some developmental efforts taken on.
They would come forward to meet with us. And there would also be counseling. One member of the staff of Peace Management Initiative gradually built up a core of psychologists, pastors, counselors, who would go in once the shooting stopped, and begin to work with those who were traumatized, children who had lost their father, a brother, a mother, and so on in the shooting to counsel them.
And this counseling was very, is very important obviously for the psychological health, especially of the children, but also to head off the reprisal instinct, which is very, very strong. Jamaica, the Old Testament, eye for eye, tooth for a tooth is very strong. To head that off is very important. And that is what the counseling would do.
The third element in the process is social development. Economic, small business enterprises, making cement blocks, raising chickens, that kind of thing. Sometimes finding jobs outside the community, where it was possible, but very difficult. Increasingly so in Jamaica, where more and more jobs are lost.
And there'd be other elements of social development as well. Retreats. We would take 50 or 60 youth out of the city for three or four days, a very, very powerful tool. And we're using that more and more now. Training and education, training and skills. Practical projects in a variety of things of that sort. That would be the third.
Now, what were the results? Between 2005 and 2009, a 42% decline in homicides in four of Kingston's six police divisions. The next one, Jenny. This shows it graphically, if you want. This is an achievement. This is not solely the achievement of the PMI, by any means. I mean, the police are in these areas also working. And there is some community policing. And some other agencies as well.
But I mean, these are the areas in which the PMI's work has been concentrated, and so it's definitely something that PMI has contributed to. And of course, I mean, I'm using homicides as a touchstone of the general decline in crime and so on.
Over the past year-- can you give me the next one? I haven't reached that part yet-- the PMI has been honing its tool of the retreats. We have extended the retreat from three or four days to a week. We can only do that because of the limited resources that it has. It gets these resources, financial resources, from the Ministry of National Security. Which is part of what is meant by saying this is a joint civil society-state effort.
And in these retreats, a file is created on every participant, every single participant. And then after the retreat, through social workers, this file is followed up on. So if a youth says he wants to get training in welding or carpentry or whatever it is, that's followed up on. If he wants to set up a small business, that's followed up on, to make sure that the resources are there, to make sure the contacts are made and so on. And that's been adopted by the Private Sector Organization, which is an umbrella body representing a large segment, virtually the entire segment of the private sector in Jamaica. Adopted, in fact, in the retreats that they are now sponsoring.
The next one. Today, after much skepticism, the value of PMI's input is widely recognized. But there is still an ongoing struggle over that distinction you see up there, the Corner Crew versus the Criminal Gang. One of the things that the PMI discovered when it went into communities was that there is something called a Corner Crew. There's a group of youth who are not hardened criminals. They are delinquents.
They find themselves in a situation where, through peer pressure and because the communities have been structured by the parties in antagonistic ways towards one another, they find themselves boxed into that. And so they develop in that way as crews dedicated to fighting one another over political issues. This has changed over the years. They fight each other now over turf. But they are not criminal gangs.
Now, there are police today, many of them in Jamaica who accept this division, accept this distinction, recognize that there are youth like this, who are not hardened criminals engaged in murder, extortion, carjacking, and that kind of thing. They do commit crimes. They have guns. They shoot. And they can go to jail for that, obviously. But they are not criminal gangs. And therefore there has to be a more discriminating way of dealing with them. Basically, to deal with them through social measures which can turn them around. And this is what the PMI has done.
Now, that's been accepted by some but not by the leadership of the force. Today, there is preference for the Mano Dura approach, which has been tried in Central America and found wanting. Does it work? In fact, it worsens the situation. Jamaica is now adopting it. And the state, with its propensity to violence over community policing, is moving in that direction.
It has already put legislation, some legislation, in place to do that, and it's putting others in place. What's the next one? No, sorry, go back again. I want to take you to that yet. One of the things this propensity to violence is exhibited by-- that exhibits it rather, is the rate of police killings. Last year, killings by the police reached the level of 321, not including the 73 plus killed in Tivoli in that incursion.
Nearly 400. That's one in five by the police. Of those police killings, the majority are extrajudicial. They are coldblooded murders, which the communities of course protest, but which are ignored. The number of police who have been indicted, convicted? Virtually nil. I think in 10 years one person. And that conviction was appealed and overturned.
So when you think of the 73 to 100 killed in May last year, there hasn't been anything like that since-- one would have to think back to 1865, when there was a British governor and there was a rebellion, and there were wholesale executions but nothing else, nothing comparable.
This event had a shock effect. At one blow, the killings of 73, that incursion by the security forces, police and army, destroyed the sense of impunity which criminals and community youth enjoyed. Tivoli had an outreach. It wasn't just psychological. It had an outreach in terms of supplying weapons and bullets. It had an outreach in terms of networking and connections. And in an instant, all of that was blown away.
Many young men from all over the island had in fact flocked to Tivoli before that incursion to help in the defense, attracted by offers, substantial offers of cash, reportedly, and also by the prospect of fighting the police. Because the police have not been popular, needless to say, because of their treatment of people. Many of those young men, of course, were never to return home. Next slide, please, Jen.
So there's been a decline in crime and violence. And I come now-- I'm jumping over a bit-- to the third element in my presentation. If I can find it here. Yeah. Here we are.
So one of the chief ones is that climb that I've just been talking about. And the result of it, I mean statistically, this year there's been a drop of 44% over the parallel period last year in homicides. 44% from last year. And what I have to say about that is that the important thing about it is not just the drop in the murders. I mean, that's of course significant, though the murder rate is still going to be very high in Jamaica. Even if it keeps up at that level, we will still have a murder rate of probably in the 30s or nearly 40 per 100,000, as opposed to what it was, 62 per 100,000. But that's still very, very high.
In this country., for example, it's in the 10 per 100,000 reach. So you get an idea of the difference. But still, for us, for Jamaica, a drop of 44% down to say 35 per 100,000 is still a major, major drop. But in addition to that, there is the express interests on the part of members of several gangs who are high on the police list in pursuing an alternative path. This is something that is turning up as a result of some research that a group of us are involved in in the inner city.
We've been interviewing members of gangs. We've interviewed some four of these gangs high on the police list. And what one finds is that they're turning away from what they were before, it would appear. I mean, there is a distinct trend in this direction. Or whether it is a trend remains to be seen. Some further research is needed.
But you find gangs-- there is one in particular for example, and this actually started before May of last year. But because it's developed further since then, you'll find members, they're raising chickens. They're raising pigs. They're tying steel for sale to contractors, building contractors outside. They're sitting behind computers.
Some of this has been helped by a local NGO that's providing the means for these things. But that's a major, major change. And what it indicates more than anything else is the power of changing the environment. And in that environment, of course, I'm including firm police action. The police action has been long overdue. It is excessive right now. There is no doubt about that. It is repressive. It is imposing, for example, limitations of movement on youth in these communities.
It's imposing on them. It's preventing them from holding sessions, evening dance and all that, that prevented in some areas. It's banned outright or severely restricted. They are prevented from vending on the sidewalks, which is a major means of income earning in Jamaica. Many poor people, inner city people at the bottom of the income earning spectrum depend on that kind of thing.
So there is repression in many respects in that area. And there are the killings which have gone on last year. This year, those have dropped, again quite significantly in the first quarter. The killings by the police have, in fact, dropped by 50% in the first quarter of this year. So there is improvement in that regard as well.
But what has happened as a result of that improvement and as a result of last year, last year's incursion into Tivoli, is this change in the gangs. But it's more the change in the environment, the kinds of things that the PMI brought into play through the social development referred to earlier on. This is what one would argue is the important thing, and that's brought about this express change in these gangs.
The second thing which has happened in this post is the Jamaican Civil Society Coalition. This is another-- this is quite an amazing development. It started in June, the very month after the incursion into Tivoli. The notable feature of this coalition is its tremendous breadth. The range of organizations. It's mostly organizations. There are some five or six individual members only. But the organizations represented, it includes the private sector, the leading private sector entities behaving in a civil society mode. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica is one. The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, another one. Jamaica Manufacturers Association.
Manufacturers Association, of course, incorporates many manufacturing entities. Jamaica Exporters Association. But it includes more than that. It includes the strictly civil society entities. The human rights organizations. The outstanding one there is Jamaicans for Justice. Some of you may have heard of it. Jamaica Independent Human Rights Association.
It includes the Bar Association of Jamaica, which represents the legal fraternity. It includes the women's organization, includes the Media Association of Jamaica, which represents the main media houses in Jamaica. So the breadth of this, it includes the two umbrella church organizations as well. It includes a grouping of community organizations, some 38 community organizations in it.
So it's extremely broad. This is the first time anything of this sort has happened in Jamaica of that nature. An organization representing micro, small, and medium sized businesses, scores of them, is represented in this coalition. And it's led by a woman, Carol Narcisse, who one day got up and said, Citizen Carol, let me invite a few friends from various organizations to meet. She did this, and the thing has just developed. And she's been elected formally as the chairperson of this organization.
In spite of the diversity of viewpoints, this is basically about this organization. It's non-partisan. It pressures the government, brings pressure to bear on the government. Letters to the prime minister, it's done that. Publicize these, releases in the press and so on. It's not a mass organization. It's met with the electoral commission of Jamaica, which is a very important body, which has been able to, through its legislation it brings to this state, to the government, has been able to bring down some of the violence, actually. That happens at times of national elections.
It's met with the International Monetary Fund, which basically controls the economic fate of Jamaica, and been able to put forward positions to them to urge on them the fact that this present 27 month agreement that is there has been too limited. It has forced the government into a contractionary mode, which has forced it to limit, for example, payments to prevent, to stop payments to trade unions, money it owes the trade union, the trade union people, to teachers, to nurses, to police, and so on.
And to urge on the International Monetary Fund a revision of that agreement, to expand it so that the reduction in the deficit, the fiscal deficit, would not be so abrupt, could take place over a longer period of time. Presently, it's compressed, and has to be done within this 27 months. So the government is forced therefore to put its mode in a contractionary mode.
We met with the Planning Institute of Jamaica, the coalition has, which is an important body. After the May incursion, it was given the function by the state of putting together a community renewal program, which it has done, and it's seeking to implement it. I'm coming to an end, if my time is running out.
So it's dealt with a range of issues on governments, governance, violence, community renewal. It has obtained for some of its members presence in something called the Partnership for Transformation, in which the state meets regularly, the ruling government with the opposition party, with members of the private sector, and now with members of civil society. And it is working for community renewal, which is one of the main things that the Planning Institute of Jamaica is supposed to be working on. Can we finish off?
So it's a first, and it's held together. One of the first issues it confronted was whether to demand the prime minister's resignation after his lies. And it was divided sharply on that. And the only way to prevent the coalition from collapsing was to say, all right, we can't resolve that issue now. It's better we stay together. It has good quality membership and leadership, and it's really quite-- the exchanges are quite amazing.
So civil society against violence and irrational partisanship, this is what I have been trying to talk about. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: You've mentioned the Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturers Association, the IMF, you didn't mention the seven families. There's a sharply divided income distribution and a very powerful bourgeoisie in Jamaica. It seems to me, my analysis would tell me, from what you've said today, that the system really got out of their control. This is an exceptional situation. It's not beneficial for capitalists. Can you tell us a little bit about what their position was during these terrible years? Why they let it-- why it got so far out of their control, or if that's wrong?
HORACE LEVY: Why have things got out of the control of the minority group, you're saying? Well, I don't know that it has gotten out of their control. Basically, the parties have represented-- the parties are fronts. The parties have black people. They've had black prime ministers. Even though it's the black people of the country who are at the bottom of the ladder, haven't been insular, and I've basically had to put aside that issue in order, in a limited time, to deal with the violence of the parties, and to just limit it to the political parties.
But basically, there is a race and class issue in Jamaica. Class is raced. Class is raced. The classes divide the country, but there's a racial coloration that runs through it. And basically the parties serve the ruling class. The ruling class right now, for example, one of the major ruling members of the ruling class, Butch Stewart, who owns these hotels in Jamaica, he has a tremendous influence. I mean, he's just negotiated terms on the sale of a hotel, which have given him-- handed him hundreds of millions of dollars, basically.
So they're continuing to benefit from this situation. There isn't any loss of control or power. It's only on the outside, on the face of it that they seem not to be there. That's not to say, of course, that they're satisfied with the violence. The violence part of it doesn't bother them in the least. The racial part doesn't bother them in the least.
The majority of them are light skinned. Either from minority groups, Chinese, what we call Lebanese, Caucasians, mostly, a little mixture of brown, one or two blacks to say, oh, we're all right, Joe. But it basically doesn't bother them. So I mean, the more conscious ones-- I mean, the ones who are in the coalition, the one representing, for example, the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, his name is Matalon, they are a very rich and big company in Jamaica. This particular individual, Joe Matalon, however, is quite a conscious individual. And he's supporting the coalition, and leading--
I mean, it remains to be seen, to some extent, when we really go deeply into the economic issue, what divisions crop up inside the coalition. We really haven't gotten deeply into the economic issue yet. We've been focusing largely on the governance issues. So if we get in, when we get into the economic issue, we may see some splits there in the coalition. It remains to be seen.
But for the time being, having the private sector in there gives the coalition a lot more clout, obviously. And hence, those from the strictly speaking civil society, because I make that distinction between civil society and the private sector, some of them wanted to have a coalition that was just civil society, strictly, but decided against that.
So my answer basically is that they still rule the roost. That's not to say they're fully satisfied, but they're still ruling. And they'll continue to rule for a while yet, I would suspect. It would require-- I mean, what you've had in other countries, where a state, a ruling set fails, as is happening in Jamaica, one of two things happens. Either civil society steps in, or the army steps in. We've seen the army in Latin America, repeated coups and so on.
Civil society, you have two modes. One is the bloody revolution. We're seeing some of that attempted, at least an attempt in Libya. And the other one is the Velvet Revolution. We saw that in Egypt. We've seen it in Eastern Europe, civil society rising up en masse. Jamaica has neither of those capabilities at the present time.
Neither, in spite of the popularity of the coup thing, is it likely to go in a military way. The army is too small, less than 2,000. There are people inside of it, I understand, who are tempted in that direction, but they recognize that, realistically, it's perhaps not impossible. So my answer would be, it's not. Other questions or comments?
HORACE LEVY: Yes.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] wouldn't you say that the image of the army in Jamaica is that it's really outside the political [INAUDIBLE]. It has played a central role in any historical [INAUDIBLE] and I'm wondering, therefore, if that might make a military option a bit more attractive at this stage since the image of the army is not [INAUDIBLE]. But in America, that's [INAUDIBLE]. The second [INAUDIBLE] is this, since there certainly seems to be a reduction in the idelological [INAUDIBLE]
HORACE LEVY: Correct.
AUDIENCE: You speak about this great [INAUDIBLE] can get from whichever regime is in power.
HORACE LEVY: That's a strong element, yes. The thing is deeply entrenched. To give an example of that, take the last member of Parliament who the prime minister had to resign just last month because he had dual citizenship. He was renominated to run. He resigned, was renominated in the nominations, which took place a few days after his resignation. Two weeks later, he's re-elected. He's back in Parliament. And he's supported by 5,000 votes in his constituency.
HORACE LEVY: Huh?
AUDIENCE: Didn't he give up the [INAUDIBLE] before he was elected.
HORACE LEVY: Yes.
AUDIENCE: So in that sense, technically he was qualified to run.
HORACE LEVY: He was qualified to run.
AUDIENCE: OK, so--
HORACE LEVY: But the fact that he had lied, had been in Parliament, had contravened the Constitution? I mean, there's particularly another case, a woman who went to court and perjured herself about whether she had dual citizenship. And so it went to the courts. It was taken-- she was taken to court by the opposition, lost her case, had to resign, did resign, was re-elected, renominated, re-elected.
So the supporters of the party, there's a 15% to 20% hardcore supporting each party. So that means that there's a 50% of the population, roughly 55, maybe 60 that's really issue-orientated, not hard party support-oriented. So it's deep. It's not just at the top. It's deep in the population. And it's the result of that kind of leadership which they are being given.
So yes, there's not much difference between them. It hinges very much on charisma, on the leader. I haven't been able to go into that, but there is a big to-do. When it comes to election and electioneering, a lot of it focuses around the leadership and around what this one can do and that one can't and so on. The leader of the-- I'm coming right to you-- of the other side, the opposition party, is originally from a lower class background.
Which, in answer to your question, is part of the reason why the upper class is very much against her. Because of her-- she doesn't speak English as fluently-- I mean, she can speak more or less but-- as fluently as somebody from the middle or upper class and so on. And it's clear she's from the working class. So they're opposed to her partly on those grounds. Others are opposed to her because they feel she doesn't have the intellectual acumen to manage the job. But the fact is that there is that bias against her as well as a bias because she's a woman.
Yes, the army has been outside. The army is respected, on the whole. The army has it does not have the corruption that the police have had in it. So it's more respected. Its treatment of people on the roads when they are brought in has been different from that of the police. So the younger people do not have that antipathy towards them that they have towards the police. But the army is-- so that's the position of the army, and it's been outside the process. It's not the typical Latin American situation.
AUDIENCE: I'm just curious. Can you talk a little bit more about the trade unions themselves? Because they were so often too associated with the different parties. Are you seeing a lessening of that within the trade union movement too? And has the number of people in the unions grown or declined? And what's happening there? And then the second question, where's the Workers Party and what happened to the youth wing of the PNP? In general, where is the left in Jamaica in the midst of all of this?
HORACE LEVY: I'll take the last one first, as it's the easier one quickly to answer. Workers Party disintegrated around 1989, 1990. So it's a non-existent force. And many of its members are scattered. Some of them went into the People's National Party, but the majority-- many of them are leaders in various other areas. Several of them are active in the coalition.
I was in it myself too. I resigned in 1988. The breakup of the party actually preceded the denouement in Eastern Europe. So it was independent of that. It was more related to what had happened in Grenada and so on.
The other question of the trade union. Like trade unions in this country, it's declined a bit, in terms of membership. The important thing about the trade union thing is that it started from about the 1960s. Initially, they were very polarized and followed respective parties. Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, the Labour Party. And the other union, the National Workers Union, the PNP, the People's National Party.
But they began just to start to recognize that their business really belonged together. And so from the '80s and certainly into the '90s, they have now formed the Federation. And so they're more independent of the parties now, much more independent. And they're able to take in, for example, on this issue of-- what was it? Of capping, capping, putting a cap on the fuel tax. Gas is going up and so on. But 30% of the cost of fuel in Jamaica is tax. And part of that tax is one that keeps rising with the increase in the price of the thing.
And so everybody, various organizations and the opposition has jumped on the wagon, have been urging the government to put a cap, at least on that section, which they finally were forced to do it. But I mention it because the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union actually came out in favor of that cap, against the government. So the trade unions no longer are so polarized at all. They work together to a great extent.
SPEAKER 1: Thank you very much, Professor Levy.
HORACE LEVY: Thank you very much.
SPEAKER 1: You're remarkable.
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After a long career as an organizer of sugar worker cooperatives, as director of the Social Action Centre, and a leader in the NGO community in Jamaica, Horace Levy has been a senior lecturer and research fellow at the University of the West Indies since 1998. His 2009 monograph "Killing Streets and Community Revival" is based both on his research and his active involvement since 2002 in the Peace Management Initiative.
Levy's April 15, 2011 lecture examined the use of violence by both dominant political parties in Jamaica and the impact that the Peace Management Initiative has had on Jamaica.