Progress seen only in rising murder count
After the murder of Perry Puckerin Jr on January 3, 2010 at the height of the alleged gang wars, the following was written as a Letter to the Editor by the present Editor of The Royal Gazette, when repatriating to Bermuda had yet to be envisioned. While there have been a number of high-profile convictions in recent times, the gun-murder count in the past eight years, inclusive, has risen above 40 — culminating in the death of Morlan Steede on Friday. No matter the fancy appointments and changes in government, the authorities appear to have as tenuous a grip on Bermuda's gang, gun and drug culture — which is aided criminally to a large extent by otherwise law-abiding citizens — as they did back then. So it appears appropriate to republish a plea from afar — as real today as it was then.
“Murderer! Blood is on your shoulders
Kill I today, you cannot kill I tomorrow
Murder! Your insides must be hollow
How does it feel to take a life of another ...
You can hide from man but not your conscience
Unuh [You all] nyam [eat] de bread of sorrow, drink de wine of violence
Allow yourself to be conquered by de serpent
Why you disobey the first commandment”
Buju Banton may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I cannot get away from his 1994 classic Murderer when having to contemplate the reality that Bermuda is rapidly descending into oblivion with the news of another loss of life at the hands of a coward and his gun.
The sense of sorrow I felt over the spate of deaths between 2006 and the middle of 2009 has been replaced by anger and bitter contempt. Nothing can become more important for the leaders of our once-proud island than for the scourge of gang culture to be rooted out and exterminated.
When it comes to senselessly taking the life of another by the most cowardly means, I have no loyalties — no loyalties to race, no loyalties to family, no loyalties to “friends” or past acquaintances. This evil needs to be stopped and it needs to be stopped now.
Living over here in the UK, I count myself as an ambassador for Bermuda, and rarely in the past ten years have I felt the need to stop singing the praises of everything that makes the island so special in my eyes. Recent events have forced a rethink and that pains me. It pains me that I cannot think about home without wondering how normalcy can ever return to the lives of the parents, partners, wives, children and innocent neighbours of the men who have been gunned down.
It does not matter whether the victims might easily have been on the other side of the trigger in another time — as defenders within these self-styled gangs would have you believe — serious crimes have been committed. And the gravity of them should be felt by us all, at home and abroad.
So what to do?
As much as I applaud the efforts of the Police, I wish initially that they would get the public relations side of their act together, so as not to further dent the confidence of a shaken community. Scatter-brained utterances such as the late Perry Puckerin being “deliberately targeted” — my sympathies to his family, some of whom I know well — and criminal activity allegedly being on the slide during the holidays because some malcontents might have been on a chartered flight to Jamaica leave you wondering if anyone over there really is qualified adequately to cope with Bermuda's “Axis of Evil” that is drugs and gun crime.
It was very evident that Mr Puckerin was targeted when the news first broke! So was Kumi Harford. So was Gary Cann. So was Shane Minors. All victims of premeditated murder! Tell us what we don't know: what you are doing to bring the perpetrators to justice.
And on the subject of gang members going off the island for Christmas on a charter to Jamaica, surely the LF Wade International Airport might have been the scene of a large-scale Police operation instead of a festive send-off.
Spirit of the season? Call me The Grinch, but people are dying — mothers are losing sons, children are losing fathers, for ever.
I have read numerous commentaries in recent times speaking to what is believed to be the root cause of the violence that has turned an idyllic paradise into a hunting ground — at least in certain demographics. The most common denominator appears to be to lay the blame at the feet of the Government — but, sorry, I'm not having any of that. It's just not on.
It is such a cop-out to blame today's elected leaders, or those from a bygone era — the United Bermuda Party — for the ills that are tarnishing Bermuda's reputation, namely young men arming themselves with weapons and ending the lives of other young men. The Government might have a lot to answer for, but accessory to first-degree murder surely is not one of them.
Bermuda needs look no farther than a very small minority that is responsible for a statistic — four shooting deaths in a month — that, per capita, would rank the island among the worst of the worst over such a time span. They call themselves gangs, but in reality they are groups of thugs that have been unwittingly glorified by the media.
I refuse to categorise these criminal groups by name, thus affording them an ill-deserved status, and would urge all media outlets to do likewise henceforth. For to do so tars with the same brush the many innocents who live in these areas, and that is unfair, leading no doubt to some of the discontent over the authorities' inability and perceived unwillingness to make their neighbourhoods safe.
Having spent most, if not all, of my youth in such neighbourhoods, I can say categorically that these gangs do not represent me. Nor do they represent the majority of young men, black or otherwise, from similar backgrounds, who have gone on to become productive members of society. Their motives are self-serving, plain and simple, and that is to get what they believe is due to them by any means necessary, as quickly as possible and with as little of the personal sacrifice of hard graft that is generally instilled from an early age. And be damned anyone who stands in their way.
The removal from society of the hardcore element and possible rehabilitation of those only so recently drawn into a life of misdeed have to be at the top of the Government's list of priorities. The longer this takes and the higher the death toll rises, the greater the likelihood that failing public confidence will be at irreparable risk.
As I write, the island should be under a state of emergency. If not, why not?
It is encouraging that members of the public have shown the initiative to reclaim their communities by organising peaceful protest against the violence. That I agree with wholeheartedly. But I am not in favour of opening dialogue with these criminals. And I do not believe in the illusion of a ceasefire, because when you take away the “cease”, we all know what we are left with, as the family of Perry Puckerin Jr learnt to their horror this week.
If the Police are to be as vigilant as I would hope, I would implore my fellow Bermudians to show patience and understanding in the face of tactics designed to rid the island of this most vile of cancers. Failing that, there may be little option but to call in external support. Then, it might be anything goes: heavens forbid, the suspension of habeas corpus and a form of martial law.
Let's hope that we can rise above that. Rise above, Bermuda.
May God bless you and be with you in these difficult and trying times.