Free Worl’ Boss?
Published: Sunday | March 23, 2014 1 Comment
Daniel Thwaites, Contributor
Vybz Kartel’s fans have gone on to the American government’s website (petitions.whitehouse.gov) to petition Barack Obama for a retrial. I think an enterprising comedian could interview the originator of the petition, and the thousands of signatories, to great effect. What, I wonder, are they thinking?
They must feel that Obama is ‘igle’. Perhaps they’re commenting on Jamaica’s sovereignty? Or is it a sly judgement of US intervention in (what they take to be) other country’s most pressing affairs? All the same, I like the idea that Obama, who is otherwise preoccupied with averting a new Cold War over Crimea, might tell Putin, “Hol’ on deh!”, and drop that phone to pick up another one to Portia and say: “Sista P! Sorry for the quick call. Free Worl’ Boss!”
Still, I do not think people protesting the verdict are entirely irrational or unreasonable. Some have presented very good reasons to be sceptical. The whole episode has provided rich fodder for conspiracy theorists who imagine that ‘the system’ was out to get Kartel, that being one overriding theme of the messages and notes that have been trending heavily on social media. Hashtags #FreeWorldBoss and #DontDropTheCakeSoap were lighting up Twitter.
On Facebook, a page named ‘Gaza Fans Only’ advertised itself as “Made To Show Respect To Our Idol That Was Convicted By Jamaica’s Corrupt System”. There you will find criticism of ‘the system’, and of all the participants who helped to put Kartel away, including the allegation that 10 jurors were the ones bribed. Also, since Lizard’s body has proven harder to find than Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, it leads some to speculate that he is alive, and part of a well-funded plot to topple Kartel.
Truth is, nothing about the process sent the message that our unenviable record of being one of the safest places to commit murder is about to change. Quite the opposite. This was proof that we’re up the creek without a paddle, or a canoe.
What The Gleaner has termed “grave investigative and procedural incompetence on the part of the police and, to a lesser extent, prosecutors” is an understatement. It’s a near miracle that conviction was achieved, owing, I think, to the credibility of the man who claimed to have witnessed the murder. Between the lost discs, lost notebooks, sensitive keys left carelessly, phones containing evidence used for extra-mural texts and calls, and an improperly secured crime scene, it was a litany of foul-ups.
The police didn’t earn people’s deep distrust overnight, and it’s going to take a long time to regain it. People don’t like giving information to the police not just because there’s a distaste for informers, but because they know of instances where confidentiality is breached. People come to understand that the police force is riven by faction and corruption, and that it is a dangerous set of people to deal with.
Even those sympathetic to the police, like myself, must admit the cops made many unforced errors. If you are highly suspicious of the police, you will say that there was ample evidence of conspiracy and frame-up.
The day after the verdict, CVM TV all but apologised for airing the views of some of Kartel’s supporters from on the Gaza itself. Why they would feel apologetic about it, I don’t know. Thankfully, they went ahead, and the views were, of course, fascinating. Some Gaza fans pointed out that Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams’ “file nevah good”. Another said the following:
“Him nuh kill a lawyer, him don’t kill a judge, him nuh kill ah topanaris policeman. The man weh him kill ah man weh him an’ him a run up an’ dung every day together a doh dem wrongs. Dem shoulda overlook it and give him a chance. Him have him kids dem; him have wife; him have him family.”
That statement landed with a thud because it came in the same clip where other people were bemoaning the persecution of Kartel because he is from the poor. In fact, a woman identified as Kartel’s cousin said:
“We realise that there is no justice … It’s not fair. … I believe if he was coming from another prominent family, they wouldn’t have treated him this way … . We need a retrial.”
Incidentally, his mother has come out to say that Kartel came from a good home, something I find entirely believable given his demeanour and language. He is also well educated, skilful at public relations, and more charismatic than all but three or four of our politicians.
But all of that talk of “overlook it” is just rubbish. What about Lizard’s family? It goes without saying – or it should go without saying – that murder should be prosecuted regardless of the social class of the murderer or the victim. That belief used to be standard issue and commonplace, but now seems like one more thing we can’t take for granted, at least not on the Gaza.
Through all of this, the most compelling voice to emerge was Stephanie Breakenridge’s, Clive Williams’ sister, who spoke of her attempts to rescue her brother from dangerous company, and the heartbreak of losing him. Only a rockstone could hear her and not be moved.
In the ancient world, you could deliver no greater grief to a family than to destroy your victim’s body and rob them the opportunity to perform funeral rites. Homer records that after killing Hector, even Worl’ Boss Achilles took compassion and, urged by his mother, relented from anger and permitted the body to be buried.
Justice’s deepest roots are not legal and procedural, but in tempering rage, so that one man can see humanity in another, even his enemy. Justice as a feature of social institutions is entirely dependent on that slender substratum, and if it yields to the anger where we chop each other up ‘fine-fine’, the whole edifice will come tumbling down.
I understand how Kartel’s family is clamouring for the justice of procedural review, but before even that, Kartel’s mother may want to have a real talk with her son.
Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at law. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.