NEW YORK, USA — Jamaican-born United States Congresswoman Yvette Clarke said yesterday she was seeking the help of the US State Department to restore peace and stability in Jamaica.
Clarke, in a statement expressing “deep concern about the civil unrest in Jamaica and the circumstances preceding the situation”, did not spell out what form the assistance she is seeking would take.
The Observer was also unable to reach the State Department because yesterday was a national holiday in the States.
Clarke’s mother is the famed Una Clarke in whose footsteps she has followed as representative of Brooklyn District in Congress, an area populated by thousands of Jamaican nationals. She is regarded as the Caribbean’s staunchest ally in the US Congress.
She expressed hopes that the Jamaican Government “will do everything in its power to protect its citizens, and to ensure that order is restored in the shortest possible time”.
Clarke said her office was “monitoring the situation very closely and will remain in close contact with the US State Department, and Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) to possible assist the Jamaican Government to restore peace and stability to the area affected by the unrest.
The Congresswoman was among large numbers of Jamaicans in the US who said they were worried about the developments in their homeland, as security forces faced brazen gunmen trying to prevent the arrest of Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who is wanted by the US on charges of alleged gun and drug running.
The Jamaican nationals were “gravely concerned about its effects on the country’s image and the possibility of the long term damage” to the country.
Some nationals have cancelled planned visits, while others have put vacations on hold.
Observer interviews with influential and other Jamaican nationals here reveal a deep desire for an end to the ‘Dudus’ extradition saga which has gripped their country for the past nine months.
Claudia Pyke, who heads Generation 2000, an affiliate of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), described the situation as “frightening”. She urged protesting residents to “allow due process to take place, given the decision of the Government concerning the extradition matter”. Pyke also argued that the current unrest posed a great setback to the Government’s economic programmes.
Newspaper publisher Patrick Maitland told the Observer that the situation in his homeland was a clear reflection that the Government will have to pursue measures that will grow the economy, so that those who depend on the so-called ‘dons’ will have no reason to do so.
Echoing similar sentiments, Attorney Marlon Hill who heads the Diaspora Board for the Southern United States, said the situation in his country required the joint effort of the Government, Opposition and private sector groups to be resolved.
“Jamaicans deserve the protection of the State. I urge Jamaican-Americans to be responsive to the need of their native land,” said Hill, adding that Jamaicans here should reach out to their Congressional representatives for assistance to resolve the situation.
But, Horace Thomas, head of the People’s National Party’s affiliate, Jamaica National Movement believed the Jamaican security forces “are capable of handling the current situation”. However, he disagreed with the strategy employed by the security forces, arguing that a longer wait on their part may have weakened the criminal elements.
In her reaction to the situation, Connecticut resident Ferris McLean-Edwards said she was “deeply troubled over the loss of life and the damage to my country’s reputation”.
And the Diaspora Boards for Canada and the North Eastern United States, which discussed the matter in a tele-conference yesterday, said stronger leadership on the part of the Jamaican authorities was needed in the current situation.
Patrick Beckford of the North East US Diaspora Board, told the Observer that the situation represents a watershed moment and that law-abiding Jamaicans need to stand up and demand a quick resolution of the matter.
Jamaican organisations in the southern United States have also called a meeting for tomorrow to discuss the situation in their homeland.