Jamaica Observer:-The adage “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” was yesterday embraced by gangsters from warring factions linked to the spate of violence creating chaos and fear in a section of Mountain View, St Andrew.
A handshake accompanied by a hug symbolised the first step towards peace at Mountain View New Testament Church after what was termed a peace walk through the troubled community.
“Mek we be community caretakers and leave out the general something out of it,” one man from Jacques Road said prior to the handshake as he vowed to keep the peace.
Shortly after, his counterpart from Goodwich Lane took to the podium. The man noted that he has been branded as the “problem” in the community for some time but said he, too, wished to keep the peace.
Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Eastern Julian Robinson, who was the mediator, said the coming together of stakeholders and key persons of influence is a good start to accomplish peace in the community.
“We know peace is not something that happens overnight, and it’s a process, but I think it was important for some of those persons to be here, some of them coming here for the first time ever. You may call it symbolic but there was a handshake between what you would consider two of the leaders from either side,” Robinson continued.
When the Jamaica Observer arrived in the community minutes after 10:00 am there was no activity. However, about an hour later the stakeholders were escorted through the community by the police.
By this time, cries for peace reverberated through the narrow lanes from men, women, and children who were obviously frustrated by the series of shootings.
The latest incident came on Christmas Day when a woman and a man were shot and injured.
The following day, some residents who were irked by the shootings mounted a roadblock. That resulted in intervention by the PMI.
“Mi just want the peace. Mi just want everything to stop. Dun!” a resident exclaimed as she walked along Jacques Road.
The woman, who said she has been living in the community for over 40 years, confessed that even though police and soldiers were in the community she was still nervous.
“Mi have nerve problem and mi woulda want the entire foolishness to dun. Mi have mi son fi go work and mi daughter to go school. Mi worry night and day the heap a pi, pi, pi, pi, pap, boom. Mi all inna mi bed and it wake mi up. Mi want it fi dun. Mi use to go church every Sunday and mi pastor cyaan keep nothing. New Year a come and mi want service fi keep,” the woman said.
Vena Lewis, another resident, who was seen standing at her gate on Goodwich Lane, told the Observer that this Christmas was the worst she has ever seen.
“Mi nuh have no Christmas because it was shooting. People get shoot up. All now my house nuh tidy up yet. No cooking, we couldn’t even eat wi Christmas dinner. Wi nuh get fi cook nuh Christmas dinner, man,” Lewis complained.
The 63-year-old said as a result of the gang war she has to use an alternative route to enter and exit the community.
“Wi tired of it now. I think people should live free, walk free. You not supposed to live in a community and nobody cyaan come to you; you want to go somewhere and you cannot go. It is bad, it is really bad. We are human and slavery abolished long time and I don’t think we should be in any bondage,” Lewis said.
Like Lewis, Courtney Lyle, told the Observer that he had to cancel his annual Christmas treat as a result of the shootings.
Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Area Four Kevin Blake said the police are yet to get to the real reason behind the conflict.
However, Blake said preliminary investigations suggested that both parties have been at odds since it was revealed that construction works are to commence soon in the area.
Blake said the police are working closely with the residents to maintain the peace.
“We just want to remind residents that the community belongs to them and peace is non-negotiable, it must happen,” Blake said, adding that the aim of the walk-through was to get both communities “talking again”.
The walk through both communities via Goodwich Lane, Border Line, Third Avenue, and Jacques Road included Robinson, Member of Parliament for St Andrew Eastern Fayval Williams, Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams, clergymen, Peace Management Initiative (PMI) representatives, residents, and members of security forces.