Jamaica Strains to Fill Void After Ejecting Gang Bosses
After Matthews Lane, a poor neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica, lost its crime boss, Donald Phipps, the government failed to assume his role as a provider of jobs and security, so Mr. Phipps’s underlings took over.
By KAREEM FAHIM
Published: May 31, 2010
KINGSTON, Jamaica — When the powerful don of a downtown neighborhood, Matthews Lane, was sentenced to life in prison for murder, the Jamaican government promised the residents they would not be forgotten.
Quickly, the drains were cleaned and the sewers fixed. Jobs and new housing were on the way, residents were told. The police promised to provide the security previously handled by the don, a crime boss named Donald Phipps, known as Zekes, in one of the garrison communities of Kingston essentially outside government control.
But four years later, residents still regard the police as “them” and are hard pressed to name a project completed by the government. A cadre of the don’s underlings, including his son, stepped into the vacuum and asserted their power. Though they are not as effective as Mr. Phipps in providing work or security, they still control Matthews Lane — and it is still a garrison.
“It’s our culture,” said Michael Petersens, 45, who grew up in the neighborhood. “Zekes not the first don or the last don.”
The pattern in Matthews Lane underscores the challenges the government faces as it tries to exert influence in a neighboring community called Tivoli Gardens. State security forces raided the neighborhood last week to execute an arrest warrant for Christopher Coke, the don of Tivoli Gardens, who is wanted in the United States on gun and drug trafficking charges.
Since the fighting started, the government has asked at least 10 other dons to surrender to the authorities in what officials say is an attempt to end the reign of the criminal gangs.
Now Mr. Coke is on the run, and Tivoli Gardens is a garrison of a different sort, its narrow streets full of heavily armed soldiers, police officers and pockets of seething anger. At least 70 people were killed in circumstances that have not been fully explained. The government has not said whether any of the people killed by security forces were armed. And although almost a thousand people were arrested and detained for days, all but 10 of them were eventually released without charge.
As of Monday, the country’s prime minister, Bruce Golding, who represents Tivoli Gardens in Parliament, had not yet visited his constituents.
Walking near buildings in a part of the neighborhood gutted by fire, Brizzel Nelson-Robinson, whose husband was detained for several days and their small shop ransacked in the unrest last week, summed up the changed environment. “We don’t feel safe,” she said.
According to Mark Shields, a former deputy commissioner in the Police Department, early attempts to help Matthews Lane after Mr. Phipps’s arrest seemed hopeful. “We were able to disrupt extortion to a degree,” he said, acknowledging that attention from the state quickly faded.
On a recent day in Matthews Lane, Dale Bryan, 28, sat on a sidewalk with a screwdriver and tried to fix a fan. Mr. Phipps had gotten him his first job. In a neighborhood full of semi-employed young men, Mr. Bryan was one of the few with a steady job, at the airport.
He pointed to a stretch of fresh asphalt on the road in front of him, work the city had finally completed after leaving a hole in the street for years. “That’s the only thing they do,” he said. “They just pass through.”
Mr. Shields said: “To sustain filling the gap is costly, and my concern is Jamaica does not have the resources to sustain it. Tivoli is a bigger area. I hope there is a strong plan to fill the vacuum created by removing dons. Otherwise they will be replaced by wanna-be-dons.”
The current unrest has shocked Jamaicans in part because it involves a politician’s turning on the don in his district. Tivoli Gardens has voted for the Jamaica Labor Party, Mr. Golding’s party, since the community was built in 1965 by Edward Seaga, who later became prime minister. At the time, “it was a place of opportunity,” Mr. Seaga contended in an interview. “It was a pleasure to behold.”
In the following decades, Tivoli Gardens and other poor neighborhoods became the headquarters of Kingston’s criminal gangs, armed encampments that often fought with one another or the state. Yet they were part of the system: In 1992, when Mr. Coke’s father died under mysterious circumstances, Mr. Seaga led his funeral procession.
Asked about a push to eject the dons, Mr. Seaga, a sharp critic of Mr. Golding, said: “If you say they shouldn’t be allowed to operate, I’m with you. But I am not for law and order without justice. Because law and order without justice is to shoot people.”
Removing the dons is not the only challenge. According to Rivke Jaffe, an anthropologist at Leiden University who has studied downtown Kingston, many dons are more than just criminals who have inserted themselves between the impoverished streets and the bureaucracy. Mr. Coke does earn money from legitimate businesses.
They have provided residents with financial help and jobs. And while the police often treat their neighborhoods as lawless enclaves, some dons, like Mr. Coke and Mr. Phipps, provided some order among people who saw the police and other institutions as corrupt and capricious, Dr. Jaffe said.
And they provide a sense of belonging, she said. The dons are celebrated in the popular culture of places like Matthews Lane, where the annual dance is still called Spanglers, for Mr. Phipps’s crew. The name Zekes appears on many wall murals, including one that features President Obama and the famed sprinter Usain Bolt.
At the same time, there is no way to vote a don out of power, and no way to decline his demands for extortion money. To cross a don, or even disagree, could mean death.
“There’s no way we can dismiss the dons,” said Victor Cummings, a former Parliament member who is the half brother of Mr. Phipps. “We need to bring them into the system to reduce their power.”
In recent days, private business and church groups have promised to create new social programs in the garrison communities. An adviser close to Mr. Golding, Delano Seiveright, said the prime minister was committed to preventing a return of the dons.
“There is no doubt that the Bruce Golding government is resolute about a targeted social intervention package,” he said in an e-mail message. Mr. Seiveright predicted that more resources would be “pumped into deprived inner-city communities that have for years been slipping into the hands of criminal elements.”
In fact, money has flowed into those communities for decades, thanks to an arrangement in Jamaica in which politicians and dons share power. Through extortion and the drug trade, the dons provide security, and by steering contracts and other pork to the neighborhoods, the politicians count on the continued loyalty of voters.
Samantha Stosur of Australia provided the biggest upset of the French Open defeating four time champion Justine Henin 2-6 6-1 6-4. Stosur played aggressive tennis, she attacked Henin’s backhand, and she blasted Henin’s second serve . Henin was surprised that Stosur did not give up after losing the first set. Samantha Stosur’s mental toughness has improved dramatically she just kept on fighting.
After the first set, Stosur found her range she started to hit bigger serves, blasting forehands, backhands, and attacking the net. I am very impressed with Samantha Stosur she is definitely a player to watch in the future.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams easily defeated Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2 6-2 she will face Stosur in the quarterfinals. This loss is a shock and a huge blow to Justine Henin’s confidence. Henin really needs to improve her serve, since she has returned to the WTA Tour Henin’s serve is now a liability.
Online recruiting frustrates job seekers
April 23, 2010, 9:32PM
Jim Gehrz/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCTJob seekers attend the 2010 Get Jobs Fair in Eagan, Minnesota, on March 25, 2010. When Becky Cole lost her grant-writing job to the recession two years ago, she began scouring job fairs. She didn’t like what she saw.
Several recruiters refused to take her résumé or give their business cards. They just referred her to the company website and told her to apply online. Others had a dish full of candy and lots of brochures, but no jobs. Several recruiters admitted they were only there to fill a quota for their marketing department.
“It annoys me to no end,” Cole said. “People come to a job fair expecting to be able to apply for a job. And if you don’t have job openings and can’t do an interview, don’t tell me to go apply online.”
Not every recruiter dismisses candidates with a swift nod to the web. But anecdotal evidence abounds that such practices are alive and well. Employment experts insist it’s simply part of a modern, high-tech, less-touch world, one in which online recruiting reigns supreme.
Human resource managers argue that the online job application process helps them manage herds of hungry candidates. It’s not uncommon for one job opening to solicit hundreds of résumés, they say.
On the flip side, however, are tens of thousands of frustrated job seekers like Cole who say they are demoralized by the faceless black hole of today’s employment hunt.
“People feel very defeated working with online applications,” said Jane Samargia, executive director of HIRED, which does job placement for the state of Minnesota.
Young job seekers recently told HIRED counselors they think online job applications “are just a big scam,” Samargia said. “They’ve never heard a response back from any employer, so they don’t believe online is a real avenue to applying for a job. They really think it’s just fiction and a way for others to get their personal information.”
Samargia’s team encourages job searchers to network like mad. “If you only use the computer, you will never find a job.”
Dakota County Workforce Development Division specialist Mike Lang agreed. “We usually see 60 to 70 job seekers coming in every week, and almost every week we hear comments about how the employers are not getting back to them. They are actually happy if they receive a rejection letter, because at least it’s something. Most of the time they apply online and don’t hear back on anything.”
Showing up in person for a job fair hasn’t netted better results, said Lang, who coordinates fairs for the county. “Last year, there were companies that signed up, but when it actually came time for the fair they didn’t have openings. So they were just there to provide information. And I do hear that (the job seekers) are told to go to the website and submit an application, even though they … come in and meet face to face.”
At the last job fair, some 3,800 people showed up with the hope of getting a real interview, and maybe a job. But they heard a familiar tune — go online.
“They are just really burned out and tired of it,” Lang said.
Employers often are bombarded with applications. Samargia said HIRED recently posted an online ad for a front desk clerk and had more than 500 applications in four days. Large corporations see even higher volumes.
“Again and again, (HR managers) say they are completely overwhelmed and defeated. They put out one job opening and their systems are quickly overwhelmed. … They don’t have enough staff to handle them. So it’s kind of a vicious circle,” Samargia said.
Some job seekers are perceiving slights when there aren’t any, said HIRED Senior Program Manager John Klem.
A representative for a hospital recently stated that its “Equal Employment Opportunity rules require all applicants to apply online and … (for) all applications to first be reviewed by someone to ensure … basic qualifications for the job,” Klem said. Even if a recruiter likes a candidate, all steps must be followed before scheduling an interview.
But Cole doesn’t want to hear it. She became so fed up with online applications and dead-end job fairs that she began hosting her own job fairs last year. She has strict rules about what she will and won’t tolerate from recruiters.
Leave that candy dish at the office and come to the job fair with real jobs, she tells companies who pay $20 to $40 to set up a booth. Her fees include lunch. She won’t give space to a recruiter who refuses to interview job seekers, look over résumés and give feedback.”When I do it, I can be more particular about who I like … and don’t,” she said. “If I host, then I can say to certain organizations, ‘No. You stay home.’ “