“These are dark times for our country.”
Those were the words expressed by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, as the sitting of the House got underway on Tuesday.
She was responding to the news that a mother and her four children were brutally murdered in their house in Cocoa Piece, Clarendon on Tuesday morning.
The five were found with their throats slashed, sending shockwaves through the country because of the sheer brutality of the particular crime.
The victims have been identified as 34-year-old Kemisha Wright and her four children: 15-year-old Kimana Smith, 10-year-old Shemari Smith, five-year-old Kafana Smith, and 23-month-old Kishaun Henry, the lone boy.
“We …as a country, all of us, from all walks of life, must stop and reflect and pray for all of us as citizens of this country; the murders have to stop,” Dalrymple-Philibert remarked.
“It is senseless, it is gruesome, it is evil; it is barbaric. Outside is dark, the clouds are dark. They’re hanging over us and all around us. Today is a dark day in this country,” the House Speaker added.
“As a mother, as a female, as a citizen, as a parliamentarian…I am just beside myself,” she said.
Dalrymple-Philibert expressed condolences to the family members of the victims and asked that as a country “we stop and reflect and pray for ourselves”.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert
For his part, Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang, who had earlier issued a statement condemning the brutal incident, lamented that Jamaica has over the years seen some vicious crimes.
“But this morning’s event has a certain savagery to it that is hard to understand…the slaughter and butchery of [a mother]…and her children in the same room. This is a savagery and brutality of unequalled proportions,” Chang stated.
“It is an event that must cause us to pause and think again. There is a pall of violence at large in our country that affects all of us, and we have to examine how we go forward to deal with this kind of savagery,” Chang continued.
With news that a family member was being sought in connection with the gruesome murders, Chang noted that there has been increasing levels of inter-family violence in recent times.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness also condemned the killing earlier Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Mark Golding said the savage killing of a mother and her four children is a “degree of savagery that indicates a certain mentality which is disturbing and depraved”.
“And it indicates that our country has a problem with violence which is multifaceted; it is not limited to the kinds of violence that has generally been preoccupying those with responsibility for trying to improve the national security of the country, which is organised criminal violence around extortion, money laundering, scamming, and other forms of criminal activity,” he said.
According to Golding, “This appears to be another instance of a willingness to go to extremes to ventilate whatever hurt feelings or anger may have been preoccupying the mind of the perpetrator.”
“This speaks to a need for us to have a serious programme of anger management and teaching life skills around how to deal with stress and adverse situations and perceived disrespect,” said Golding.
He noted that the perception of disrespect is behind much of the violence affecting the country, sometimes being the initial trigger for a violent act, which itself leads to ensuing acts of violence and a spiral of reprisals.
Golding argued that for the country to move forward from this dark place at which we are now, we need to find interventions that can tackle these issues.
“Apart from law enforcement, the psychosocial issues bedeviling the society require other forms of interventions as well,” he said.