Today, March 27, 2020, makes it approximately 30 days since the disappearance of Jasmin Dean, a 22 years old visually impaired student at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, St. Andrew, Jamaica. Since the revelation, there has been no word from the police or from her captor or captors, indicating whether she is alive or dead. Statistics would suggest the latter, is a likely possibility, however, I hold a contrary view and is still optimistic and hopeful, of Jasmin Dean’s return. The police have made some strides in their investigations. They have so far released an image of a person of interest, who has since given himself up and also has acquired cell phone data that pinpointed her last movement prior to her disappearance.
Indeed, from all indications, the police have been working assiduously to locate young Dean. A senior police officer, in a press briefing, was quick to point out that the immense interest the case has attracted was due to the high profile that the issue has attained in public discourse, since she was discovered missing. Further, too, public comments and concerns raised by Prime Minister Andrew Holness have helped fan the flame of interest at the highest level, which has elevated the matter to one of utmost priority. This has paved the way for the engagement of one of the country’s premier investigative bodies, the Major Organised Investigations and Anti-corruption Agency (MOCA), to spearhead the investigation. This development, will, of course, attract some questions as to why this missing person case, has had such an elevated national profile, when others have not. Indeed, these are plausible and rational questions for which there are plausible answers.
Firstly, the fact that Jasmin Dean was visually impaired and did not have the capacity, like normal visually abled persons, to discern, visually, whether she would be in danger, makes a valid case, in my view. Additionally, every attempt must be made to protect the visually impaired among us and also the physically challenged, who are incapable of defending themselves. In fact, civil society should consider this their collective responsibility and obligations to be a part of this process. The fact is, one’s disability, should, in no way be seen as an indication that they are incapable of contributing to the development of any society, they are just as important as anyone else and I dare anyone who wishes to challenge this fact. Indeed, Floyd Morris, who was the first visually impaired person to be appointed President of the Jamaican Senate, is a commendable example. Jasmin Dean is just as special and quite remarkable. She was accepted at UWI on a scholarship, to pursue a degree program. Her father described the immense challenges he had getting her through primary schooling and the ridicule she experienced from other students, concerning her disability and the sacrifice he had made in facilitating her schooling.
This was indeed extraordinary, considering that many able-bodied persons are incapable of such an achievement or lacked the drive that she had to pursue tertiary education. Her disappearance has raised many questions. Some people have questioned the rationale behind her father’s action to allow Jasmin to be traveling alone on a public passenger vehicle, from Papine in St. Andrew to St. Thomas, without appreciating the fact that many visually impaired persons appreciate their independence, and would rather our concern for them to be relegated to just being a guide, with the hope that the system would have facilitated their independence and provided a safe space. But now that she is missing, the question cannot escape the minds of good thinkers, whether a system which should have safeguard her, by providing that safe space, failed her. Cecil Thoms, the Corporate Communication Manager for the government-operated bus, Jamaican Urban Transport Company (JUTC), which was her main source of transport, in an article in The Gleaner, dated March 13, 2020, captioned, “Stop the blame game”, stated that the JUTC and the University, in 2016 had entered into an arrangement to go directly unto the campus to facilitate transportation of students but the arrangement was discontinued inexplicably, by the University. JUTC still had buses that bypass the university to service a highly volatile area, and it was due to that existing situation, bus movements were curtailed to protect the staff and buses.
On the evening of Jasmin Dean’s disappearance, the unavailability of the JUTC bus, caused her to take a taxi from UWI’s gate and the driver of that taxi stated that he had let her off at the Papine Square in St. Andrew. She has not been seen since. The police have since located and processed the taxi she was last seen in and its operator’s story was corroborated by a fruit vendor who had assisted her getting into the taxi. One could argue that the University could be found negligent in not implementing the necessary security mechanism to ensure the safety of Jasmin Dean considering its proximity to this volatile area, also that without initiation of the university to be proactive in this respect, government-operated bus system, should be obligated to ensure the security of a premier university as that as the University of the West Indies. Of course, these are plausible questions, the answers to which are more complex and take into consideration issues of logistics planning and economics. The upshot, this indeed a most unfortunate incident and regrettable that the society in which Jasmine Dean lives, there are persons within, who are so nefarious that they would want to abduct a visually impaired defenseless woman. One with such promise and hope and zeal to succeed. The system failed Jasmin Dean, it failed to protect her and continues to do so, unless a security mechanism is implemented to ensure that this does not recur, there will be many more incidents of this nature.
From Contributor: Errol McLeish. Mister McLeish may be reached @ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or on Twitter: @ermarlii16
The views expressed by our Contributors are their own. They do not necessarily reflect or represent that of Chatt-a-box.com.