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11/06/2012 10:15 BST | Updated 10/08/2012 06:12 BST

Jamaica 50: Dudus vs Usain Bolt

Lightning flashed and thunder crackled to the booming Reggae baseline as Bob Marley with dreadlocks flailing cried out again and again: "We're going to unite! We gotta unite!" It was 1978; Jamaica was in the throes of near civil war. To underscore his message, Marley summoned the prime minister, Michael Manley, to the stage along with his nemesis, the leader of the opposition, Edward Seaga. Marley took the hand of each man and with his own raised in the air they formed a holy and unlikely trinity. This was a miracle, a psychic and symbolic moment of hope, of peace and love; an opportunity for the warring political parties to put down the gun and pick up the olive branch offered by the king of Reggae and voice of the unaligned Rastafarians.

The truce engineered by the ghettos' political enforcers, the gunmen who were architects of the One Love Peace Concert, was short-lived. Three decades later it led to Christopher "Dudus" Coke, an enforcer beyond the control of his political paymasters, whose attempts to rein him in resulted in mayhem, until his capture at a police checkpoint, dressed as a woman in an ill-fitting pink wig.

Up until then, Dudus, made rich through drug dealing and gun racketeering, could confidently rely on his local supporters in Kingston's Tivoli Gardens ghetto - old ladies who sported T-shirts bearing the inscription "I will die for Dudus" - not to give him up: their disapproval of the violence perpetrated by his posse was offset by the credit lines on offer from him; the small hand-outs when they needed money to buy school uniforms or to pay the utility bills long in arrears.

Coke is something of a throwback to the 1970s. Horace Levy, a sociologist at the University of the West Indies , says: "What has changed is that the level of violence has escalated." Jamaica with a population of fewer than three million has one of the highest murder rates in the world. "The dons in the 1970s were often in their late 40s," says Levy. "They might even have had a Rasta or Socialist sensibility. They would keep a lid on things. Claudius Massop, a Tivoli Gardens enforcer, was an architect of the One Love Peace Concert."

Since the 70s the number of dons has multiplied just as their fiefdoms have shrunk. The new teenaged dons show allegiance to no one and pay scant attention to the conscious lyrics of old school Reggae.

Jamaicans describe that someone is "under manners" when he has been censured for a transgression and penalised. As he starts his prison sentence in the USA , Christopher Coke has clearly been placed under very heavy manners. During his manhunt, heavy manners were also imposed on his stronghold at Tivoli Gardens, and order was restored.

But of equal concern to Jamaicans is what comes after the judicial process. In recent years this small island has had less to fear from the extradition of suspects than from those violent criminals convicted in American or British courts who, after their time is served, have been deported back home to begin a new reign of terror.

There is a profound need for truth and reconciliation. More than seventy people perished in the hunt for Dudus in tactics which some claim owe more to counter-insurgency than everyday policing. Relations between the Jamaican Constabulary Force and sizeable portions of the population they police were already fractured; the distrust has deepened. Trust needs to be restored. Jamaica would benefit from a return of Bob Marley and the spirit of One Love; and from the unity offered by Usain Bolt.

Before we turn comfortably in our beds with the thought that this is a local, Jamaican problem, let us remind ourselves that for years Coke was in the import/export business - not just of guns and drugs but also of personnel. In the last decade a criminal diaspora has washed up on shores of the UK , USA and Canada . Behind the hysterical headlines in British newspapers in the late 1990s about the rise of vicious Jamaican "Yardies", was the real anxiety that they had ushered in a new culture and a new kind of nihilistic criminal. British police commanders have been loath to report the change: whereas a few years' back feckless youthful felons would have run away from pursuing policemen; now they're just as likely to stand and turn their guns on them. What happens in Jamaica doesn't stay there.