Click here to print page

A strong, united stand against crime is vital

Monday, June 19, 2017

Justice Minister Mr Delroy Chuck made an interesting point during a visit to St Elizabeth last week.

The current crime wave, he suggested, presented an “opportunity” for Jamaicans to take collective action in fighting back against criminals.

“In every crisis there is opportunity, and what we have now are serious (criminal) crises across Jamaica and we are going to use this opportunity to fight back,” Mr Chuck is reported to have told told justices of the peace in Santa Cruz.

Crime as a major problem in Jamaica is many decades old. Down the years, despite all the talk, there never has been the collective will for everyone to pull together to stop criminals. Sadly, for too long the two major political parties — which contributed significantly to the surge of gangs armed with guns at the height of political tribalism in the 1960s, 70s and 80s — have undermined the process.

But with every passing day violent crime is becoming more and more of a problem for ordinary Jamaicans everywhere. We don't think we exaggerate when we say the Jamaican nation is in a back-to-the-wall fight against criminals. And history shows that when people find themselves with their backs to the wall, they tend to stand together.

Dare we hope that we are now at that stage where Labourites and Comrades; Christians and 'worlians'; rich, poor, and in-between are about ready to stand together against criminals? The tipping point must surely be near, presenting that opportunity of which Mr Chuck speaks.

We are aware that the People's National Party (PNP) and its supporters were deeply angered by ill-considered, immature comments about crime by then Opposition leader, now Prime Minister Mr Andrew Holness, in the last parliamentary election campaign.

For the good of Jamaica that anger and resentment must be done away with. As this newspaper has repeatedly said, the country needs a unified, bipartisan approach to crime. Also, henceforth, politicians should lock down their loose tongues lest they provide fodder for criminals.

It's imperative that various legislation now before Parliament — including the proposed Zones of Special Operations legislation which is aimed at reducing space and opportunities for criminals to operate - be passed quickly.

The security forces need the legislative support.

But as we all know, laws by themselves won't go far. There must be strong public support for the anti-crime fight and a dissolution of what Mr Chuck calls a “frightening conspiracy of silence”, which allows criminals to torment and terrorise law-abiding people.

As we have said repeatedly in this space, to get that public support for the forces of law and order, communities must be organised and mobilised to stand as one. Political leadership across party lines, government agencies — not least the Social Development Commission (SDC) — business leaders, church leaders, and those at the helm of so-called civil society should be at the helm of a massive, unprecedented push to build solid community organisations that will view crime as the common enemy.

Mr Holness, reaching out across political party lines and towards all well-thinking Jamaicans should lead the way.