Andrew Holness is right on SOEs

Letters to the Editor

Andrew Holness is right on SOEs

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his defence of the states of emergency (SOEs) in the House on Tuesday, made a very important point; one that has been lost in the never-ending politicisation of crime — we need SOEs for five to seven years to bring murders to acceptable levels. Essentially what that means is we are beyond the point at which normal policing can work.

He is absolutely correct!

I would add, we have past the point of normal policing methods since the early 1990s, at least.

We can argue all we want about normal policing methods until God comes, it will not change the fact that criminality in Jamaica has evolved faster than the State's apparatus tasked with containing and stopping it has. The criminals have outmatched the State in firepower and reach.

In 1962 Jamaica's murder rate was 3.9 per 100,000, one of the lowest in the world. By 2005 we were up to 58 per 100,000. In 43 years, Jamaica's murder rate shot up nearly 15 times what it was when we gained Independence! In any other country that would have warranted a state of emergency, or multiple ones.

Remember, we have never experienced ethic cleansing or anything of that sort.

When one add up the murder figures from 2005 until now, you should get the picture.

The only time in this country that we have witnessed a sustained reduction in murders is when SOEs are called. When the Government called the first one last year it led to a serious drop in murders, and it would have had a more lasting effect if the Opposition had had not voted against it.

I have maintained that in order to get the police up to speed with these savvy and intelligent criminals we now have, we need something like the SOEs. The SOEs gives the police and the State, civil society, and all concerned, time to catch up and implement strategies that will thwart future acts of criminals. Normal policing cannot do that!

The argument about using intelligence and modernising the force and all that sounds good. However, that takes time. The question we must all ask ourselves is what do we do in the meantime? Do we simply watch as our brothers and sisters get murdered? Or do we declare some SOEs?

Holness has chosen the latter. And I agree with him. So many thousands of Jamaicans also.

Where I and Prime Minister Holness differ is in the length of time we should use this method. He says five to seven years, I say seven to 12. However, the important thing is that we use it and use it for as long as is necessary.

Fabian Lewis

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