Crime menace: If the JLP thinks it can't lose the election…

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) should be careful not to believe, as the People's National Party (PNP) did in 2016, that there was no way it could lose the next general election.

The PNP Administration thought that with the considerable gains in the economy, guided by then Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, the election results were a foregone conclusion…until that shocking night of February 25, 2016.

Very wisely, the new JLP Administration continued the economic programme guided by the International Monetary Fund. Since then, the economic indicators have done even better, with spectacular achievements, including record low inflation, unprecedented unemployment, stable exchange rate, and rising international reserves.

There is, however, a sense of déjà vu, in that the JLP appears to be believing its own propaganda that it can't lose the next election. Not only would that be an exercise in arrogance, it would be a terrible mistake.

The Achilles heel of the Andrew Holness Government is crime, and the goodwill that it had after Dr Phillips blundered in ending the state of emergency in December last year has since dissipated as murders retook the headlines.

It is quite understandable that economic good news, except for political die-hards, cannot prevail over the fear of life being snuffed out at any moment. The sordid story was told in Tuesday's edition of the Jamaica Observer.

“At the beginning of this month the police reported that 548 murders had been committed across the island, a seven per cent decline from the 590 committed in the corresponding period last year.

“But yesterday, preliminary police figures showed that with an average of 4.3 homicides each day for the month, up to last Saturday, the murder total had jumped to 647. This was less than one per cent below the 653 murders committed for the corresponding period last year.

“With the current trend, June is poised to equal, or surpass, March as the bloodiest month so far this year.”

In other words, all the gains of the previous state of emergency have now been wiped out, and the long, hot summer — traditionally the period for a spike in murders — has only just begun.

Leadership by the Government in taking the fight to the gunmen has been lacking. Ironically, it is Dr Phillips and his spokesman on crime, Mr Fitz Jackson, who have increasingly become a voice in the parliamentary wilderness.

We, in this space, have not been shy about castigating Dr Phillips for his earlier blunder, but we must admit he appears to be trying to make amends. Every month since January the Opposition leader has been pushing for crime talks with the Government.

The response from the Administration has been to refer the Opposition to speak with the attorney general, who is already barely coping with her duties and doesn't seem to have the stomach for crime-fighting. In any event, it's not her responsibility.

We join the Opposition in its call this week for an urgent meeting of key stakeholders to come together to address the continuous upsurge in crime across the country — a meeting promised by the Government as a follow-up to the Vale Royal talks in January.

“…The numbers of murders and shootings keep rising, and the incidents have become more bizarre, brazen and brutal, and spreading to areas hitherto peaceful and safe,” the Opposition said.

We agree.

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