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ONLINE READERS COMMENT: The PNP will be stronger for voting against SOEs

Saturday, December 15, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I commend the People's National Party (PNP) for its brave decision to vote against an extension of the States of Public Emergency (SOE).

As I commented months ago, this should have been done earlier in the interest of the Jamaican people. Even if it hurts the Party politically, this, I would argue, would be only in the short term. The Opposition will be stronger for it.

With the Government not doing it, what the PNP still needs to do and should have begun long ago, is to educate Jamaica on the nature of an alternative. The argument on constitutionality is an important and necessary first step and the legal minds can help us here.

However, much more than that is required. The Government's line that check points and other policing actions have to be dropped is just not correct. This is a second front that has to be explained, as former Police Commissioner Hardley Lewin is doing.

Indeed, in the immediate situation, Government has responsibility to assuage the fears of people in St James and other volatile communities that soldiers and police will be there to protect them after the SOEs are removed in January.

Successive Administrations have had that responsibility before the SOEs and neglected it, allowing an annual 1,000 plus murders to become the norm.

The third and most crucial front is to put across the best-practices already going forward in relatively small pockets such as Central Kingston, North St Catherine and a section of Clarendon.

In Central Kingston murders have come down from 53 to 15 (up to November 24), a 70 per cent decline over two years. This is the product of the combination of Community Policing (the Gold Street post) with Peace Management Initiative's civilian Violence Interrupters. Similar even if smaller declines from the same approach can be shown in the other two areas referred to.

If Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) are to continue and be increased – Dr Phillips' attempt at a political compromise – it will only be fruitful if along with heavy security force presence go real social interventions.

These were proposed in the Community Renewal Programme that was formulated years ago under the Bruce Golding administration. They are essential because up to now the ZOSOs have not had any better impact than the SOEs in tackling the social sources of the violence and murder. Repressive policing put a welcome stop to murders in St James but it stopped right there and did not even succeed in apprehending serious criminals.

As for expecting, as some people were doing, another plan to emerge from extending the SOEs – that's really dreaming. After a whole year Government has come up with no other strategy than 1) “community by community” 2) repression by police and soldiers, and 3) the same extended until the next general election. We have to go further, address sources to bring murder down, not to 1,000 a year but to under 200.

Horace Levy

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