JLP, PNP can be heroes for JamaicaMonday, June 29, 2020
Jamaica is looking good on the international stage for our strong response to the COVID-19 crisis. However, we are looking horrible when it comes to crime. Check this Jamaica Observer headline earlier this month: 'Nineteen killed across Jamaica in bloody weekend'. How can a country of barely three million have our high crime rate? Our size should have made this more manageable, but the dreadful dynamic of the past 50-odd years cannot be ignored.
Politically aligned gangs emerged in the 70s, growing into monsters that neither political party has been able to control. Security expert Jason McKay sheds light on Jamaica's plight in his Observer column. Last July he related an experience as a negotiator with a 'don' in a kidnapping incident: “I remember when talking to the kidnapper that he said to me when I objected to his demands that I was in their place and they can do as they like with me. His exact words: 'If we 'waa' you dead you dead. A fi we place dis'… I reflected that many Jamaicans live just like this daily. That some dunce with a gun has dominion over them and that dunce is a member of a gang with more dunces, more guns, and no respect for human beings or their lives.” ( Sunday Observer, July 28, 2019)
Last week McKay reflected on retired Senior Superintendent of Police Renato Adams, Jamaica's most famous crime-fighter, in a piece 'What if Adams had not been destroyed?' He described the people's view of Adams as “someone standing up for the regular man against the gangs that dominated our lives”.
He continued, “Adams' demise occurred when just a few genuine people uptown organised themselves and were manipulated by a few others who should have known better. This was by no means a general uptown attack; just a few underexposed folk and too many cups of coffee.”
Clearly, there have been police officers who have sullied the good name of the force, but this column has maintained that they are in the minority and has called out some members of civil society for their lack of compassion towards our decent officers. Indeed, they asked representatives of Amnesty International to meet with me a few years ago. They were lovely people who were unaware of the dangerous realities of life in Jamaica.
The cost of crime to Jamaica is estimated at over $60 billion, or nearly four per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), and these are pre-COVID-19 figures. Now Jamaica's private sector organisations' push for a national anti-crime plan is even more urgent. The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) have been engaged with Government, Opposition, civil society, and security experts since 2018, with its aim, in the words of JCC President Lloyd Distant, being “to develop a credible National Strategic Programme of initiatives and actions to transform Jamaica to become a safe, secure, and investment-friendly society”.
Distant noted that the process has received “overwhelming support” from the National Partnership Council. A summit held last October had major agreements; among them, “successful transformation would require agreement on specific priorities and actions, widespread buy-in with regard to the way forward, and a bipartisan commitment to implementation; the naming of a working group whose mandate would be the delivery of a blueprint for sustainable reduction in crime on which there is national consensus”.
He shared the key points for this plan:
• The fight against crime must be underpinned by a bipartisan, whole of government approach that must be nationalistic — stressing the importance of getting the whole nation involved in effecting the plan.
• Amongst the top national priorities are the elimination of gangs; reintegrating troubled communities; inculcating an intolerance of corruption, collusion and money-laundering; and modernising our policing infrastructure and justice system.
• The most critical pillar of the consensus is likely to be the prioritising of effective community and social interventions.
• De-politicise decisions on social and community interventions. This does not mean taking away involvement and participation of elected reps — this is primarily to ensure that programmes are appropriately targeted and effective.
• The importance of focusing on community regeneration
• The role of the education system, the family, and the Church in social transformation
• This includes the normalising and reintegration of troubled communities, and replacing an underlying culture with one of civic pride.
• Affirming the need to expedite police force reform.
• Affirming the importance of waging a relentless war on corruption, collusion and money-laundering.
• Satisfying the call for the appointment of a multi-sectoral and non-partisan committee to provide oversight of the programme (much like Economic Programme Oversight Committee [EPOC])
We understand that the working group had talks with Government and Opposition leadership last week. We hope both parties will show the courage and care for their people by supporting the implementation of this plan. The thug-assisted power plays may be tempting, but the impact on their constituencies will be greater if they connect with their people, nurturing the next Bob Marley, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Usain Bolt so that gang membership will no longer be an option for our desperate and unattached youth. They, backed by the stakeholder groups, can take the gangsters' knees off the necks of our people, and be heroes for Jamaica.
Minister Chuck apologises
In last week's discussion of the proposed Sexual Harassment Act, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck made a demeaning remark about the #MeToo movement — which has brought long-awaited justice to many sex abuse victims — as he defended a 12-month window for reporting sexual harassment. It was a surprising and disappointing moment for a minister who has brought energy and action to his post. In response to the torrent of objections, the minister said he apologised unreservedly for the statement. There were several posts about sexual harassment on Twitter explaining how difficult it was to speak about the disgusting crimes suffered mostly by women from an early age. Working women are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs. We ask Minister Chuck to let his mea culpas be a relentless pursuit of justice for our women so when they report these disgusting acts they can be confident that their dignity will be protected and justice can be expected.
Kudos for Jamaica, KPH
A video by visitors congratulating Jamaica for our COVID-19 protocols has gone viral and. up to last week, Seth Meyers was carrying Chris Hayes' chart showing Jamaica flattening our curve in sad contrast to the US.
Digicel Chairman Denis O'Brien and fellow visitors praised the efficient front line team at the Norman Manley International Airport. “Jamaica is a leader in the global response,” he noted when he presented Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton with personal protective equipment for workers at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH).
Dr Natalie Whylie, senior medical officer; Matron Joan Walker-Nicholson, and Chief of Surgery Dr Linberg Simpson shared with us the famous hospital's COVID-19 protocols. They spoke with pride about their dedicated team.
Jamaica is blessed indeed.
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