If MOCA and Col Edwards are to succeed...
WE welcome the Government's creation of the new Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), especially the fact that it is being headed, at this time, by a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) officer of high regard.
From what we have been able to gather so far, Colonel Desmond Edwards, the man placed in charge of the new MOCA, is most qualified for the job and seems to have the respect of our international partners.
That, we believe, is a good start, because Colonel Edwards and his team will need the support of friendly governments to achieve the success we hope they will have in taking down the big players in organised crime and corruption.
According to National Security Minister Peter Bunting, the new agency — a merger of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Anti-Corruption Branch and the former Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Taskforce — "will give us greater reach and increase our capacity to carry out investigations on people of interest, including the police and those in public office".
As we said, we welcome this new agency, for we share the view of all well-thinking Jamaicans that crime and corruption have been strangling this country for too long. However, we can't ignore the fact that what we are hearing from Mr Bunting is not new.
In October 2004 when Operation Kingfish was launched — in much the same fashion as this new MOCA, with American and British diplomats in attendance at the news conference — similar promises were made by the then security minister, Dr Peter Phillips, and the police commissioner at the time, Mr Francis Forbes.
Minister Phillips told us that Kingfish comprised vetted and carefully selected members of the police force and the JDF. "Therefore," he said, "it begins with a high degree of credibility and trust and has available to it the best capabilities within the security forces."
Minister Phillips also said that the capability of the task force would have been enhanced through the active involvement of law enforcement agencies in the UK and the US, and that it would be provided with legal advice in the preparation of cases from the very outset of the investigation, so they would be able to better construct cases that could hold up in court.
Commissioner Forbes said that Kingfish would make use of science and technology, combined with old-fashioned detective work.
"Today, we draw a line in the sand and say to the dons and gangsters 'we are coming to get you'," Mr Forbes vowed at the time.
True, Kingfish has had some successes, but we never saw the task force taking down a raft of big names in, or substantially dismantling, organised crime.
We are aware that our overseas partners, particularly the British and American governments, have assisted us tremendously, not only with Kingfish, but generally in our law enforcement efforts.
Where we believe the problem in achieving greater success lies is in the ability of our Government to provide the necessary resources for local law enforcement.
Colonel Edwards and his team, we hold, must be given the resources necessary to meet their mandate. Failing that, all we will be doing is touching the tip of the organised crime and corruption iceberg.