National security, economic councils must start talking now about crime

Thursday, January 09, 2014    

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JAMAICA has a national security council and an economic council. The two must start talking to each other now. It is past urgent that they begin immediate discussions on how to tackle crime in a more sustainable way.

Thankfully, we have the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has enough clout to bring Jamaica to heel in respect of doing the economic programmes that we were unable to find the will to do on our own. Regrettably, however, we do not have a security equivalent of the IMF, so we must find our own solution to the morass of crime that is threatening to overrun us.

We have to start doing some new things in order to avoid ending up where we have always: spiralling crime rate; more vicious murders; more panic in the society; and providing more grist for the doomsday mill.

One of the things we suggest is that the two major political parties agree, through negotiations towards consensus, to remove crime completely out of the arena of partisan politics. With crime no longer a political football, we can begin to unite the country around an issue in which all of us have -- and desperately so -- a vested interest.

We can never be accused in this space of being naive. Nobody who understands Jamaican politics will expect that getting the political parties to agree to make crime politics neutral will be a stroll in the park.

At the heart of Jamaican politics is the view that political parties are mainly about winning elections. That means that even what is regarded as paramount to the national interest must play second fiddle to winning elections. And what better -- in terms of scoring political points, especialy when one is in Opposition -- than skyrocketing crime?

The conventional wisdom is that no political party in Opposition will agree to this suggestion. Mr Andrew Holness, the leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) can demonstrate that he is the transformational leader he purports to be, by embracing this proposal.

Another major obstacle, of course, is that to remove crime from the arena of party politics would also mean cutting the tentacles that link political parties to criminal gangs and criminality. No longer, for example, could gangs like the St Catherine-based One Order (JLP) and the Klansman (PNP) find claim any fraternity -- real or imagined -- with parties. This, too, is easier said than done.

Jamaicans have the sophistication to know that crime and the state of the economy go hand in hand. That point we need not belabour. We sincerely believe that, if crime becomes part of the agenda of a joint committee of the security and economic councils, we will have hope of not only taking it out of party politics and uniting the country around solutions, but of finding a path to targeting economic programmes at the poorest communities, thus reducing crime in a sustainable way.

If we sound desperate, it's because we are!





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