Our leaders must match their words with action
THIS newspaper has consistently appealed for a truly bipartisan approach to the fight against crime.
For that reason we feel real satisfaction at the focused approach, evident in recent weeks, to the passage of the anti-gang legislation, formally known as the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Bill.
We sense that the desire by the two political parties and their representatives in Parliament to play their part in bringing criminals to heel has trumped the ever-present knee-jerk instinct to score cheap political points.
Equally, this newspaper applauds the joint statement from head of state Sir Patrick Allen, prime minister and leader of the ruling People's National Party Mrs Portia Simpson Miller and Opposition Leader Mr Andrew Holness.
The statement, which was presumably co-ordinated by the governor general, urges Jamaicans to "take back" their country from the "grip of criminals" and the "shroud of negativity".
We note the call for individuals and groups to ponder what must be done and to "energise a national movement for the restoration of peace, love, honesty, forgiveness, and reconciliation".
Even as all well-thinking Jamaicans welcome this joint call by the political leadership, it needs to be said that it is overdue by several decades.
Especially since, as the statement itself says, too much of the country's scarce resources are being used to fight crime, resources which "could have been invested in social development, so our people could become more productive". The fact is that crime has been a scourge afflicting the Jamaican economy for close to 50 years.
Also, we believe, our leaders must not be allowed to rewrite history — intentionally or otherwise. The truth is that the heinous nature of criminality in Jamaica did not begin recently. For while crimes against women and children have heightened in recent years, savagery and a total disregard for life have been features of the criminal underworld for as long as most of us can remember.
Nor should we forget that our political parties were at the heart of the escalation of terroristic gang violence in this country in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. A few of those gangs forged in the heat of political tribalism exist to this day and will be very much in the sights of the anti-gang law.
All that said, the Jamaican people must hold our political leaders to take joint action as the obvious follow-up to their joint statement. It's not easy, given the adversarial political culture, but it seems to us that Mrs Simpson Miller and Mr Holness along with Sir Patrick must now begin the process of working together, along with various State and civil society groups, to unite communities against criminals.
They must match their words with action.
We support the intent to seek divine intervention through prayer. Equally though, this newspaper believes that God helps those who help themselves.