A hope for today's national security meeting

Monday, January 07, 2019

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Dare we hope that today's planned meeting between the Government and Opposition on national security issues will adjourn with a consensus on the way forward in this island's perennial fight against crime?

After all, we have been struggling with this problem for too long. Therefore, it is most painful that just as soon as the country started seeing some benefits in its battle against callous, evil scum, we are now placed in a position by irresponsible Opposition legislators, where criminals will likely feel emboldened to resume their acts of terror.

We have made no secret of our position that now is not the time to lift the states of emergency (SOE). However, the Opposition — raising concerns over the conditions under which detainees are being held and, later, the constitutionality of a further extension of the measure — voted last month against supporting a continuation.

Therefore, the SOE expired in St Catherine North last Wednesday; ends today in Kingston Western and St Andrew South; and will cease to exist in St James on January 31.

The Government has said it does not share the Opposition's view that an extension of the SOE will breach the constitution. Indeed, both sides have said their views are informed by advice from legal experts.

In such a scenario, the only forum that can bring clarity and closure is the courts. As such, both sides should, by now, we hope, have started the process of having the courts rule on this matter.

At today's meeting, however, we hope, as we have stated many times before, that both the governing Jamaica Labour Party and the Opposition People's National Party will agree that crime should be taken out of the political arena and treated as a national emergency around which the country must be united.

For the only winners in the present bickering between both sides will be the criminals who will seek to utilise the disunity among legislators for their own nefarious deeds.

The fact that police data have shown that there are 356 fewer deaths islandwide, between January 1 and December 29, 2018, compared with the same period in 2017, should not be brushed over at today's meeting. Neither should the fact that the SOE made a significant contribution to that reality. For that is what it is to many Jamaicans who, before the security measure, were cowering in fear in their own homes.

Last week, people living in communities where the SOE was and still is in effect related to this newspaper the sense of security they felt with the anti-crime measure in place.

We reiterate our position that SOEs cannot be a long-term solution to crime. However, what was obvious to us was that it was providing the police with breathing space to improve their crime-fighting capacity.

A further three months, we suspect, could have allowed the joint forces to achieve that goal or get as near to it as possible.

With the Opposition holding firm to its position, and the Government doing likewise, let us hope that whatever comes out of today's meeting will help to save more lives.

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