Crime: Is Dr Peter Phillips worthy

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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After every high-profile murder, Dr Peter Phillips, the opposition leader, comes out with a statement decrying the lack of an anti-crime plan and sounding as if he believes the Government has or should have the answer.

We would have given him the benefit of the doubt — that he is really that nave — if he were not at one time national security minister, and possibly a credible one at that, or if he had not seen what all governments have done, in vain, to fight crime over the decades.

But Dr Phillips is not ignorant to the gravity of the crime problem. He gives himself away in his statement to the Parliament last week by noting that a high level of crime has been a persistent feature of the country, with the murder rate having almost doubled every decade since Independence.

How can he know this and yet still take away the states of emergency (SOEs) which had the murderers by the scruff of the neck and were providing vital breathing space to the security forces to improve and increase their capacity to better deal with crime?

Of course, the opposition leader reiterated his call for a resumption of the long-promised anti-crime meeting of stakeholders to include the private sector, civil society, the Peace Management Initiative, the church, and others, to hammer out a consensus against crime and violence.

His call has a hollow ring to it, especially as he says that the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) and states of emergency are not the answers to the country's crime problem.

Dr Phillips trumpets: “Once again, this (killing of Shantae Skyers) signals the levels of savagery that have overtaken so many areas of Jamaican life. The cases of domestic violence, the drive-by shootings in several communities, the killing of our children, and this blood thirst need more than just a sprinkling of zones of special operations…”

In other words, while we wait for this magical crime plan to appear, we should all sit back on our heinies and do nothing. With almost 400 people murdered across the island since the start of this year, Dr Peter Phillips's position is not only untenable, it is downright ridiculous.

For sure, the need for every possible effort to unite the country to fight crime is a no-brainer, as we have said ad nauseam in this space. And one wonders why Prime Minister Andrew Holness does not appear to be in any haste to reconvene the meeting.

While Dr Phillips seems to be using the Vale Royal Meetings to seek redemption for his major blunder with the SOEs, Mr Holness should not fall into the trap of thinking it's enough that the country is mad with the Opposition over their action.

Our politics has bequeathed to us many lasting positives: Independence; the NIS system; a central banking system; trade unions; a National Minimum Wage; a network of highways; a National Housing Trust; equal pay for women; and a functioning democracy, among others.

There have been negatives too: tribal war, the consequences of which still linger today; garrison communities on both sides of the political fence; and unending corruption in every sphere of Jamaican life.

But Messrs Phillips and Holness still have one more opportunity for a lasting political legacy: a crime-free society — if they can but see past the next election.

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