Crime talks: The tortuous road ahead


Crime talks: The tortuous road ahead

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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Scoring political points. It's what politicians do. Imploring them to give up that beloved exercise is almost too much to ask. Yet, they must, if there is to be any chance of arriving at a national consensus on defeating Jamaica's crime beast.

That is the long, winding road on which we, as a country, have set Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, asking them to carry their political parties — the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) — along with them.

It is not the first time that the party leaders have engaged in such talks; at the beginning always raising the hopes of a weary nation, only to see them dashed as soon as they happen upon the first sign of difficulty.

Still, we in this space are optimistic about the potential of the latest round of talks which began last week, chaperoned by the umbrella Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica whose members, by and large, dole out the funds for election campaigns.

Hope springs eternal in us, not because we are Johnny-come-lately novices, but based on three main things: the purposefulness of civil society which brokered the talks; the impatience of the country with the viciousness and seemingly unending bloodshed; and most importantly, the success of the Electoral Commission which was born of similar talks.

We implore the country to treat these talks not as mere discussions between two political parties, but as a national discourse, which at appropriate points must seek the participation of the Jamaican people on whose behalf all of this is unfolding.

It will be our collective duty to help the talks along by not fanning the flames of partisanship and by encouraging the leaders to hold steadfast to the course, come what may, knowing that if consensus is achieved, it will be the biggest game-changer since Independence.

We suspect that the PNP will find the going even tougher than the JLP, if for no other reason than the fact that Opposition parties thrive on exploiting the perceived weaknesses of the ruling party. It's the modus operandi.

As an example of the political point-scoring that we speak of, note that in its October 17 press statement, the PNP could not resist a bit of back-slapping: “…the agreement to convene the meeting comes almost a year after the PNP proposed such a meeting, and 10 months after Prime Minister Andrew Holness agreed to hosting such a meeting with stakeholders, but reneged, which scuttled a deal reached at the first Vale Royal meeting on January 7, 2019…

“Dr Phillips says the party sees the meeting as an opportunity to advance the summit process which began in July when the PNP convened a stakeholders' conference to begin the dialogue on finding a solution to the nation's crime wave,” the statement read.

Having got that off its chest, however, the party announced its team for the talks and stated that it would approach the anti-crime summit “as a serious opportunity to finally arrive at a consensus on Jamaica's most intractable national issue”.

We'll take that, knowing it could be worse. We expect there will be more of this, from both sides. It is a road we must travel and it will take everything that we are worth as a nation to stay the course.

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