Good vote from PNP

Friday, December 14, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I support the People's National Party's (PNP) decision to vote against an extension of the state of emergency in January. As I have commented previously, the PNP should have done this earlier and educated Jamaica on the necessary alternative.

Dr Peter Phillips's arguments on constitutionality — the conditions of natural disaster or immediate danger to public safety no longer existing — and on the actions available to the security forces without a state of emergency are valid. I do not, however, support continued or more zones of special operations (ZOSO). Their practices and results do not differ from those of the state of emergency.

1. Government now has a responsibility to assuage the fears of people in St James and other volatile communities that soldiers and police will be there to protect them after the states of emergency are removed in January. Successive administrations have had that responsibility before the states of emergency and neglected it.

2. It is not sensible to expect, as some church people were doing, any other plan to emerge from extending the states of emergency when after a whole year Government has come up with nothing else. From words and actions it is plain that Government's strategy has been:

i. community by community;

ii. repression by police and soldiers; and

iii. the same for an extended period until probably the next general election.

3. The very fact that the people in St James fear a return to the killing after a nearly year-long state of emergency testifies to its failure to detect the real perpetrators amd the failure of the Government's strategy. The non-existent numbers charged for serious crimes tell the same tale. How is an extension of the same state of emergency going to change that? Large numbers of detentions have only been a futile effort hurtful to people's rights.

It is obvious that another and different approach must be taken. What is that approach? One component we all already know — investigative policing. Though with Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) there are improvements, we know it is insufficiently practised by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Early this year, Professor Tony Harriott showed how much more effective it is when compared to the amount time and money spent on patrols.

4. The other component, which is being ignored, is genuine social intervention. I emphasise genuine. The welfarist kind presently practised in Mt Salem and Denham Town is not effective. The developmental approach of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), although in limited areas because of small resources, has demonstrated what is possible in relatively short order. It not only reduces homicides, but does this in a sustainable way. Why not try it on a wider scale?

5. According to Access to Information, policing costs of states of emergency and ZOSOs, from January to September 30, amounted to just under $290 million. Soldiering costs (which ATI is still struggling to get — that's how the Jamaica Defence Force stay!) are likely to have been about the same. From PMI's record it is clear that a third of that half-a-billion dollars would get far better results.

Horace Levy

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