Hope for an end to Gov't apathy on crime consensus


Hope for an end to Gov't apathy on crime consensus

Sunday, June 21, 2020

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WE in this space are obviously pleased that the Government has finally decided to meet on June 25 with the stakeholders who crafted the National Consensus on Crime, hopefully to finalise the recommendations and move swiftly ahead.

The apparent apathy and reluctance of the governing Jamaica Labour Party to embrace the consensus process had left us befuddled, to say the least.

Of the 20 or so parties enjoined in the national effort to fight crime, only the Government side appeared to lack the will to commit one of its favourite words to implementing the consensus which was agreed among them in February this year.

The stakeholders to the agreement are represented by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica; Jamaica Council of Churches; National Integrity Action; Jamaica Chamber of Commerce; Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association; the trade unions and the civil society coalition.

Last Thursday, Dr Peter Phillips, the opposition leader and People's National Party (PNP) president, not for the first time, declared his party's “solemn and full commitment” to work as part of a united front “grounded in sincerity and courage to fight the scourge of crime and criminality in Jamaica”.

Most critically, in his statement to journalists, Dr Phillips acknowledged what every Jamaican here and abroad has known for a very long time that “mobilisation of the entire society is the only way forward”.

Before the ink dried on Dr Phillips' statement, the other members of the group issued a letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the opposition leader, urging bipartisan action to remove the scourge of crime and violence, on the basis of the “National Consensus on Crime an Imperative for Jamaica”.

The prime minister, after increasing the national security budget tenfold since coming to office and throwing the might of the security forces at the criminals through the prolonged states of emergency, resigned himself to await a solution from “education” of the society, however long that would take.

Dr Phillips quoted Mr Holness in acknowledging that the crime problem is “currently over and above established capacity to address it”.

Neither should we forget Mr Peter Bunting's desperation, as then PNP minister of national security, in declaring that the solution to crime required “divine intervention”, desirable as that is.

While no sensible Jamaican expects an overnight solution to the complex problem of crime, the conclusion that only a full national assault offers any hope of severely curtailing crime is inevitable.

Dr Phillips echoes the view of the majority of us that to understand the root of the crime problem one must understand the deep social inequality and marginalisation, disparity and injustice which have provided a fertile environment for criminal organisations to recruit support from the aggrieved poor.

“…Unless we begin and until we approach it with sustained commitment, sincerity and courage, the people of Jamaica will continue to experience this vortex of murder, shootings, robbery, and terrorism,” the opposition leader rightly stressed.

Friday's meeting must set us firmly on this road.

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