How full, how frank and how wide-ranging were the crime talks?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

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The inevitable press statement emerging out of Monday night's discussions between the Government and the Opposition on national security and crime management trumpeted that the talks were “full, frank and wide-ranging”, but told us little else of substance.

Because we have seen so many of these meetings before — almost all of which, despite the fanfare, came to naught — we searched the statement with a fine-toothed comb for signs of any difference in this week's pow wow.

We expect that some confidential points would have been left out of the news release for obvious reasons, but we had desperately hoped that the Opposition in particular, would have signalled their remorse at bringing us to this sorry pass.

Their decision to pull the rug from under the feet of the security forces right at the moment that they had the criminals and murderers on the run, and just as the country had started to believe, is hard to contemplate and fathom.

Law was made for man, not man for law, hence to vote against the extension of the states of public emergency when it was demonstrably working, on spurious grounds about non-constitutionality, is callous and uncaring in the extreme.

With a 21 per cent drop in murders in a country that is bleeding from all its orifices, how could men and women who love their compatriots rob their nation of a tool that could lead to a new more hopeful Jamaica?

The Opposition therefore should have gone to that meeting in sack cloth and ashes to declare mea culpa before this nation and to pledge that it would henceforth remove crime out of the partisan political arena.

The burden of leading the fight against crime belongs to the Government and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, but the

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips and his team cannot and must not be satisfied with extracting a photo opportunity out of a moment of national desperation.

Still, we choose to find optimism in the crime deliberations that maybe this time, the desire to have national consensus on how to go forward will be realised, if for no other reason than that this country has had enough of the blood and the tears.

There will be no new dawn for Jamaican man, woman or child, as long as such a substantial part of our economy is imprisoned by criminality; our nationals overseas cannot feel confident to return to invest and our justice system is darkened by wanton violence.

We hope that the next joint press statement will declare that agreement has been reached on a project to treat crime as a national disease that both political parties will fight as one, giving no quarter or comfort to murderers, gang members, extortionists or even party toughs.

And since the parties might not have it in them to do it alone, let them agree to fully utilise the good offices of the stakeholder groups who are invited to next Wednesday's follow-up meeting with the private sector, the churches, the human rights and civil society groups.

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