If more SOEs not made legal, what's the plan, PM?

If more SOEs not made legal, what's the plan, PM?

Friday, January 22, 2021

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Dear Editor,

Police Commissioner Antony Anderson has exposed the painful reality — murder rate flat over the past few years; the steady pattern of gang reprisal and domestic strife. The problem is that none of this is likely to change in the near future. So we're stuck with 1,300 murders a year for now.

He assumes, of course, that use of the same model of murder control; namely, reliance chiefly on states of public emergency (SOEs) carried out by the police with army assistance is the answer.

With so many people unhappy, however, with the 1,300 killing rate, could it be that our Government might actually be considering some alternative route to bringing murders down?

It will not need to come up with an alternative if its efforts in the Appeal Court succeed. To that end, the Attorney General Marlene Malahoo-Forte says she is working hard to get a reversal of the Supreme Court's decision against the use of SOEs as a regular tool against homicide. That court decision had been taken on the ground that such usage violates the Jamaican Constitution.

But Malahoo-Forte's arguments may not persuade Appeal Court judges and they might uphold the Supreme Court's decision. What then?

Being prudent and deliberate, Prime Minister Andrew Holness appreciates, I am sure, the need to prepare an alternative. If my reasoning is on track, the next question would have to be about a possible alternative.

Readers of my letters already know my views on that. Here I would urge Prime Minister Holness to consider just two of the points made in a piece published in the Jamaica Observer on January 3, 2021, 'Let's try the COVID-19 model for homicides':

(1) As you did with COVID-19, so with homicide, take into account, the value of the virtually unanimous diagnosis made by social scientists, along with their recommendations for the rehabilitation of deprived communities. Combined with community policing, this is the vaccine they propose. Consulting well-known sociologists and criminologists, two commissions of enquiry (Wolfe's in 1992 and West Kingston, 2016), and two national committees (1997 and 2002) have done the analyses and made the same recommendations vouched for by Herbert Gayle and the Peace Management Initiative East has demonstrated, though for want of funding in only limited areas, that it works.

(2) The decades-long failure of the State to stem Jamaica's epidemic of homicide is itself a major cause of its continuation. More police, soldiers, ships and planes, better stations and cars can, for a short time, check a wave of murder. They cannot reach the powerful urges to violence continuously bred in the hearts of young men by beatings, long joblessness, and lock-ups. They cannot counter the disrespect of having no well-paying work or other opportunity to achieve something. It would not be long, trust me, before this new approach would breathe fresh resilience into the battered frame of Jamaica's family life and its economy.

Horace Levy


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