If they put country before party…

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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In poll after poll, year after year, Jamaicans are won t to name crime as the country's number one problem, which is astounding, given that poverty is such a pernicious element of life here and should easily occupy that dubious distinction.

More specifically, Jamaicans cower at the seemingly unstoppable run of some of the world's most cold-blooded murderers who are no respecter of man, woman or child. Behind these death dealers are rampaging gangs, heartless gun distributors, corrupt politicians and dirty cops.

Of course, we also know that crime is triggered by our severely fractured family structure and excruciatingly skewed income distribution. All this gives way to high levels of teenage pregnancies and a class apartheid education system producing an endless stream of recruits for the crime lords.

Crime has taken a heavy, unquantifiable toll on this country. It has forced Jamaica to construct an extensive infrastructure around private and public security; maimed our health system; prevented a greater inflow of investors and tourists that the economy badly needs; and frightened off Jamaicans who want to set up small businesses or nationals who yearn to come home.

It is this sad and sordid scenario which forms the backdrop for the announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips that they will restart discussions towards a national anti-crime strategy.

The prime minister told the House of Representatives that a stakeholders meeting is scheduled for today to address the concerns and seriously look at the issues towards creating an uncontested political space in which there can be a national consensus on a crime-fighting plan for Jamaica.

In this space, we have been among those consistently urging the political parties to remove crime from the partisan political arena and unite the country in the long, tough struggle ahead to bring crime down to manageable levels.

We have also supported the imposition of states of public emergency in St James, St Catherine, Hanover, Westmoreland, Clarendon and parts of St Andrew, as a temporary measure while the search for a national crime plan is heightened.

But while we wholeheartedly embrace these bipartisan and what we hope will be multifaceted talks, we are not nave enough to believe that mere talks will achieve these game-changing goals.

Politicians cannot help themselves and will seek to scuttle those talks at the first sign of disagreement. It is in their DNA, and they do not know how to work together in a situation where they have to forego scoring political points, especially as election nears.

In other words, creating this “uncontested political space” means that our politicians are in uncharted waters. They will need every help they can to hold it together. In this regard, we wish to acknowledge the as yet unnamed civil society group referred to by the prime minister as having facilitated the agreement for the talks.

Mr Holness and Dr Phillips have entered upon a journey that will, potentially, set them apart among our greatest sons if, in the end, they achieve the unification of all Jamaica against crime.

We might finally tame the beast that has haunted our best dreams for a safer, more productive Jamaica, if they can put country before party.


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