Messrs Holness, Golding, unite the country against crime or forget it

Messrs Holness, Golding, unite the country against crime or forget it

Thursday, January 28, 2021

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WE don't know whether to laugh or cry upon the realisation that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has suddenly awakened from his slumber to discover that the killing of homeless men in Kingston is “a new kind of savagery”.

We hate to tell the prime minister that, while the slaying of the four men and injuring of another two is a kind of savagery, what it certainly is not is new.

Indeed, in the same 24 hours in which Mr Holness was uttering his fighting words, another six individuals were killed. Two weekends ago 25 people were killed across the country as the grim tally of murders heads for over 100 since the start of the year.

The verbal sparring on Tuesday between the prime minister and the Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding in the Parliament is the clearest indication yet that Jamaica is on its own in this never-ending fight against gunmen who are having a field day.

Mr Golding thought he was scoring a point by saying: “The spike in the murder rate is somewhat similar to the spike in the COVID rate, and the whole nation is anxious to see how this is going to be addressed. The whole level of insecurity is growing and it must be responded to with an effective response.”

Stung by the criticism, Mr Holness accused his opposite number of hypocrisy and shot back: “Help us to quarantine some of the criminals who are killing the people in [western] Kingston, which includes St Andrew South. I am asking the leader of the Opposition to give support to measures that give emergency powers to the Government to control the crime that is happening.”

What this “tracing” match suggests is that Nero (Holness, Golding) is fiddling while Rome (Jamaica) is burning.

The prime minister has clearly run out of options, with the state of public emergency (SOE) off the table while the court deliberates the Government's appeal of the ruling that continued use of SOEs is unconstitutional.

Mr Golding is either unwilling or unable to make any serious proposals about fighting crime. He seems to be quite satisfied with the old Opposition approach of making criticism, which is the easy road.

The cold truth, however, is neither man has a viable answer that can impress the gunmen. And this is not surprising, because no single individual has the answer. That is why we do not tire in this space of calling on both sides to work together in uniting the country on this one issue.

Every country in which crime has been put under some reasonable management and control has had to depend on the citizenry to work with the police. Jamaica is no exception.

It is time to put aside the obvious political egomania and operationalise the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the prime minister, Opposition leader, and other key stakeholders to develop consensus in addressing crime.

The focus of the MOU is on dismantling and eliminating criminal gangs; normalising and reintegrating troubled communities; preventing corruption, collusion and money laundering; and reforming and modernising the police and justice system.

It also means that politicians will have to disengage with the criminal thugs with whom they can't seem to part company.

In the meantime, it is clear that no one is leading the charge against crime.

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