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Mr P J Patterson's security (read truth) commission

Thursday, January 24, 2019

When a man sees his end, he wants to know there was some purpose to his life. — Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the movie epic, Gladiator.

Mr P J Patterson, from his vantage point of former prime minister turned statesman, was not trifling when he declared last weekend that excessive crime and wanton violence during the life of past administrations, including his own, “constitutes the greatest threat to our society and its prospects for prosperity”.

And yet, the great tragedy in his speech to the Lay Magistrates Association is that his powerful suggestion, which contains within it the seed of a possible solution to our crime problem, might be dismissed as easily as his previous call for a much-needed programme of positive values and attitudes.

During his reign that saw him become the longest-serving prime minister of Jamaica, from 1992 to 2006, Mr Patterson made many enemies — political and otherwise — whose knee-jerk reaction is to ask why didn't he implement his ideas during his time in office.

We ask that same question too, and we have had many misgivings about some of his policies and programmes over the years. But we quickly admit it would be foolhardy and a waste of a great idea were we to ignore this latest suggestion.

“With the full benefit of long reflection in the pavilion and 20/20 hindsight, I have come firmly to the strong personal conviction that the EAC (Electoral Advisory Commission) model must be the kernel in the fight to combat excessive crime and wanton violence,” Mr Patterson offers.

“I believe the time has come for the constitution of a single body, appropriately tailored by the sartorial pattern of the EAC model, that would eventually incorporate a range of wide-ranging functions now spread across the Police Services Commission, the Office of Complaints Authority, INDECOM (Independent Commission of Investigations), and a myriad of related groups…

“I firmly believe the creation and nurturing of a National Security Commission is the most constructive way to secure and build national consensus in order to fashion a common design and bridge the partisan divide, without which we will always be prone to scoring political points and never permanently curtail the menace of violent crime,” said Mr Patterson.

The key shot in this National Security Commission is its non-partisan nature, and we are seriously inclined to believe it could serve as a way forward.

Few among us disagree that the EAC, which brought Mr Danville Walker to national prominence as director of elections, has saved this country from falling over the precipice, after a long and ugly chapter of political violence.

The EAC succeeded because it was supported by the politicians, the media, the Church, the intelligentsia, the professionals, the business community, and civil society. Importantly, Jamaicans were tired of the brutality of politics, as they are now of the wanton murders and brutality of crime.

Mr Patterson argues: “It is full confidence in the integrity of the electoral system and the maturation of our two-party tradition which enabled a new Government to be sworn in within days of the last general election, with the slender majority of a single seat — without a single shot, without the need for judicial recourse or foreign intervention.”

We can't argue with that.