Editorial

Mr Robert Montague has put his job on the line

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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Last week, Minister of National Security Robert Montague invited his Opposition counterpart, Mr Peter Bunting, to join his freshly launched Security Programme Oversight Committee (SECURIPOC).

The work of the SECURIPOC, whose resemblance to the Economic Programme Oversight Committee is obvious and no doubt intentional, is to hold the minister, his ministry, as well as its departments and agencies accountable.

It will be responsible for monitoring the compliance and progress of the security ministry and its agencies in relation to implementation of their key performance indicators and make recommendations to the minister.

That decision to invite the Opposition to the membership of SECURIPOC is one of the most courageous actions taken in recent times by any minister of national security and Mr Montague will come to either celebrate it or regret it.

Even if the minister had meant it as mere tokenism, or a way to mute the Opposition, we know that Mr Bunting, a former national security minister, is not the kind of person who allows himself to be used as a pawn and can be expected to be dogged.

To our knowledge, Mr Bunting has not yet indicated if he will join the committee. However, acceptance would be consistent with the position enunciated as recent as Sunday by his Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips that the party is ready to meet with the Government and anyone else to discuss solutions to the thorny crime problem.

This newspaper gets excited by any move that signals the acceptance that national security must not be a partisan political issue. It is a foolhardy and morally bankrupt party that believes that it gains political mileage when hundreds of Jamaicans are being slaughtered.

We are naturally encouraged by Mr Montague's own words, as he announced the establishment of the SECURIPOC: “National security is not a partisan or governmental response only. National security affects everyone.”

Crime is estimated, he added, to be costing the country five per cent of its gross domestic product. “When you work that out in real numbers, you are looking at over $70 billion per year. With that money we could build at least 100 schools, an additional five or six hospitals...”

Mr Montague has given the country a yardstick by which the effectiveness of his performance as minister can be measured. He had better mean every word because, wittingly or unwittingly, he has put his job on the line.

We had, of course, expected that the head of the committee, like EPOC with banker Mr Keith Duncan, would have been someone versed in matters of crime and security. Someone like Mr Owen Ellington, the highly rated former commissioner of police.

However, Mr Peter Moses, the SECURIPOC chairman, is a good man who has always been willing to serve his country. We recall his service as chairman of the team which was tasked to oversee the Public Sector Transformation Unit in 2009. The former Citibank managing director, while being president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, also chaired a committee to examine how the gas tax hike, which had sparked nationwide riots, could be substituted.

Additionally, he was a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Strategy Review Panel mandated to recommend widescale reform.

Like all crime-weary Jamaicans, we wish SECURIPOC every success.

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