Editorial

Politicians — the last bastion against solving violent crime

Thursday, June 29, 2017

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If we were conspiracy theorists, we'd want to think that Jamaican politicians have no desire whatsoever to bring crime and the spiralling murder rate under control.

Not even their coming together to honour retiring former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller could last more than a few moments before they were at it again in the parliament demonstrating that the fight against crime is the last thing on their agenda.

The debate among members of the joint select committee of Parliament who reviewed the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, on Tuesday, left us convinced that the solution to crime would not be found among the current crop of parliamentarians.

The game of blaming the other side is far more fun and way sexier than putting differences aside and working together to unite and mobilise the nation to support the police in bringing the fight to criminals, including those being sheltered under party affiliation.

How does one get presumably intelligent people like Messrs Peter Bunting, Mark Golding and Delroy Chuck, as well as Mrs Marissa Dalrymple-Philibert and Mrs Marlene Malahoo Forte to understand that it is not fancy arguments or proving who is right that is going to drastically reduce the murder rate which has the nation in trepidation?

In fact, all of them were right in their positions. Messrs Bunting and Golding are right that the Bill was being rushed and could lose the input of those who had made submissions. Mr Chuck, Mrs Dalrymple-Philibert and Mrs Malahoo Forte are right that the utmost speed is necessary given the state of crime.

Yet, with everyone being so right, we are nowhere near to the solution needed to end the wanton killing of women and children, senior citizens, and the innocent people caught up in gang warfare.

We are aware that the current approach, in which political point-scoring is more important than crime solving, is not going to change as long as our politicians do not believe that crime should be taken out of the partisan political arena and should no longer be treated as a political football.

That said, we have to embrace politicians like Mr Paul Burke who seem to be in a minority. Appearing before the joint select committee, Mr Burke, the former general secretary of the People's National Party (PNP), behaved as the adult in the room.

He wanted to see the Bill become law and implemented with the greatest urgency because of the terrible toll crime is taking on various communities, particularly the inner-city enclaves controlled by heartless criminals.

If there is any Bill that needs bipartisan support, it this Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act. Because it gives the prime minister the power to declare a community a special zone, it is necessary that the party which controls that area being declared gives its support for it to be effective. We have enough examples to prove that.

This need applies equally to a PNP prime minister as to a Jamaica Labour Party prime minister. Politicians were once our liberators. Now they have become the obstacle in our way.

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