Use ZOSO to complement state of emergency

Friday, January 19, 2018

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Dear Editor,

All well-thinking Jamaicans must have been relieved to wake up yesterday morning to the news that a state of emergency has been declared in St James.

It is a move that is well due; some might even say overdue. With murders running away again this year, the Government had little choice but to give the people what they wanted — the army in St James. One very important thing that comes out of this is the enduring faith people have in the army.

With the state of emergency now underway, the question must be asked: what will happen when the army leaves St James? If serious effort is not put in by Government and the private sector to solve the many problems that beset that parish, it is very likely that in a short period of time the army will have to be back there. Nobody wants that.

That means these many private businesses, both local and international, must put up some serious money and other means, like job creation, to give opportunities to people in the parish to be gainfully employed, so as to ensure that the areas in St James that need serious attention get it, and do not return to being havens for criminal elements.

They also must invest in security systems like closed circuit television and provide cops with footage on a regular basis so as to keep a lookout for criminals who might be tempted to go back, or new ones who want to take the place of those displaced. Government must chip in also.

And that's where the zones of special operations (ZOSO) plan comes in. It's my considered view that ZOSO is not a failure, as many would have it. What is hampering in ZOSO is the limited amount of personnel that can be deployed at any one time. With the state of emergency doing the heavy lifting, ZOSO can be a very good complementary tool. As soon as the state of emergency is lifted the Government should declare ZOSOs across the parish. Since it is expected that the state of emergency will clear out the criminals once and for all, one way or the other, the personnel needed to implement multiple zones will be lessened considerably, so they can be spread thinner and have greater impact.

When that happens, the State can move in and implement the social component of the ZOSO initiative. The State can and must step in to pour considerable resources, along with private entities, and once and for all develop the areas that need development. Regularise these communities that have sprung up all over the parish. Put in roads, light, water and training programmes. Whatever the State needs to do, do it.

ZOSO has already proven quite good at delivering on that score. Use that same instrument to deliver for the entire parish of St James. This must be looked at as a long-term initiative over many years.

As a nation, we cannot allow gains made during this period of time to fall by the wayside because the social initiative needed to fix St James did not occur. We can't afford that to happen. My advice to this Government and Prime Minister Anndrew Holness, in whom I am well pleased, is to use ZOSO to rebuild these broken communities.

Fabian Lewis

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