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ONLINE READERS COMMENT: Peter Phillips and the PNP's death wish

Friday, December 14, 2018

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Dear Editor,

Does anyone now seriously doubt that the great People's National Party (PNP) of O T Fairclough, Norman Manley, Michael Manley, P.J.Patterson and Portia Simpson-Miller has a death wish under its feckless, reckless and increasingly irrelevant leader Peter Phillips?

Its failure to support the government in extending the states of emergency in St James and St Catherine, which have been effective in reducing murders and other violent crimes, is just another example of how out of step Phillips is with the hopes and fears of modern Jamaica. It is just a continuation of the debacle he masterminded in the 2016 general election.

Certainly, detention centres are in dire need of upgrade and have been for a long time. Certainly, the government and the military/police forces could have done a better job in their housing and feeding of those detained. But you don't throw out the baby with the bath water.

This ill-advised action by the lawyer-dominated Opposition stems, in part, from a generalised ignorance of one salient fact.

Yes, there are rights which must be respected, but there is also a hierarchy of rights. At the top of ladder is the right to life. The right to life trumps all the other rights, such as the right to free speech, free press, free assembly, freedom from arbitrary arrest etc, rights which Jamaican love to prattle about endlessly.

That is so for the very obvious reason: without life all those other rights are meaningless.

We are told by Phillips that the administration needs to come up with a "crime plan". So did the previous administration -- of which he was a part -- and the ones before that one, also. That crime plan is unlikely to see the light of day. At least, not a crime plan which has any significant impact on the endemic crime which has plagued Jamaica for as long as most Jamaicans can remember.

The reasons: neither party is prepared to attempt the hard work of cultural transformation, without which a kindlier, less coarse and less violent society is simply not possible. Neither party is prepared to impose the necessary discipline on a society which has gone off the rails. Neither party is prepared to revive the "Values and Attitudes" campaign, mooted, but not pursued during the Patterson years. Neither party is prepared to seriously review and update the outdated criminal laws handed down by Queen Victoria and probably even before her time.

They believe -- wrongly-- that the voters will turn against them, as the taxi drivers threatened to do recently.

Okay, I know we made major strides by taking 80 years to update the 1938 horse-and-buggy road traffic law. But if the update is shown to save lives the voters will thank the government. Okay, okay, I know Chief Justice Brian Sykes and others want to give the prosecution long overdue enhanced rights of appeal and Justice Minister Delroy Chuck is doing a splendid job in speeding up and modernising the justice system. But these are just starts, however commendable. Without a full review and overall of the rules of evidence, granting of bail, extending the length of detention by police etc nothing much will change. We will just get faster acquittals. There will be no crime plan that will work. The criminals will know that they can outsmart our highly educated leaders. The criminals will know that they can literally get away with murder. We will just keep fooling ourselves that "the military/police/states of emergency alone" plan (JLP) or the "divine intervention alone plan" (PNP) will do the trick. Neither will.

Errol W A Townshend

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