What's next, after the state of emergency?

Friday, February 01, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The following is an open letter to Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness:

In light of the ending of the states of emergency across the island, the big question on the lips of many is: What is next?

It is no secret that many people have benefited significantly from the imposition of the states of public emergency. As a citizen from the parish of St James, now living in Hanover, the effects of the states of emergency have been far-reaching. Many have spoken about being able to sleep at nights, while others have spoken about the harsh treatment and unlawful detention.

This is not limited to this region as there is little doubt that the states of emergency have impacted many other areas across Jamaica.

Here are 10 points that I believe should be the way forward when all states of emergency have ended:

1. Invest heavily in the social intervention programmes; Citizen Security and Justice Programme, Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, Child Protection and Family Services, health education, family planning courses, and community sports programmes.

2. Restore discipline within schools, workplaces and on the road through education, curriculum development, training, and consistent advertising/education.

3. Put more funding in the security forces and also in the training in law enforcement for all stakeholders.

4. Implement a single task force for crime prevention, crime suppression and crime alleviation. This task force should be separate and apart from the police force.

5. Have a gun amnesty throughout the country, allowing all users of illegal firearms to surrender guns without prosecution.

6. Have a values and attitudes programme to implement throughout schools, workplaces, hospitals and government facilities. This lack of values and attitudes is what has led to the harsh and even hostile climate we find our country.

7. Make justice available to all on a speedy and effective basis. Many Jamaicans have issues just being able to find a justice of the peace, much less get a final judgement for cases going on for long periods. This unavailability of justice has led to frustration and even reoffending.

8. Address the issue of land acquisition around Jamaica. It's no secret that many informal settlements are high producers of crime. Formalising lands will have a significant impact with the reduction of the crime-plagued areas. Formalising basic amenities within these areas such as roads, water, light, and even disposal of waste will also decrease civility and depravity.

9. Implement a day for prayer and fasting each year for the nation against crime and violence. Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Let's not forget that the issue of crime and violence cannot be solved through man's knowledge alone, but it needs divine help.

10. Be consistent with the message on the approach to crime and violence. Both the Opposition and the Government need to be strategic about crime prevention. The message must be relevant to this 2019 context. It must be the same despite whichever political party many come to power after a general election.

I am of the firm conviction that Jamaica can be a better place if we all work together, put political differences aside, put tribalism aside, put self aside, and each do our part in restoring law and order.

Can Jamaica be rid of crime and violence after the end of the states of emergency? The answer is it will take work!

Christopher Johnson

Minister of religion



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