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JLP raps PM for not making crime fight a priority

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013    

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LEADER of the Opposition Andrew Holness on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller for not making the fights against crime a priority for her administration.

"It is a national epidemic: It is a national emergency, and we have not seen any action by the Government which suggests that they are treating it as a matter of priority or urgency," Holness told a press conference at the headquarters of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) on Belmont Road in Kingston.

He said that it was important that the country recognise that crime, and the level of crime now being experienced, is due to the failure of Government policy.

"It is a national emergency, and we have not seen any action by the government which suggests that they are treating it as a matter of priority or urgency," Holness said.

He said that the prime minister, as the national leader, has moral authority and should use some of her political capital to give emphasis and leadership and speak out on the issue.

"I have not heard a word from the prime minister on it," he commented. "Once the prime minister takes up an issue, it becomes a matter of priority. She needs to champion it... It requires that level of strategic and moral leadership to make it a priority".

Holness, in the meantime, said that there appears to be no boundaries as to brazenness of the perpetrators.

"The State does not say this is where we draw the line, and if you go over this line, we will use every resource at the availability of the State to ensure that it doesn't happen again. So you see repeatedly pregnant women being killed; children being killed; young girls being raped and killed; and there is no moral indignation coming from the leadership of the society with any resource mobilisation to back it up," Holness said.

"So people who have the propensity to commit crime feel that there is no deterrent and the state is not serious," he stated. He added that in this situation, crime would not only continue at this level, but will get worse, eventually.

Speaking at the press conference, the Opposition's spokesman on national security, Derrick Smith, called on Simpson Miller to convene a meeting of the national security council and to personally assure the nation of steps being taken to address the number of murders in recent months.

"For the last 14 days, 58 individuals have been murdered: week one, 28, week 2, 30, and during that period, 15 persons have been murdered in St. James, alone," Smith said.

He said that the 1,160 murders reported so far this year is a 10 per cent increase over the figure for the same period (up to the end of November, 2012) last year. He also pointed out that of the 19 police divisions, there has been an increase in murder in nine, including: Kingston Western, Kingston Central, Trelawny, Westmoreland, Clarendon, St Thomas and even in usually quiet St. Mary, which registered a 94 per cent increase in murder since the start of the year.

Smith attributed the rise in murders to lack of attention from Security Minister Peter Bunting, whom he claimed "seems to have taken his hand off the control" and instead sought divine intervention.

However, he said that the country continued to be in a state of panic, as crime and violence increases, and the police are forced to respond without being properly equipped and without proper infrastructure.

Also speaking at the press conference was JLP general secretary, Dr Horace Chang, who addressed the increase in murders in St James. Dr Chang represents North West St James in the House of Representatives.

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