GG urges Jamaicans to unite to fight crime in Throne Speech

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 16, 2018

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GOVERNOR General Sir Patrick Allen yesterday urged Jamaicans to join the fight against crime to secure the country's prosperity.

“This fight against crime is one that we all must be a part of. It is one that we cannot afford to lose, and one that every Jamaican who wants to see a brighter day must be encouraged to join,” Sir Patrick told Members of Parliament, senators and guests at Gordon House yesterday for the ceremonial start to the new parliamentary year, 2018/19.

“In order to achieve the Jamaica we want, all branches of the State, the whole of government, all ministries, departments and agencies must understand their critical role, and its intersection and interconnection with other functions to create a seamlessly integrated machinery that can overcome any challenge and ultimately secure the prosperity of the Jamaican people,” he added.

He said that for the new parliamentary year the Administration is committed to providing additional resources and support for the anti-crime fight.

He said that the justice system will also be given special attention, while the social interventions targeting unattached youth will continue in earnest.

Sir Patrick was delivering the annual Throne Speech, which outlines the Government's policies and programmes for the new financial year, which begins on April 1.

This is in accordance with the Financial Administration and Audit Act, which requires that both the Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue be tabled simultaneously in the House of Representatives to allow for the passage of the annual budget prior to the start of the new fiscal year to which it relates.

Addressing the Government's programmes, Sir Patrick said that to ensure that every citizen can be identified and known to the State, so that their rights and entitlements can be preserved and planned for in advance, and in order for the country to continue on the path to prosperity, the national identification system (NIDS) will be introduced.

“NIDS will become the primary source for identity verification, and will improve governance and management in the delivery of security services, social benefits and economic programmes,” he stated.

He said that the National Identification and Registration Authority Regulations will be developed and tabled in the House of Representatives by September 2018.

In terms of the other priority policies, he said that the Government continues to be geared towards enabling growth and national development through a sound and predictable macroeconomic policy framework that maintains low inflation, a stable exchange rate and competitive interest rates.

He said that during the year the Government will be seeking to improve revenue administration, by creating a simple, equitable and competitive tax environment.

Also planned are programmes for strengthening the level of financial accountability and efficiency of the public sector; the capacity of the Government to effectively regulate financial institutions, ministries, departments and agencies, and combat financial crimes; and improvements to the internal efficiency and effectiveness of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.

Sir Patrick said that the Jamaica Customs Agency will continue to drive economic growth through trade facilitation, revenue collection, and border protection.

This year the agency will improve the rate of detection of contraband, prohibited and 'uncustomed' goods through the procurement of more cargo imaging scanners.

He said that the Administration will also be seeking approval for a number of legislative measures designed to improve crime-fighting efforts and better enable law enforcement agencies to interdict criminals. These include:

• A new Police Service Act, which will replace the Constabulary Force Act and provide for the modernisation and transformation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force into a modern intelligence-led police service;

• Merger of the Police Service Commission and the Police Civilian Oversight Authority, which will require amendments to the constitution as it relates to the Police Service Commission;

• Tabling of the Firearms (Amendment) Act, which will seek to amend the primary legislation by making provisions relating to the following:

(i) establishment of criminal offences pertaining to the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms in keeping with Jamaica's international obligations;

(ii) effective control and security measures, including the disposal of firearms, in order to prevent theft and diversion to usage in criminal activities; and

(iii) ensuring that the revised Firearms Act is compatible with international standards and obligations of the Government of Jamaica.

• A Fingerprints (Amendment) Act, which will seek to strengthen the forensic investigative powers and the capacity of law enforcement agencies, including a proposal to allow the taking of fingerprints from objects left in public spaces.

• The Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act will also be addressed to seek to ensure compliance with the recommendations emanating from the Caribbean Financial Action Taskforce Mutual Evaluation of Jamaica, conducted in 2016, as well as to update the Act for greater effectiveness.

• Regulations will also be developed for the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme to guide the use of the funds recovered for national development, and the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act will be reviewed in accordance with legislative requirements for a review within three years of its enactment.

Other legislation to be addressed include: The Parole (Amendment) Act, to bring it in line with current trends, international standards and best practices; amendments to the Immigration Restriction (Commonwealth Citizens) Act; Aliens Act; and the attendant regulations which will focus on stricter penalties and giving immigration officers more robust authority, as well as the use of an automated Border Control System, among other things.

Sir Patrick said that Jamaica is now “at a most crucial time in its development”, and there are encouraging signs that the country is poised for great things.

“This Administration is under no illusion as to the challenges; however, we know, through the strength of our mighty people, we can accomplish what we will. We are seeing the first sprouts of the sacrifices that we have made as a nation. We must unite as one people and as one family to protect these germinating seeds of our prosperity,” he concluded.

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