Phillips unhappy with PM's take on crime talks

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, March 23, 2019

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LEADER of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) Dr Peter Phillips has expressed disappointment over what he says is Prime Minister Andrew Holness' misrepresentation of his agreement with the joint statement on crime, which was issued by both leaders in January.

The two had met privately at Vale Royal on January 2 following days of verbal sparring on both sides, after the Opposition in December voted against a further extension of the states of public emergency (SOE) for three crime hot spots across the country. The declaration of the SOEs, now all expired, started last January.

“I wish that he had not misrepresented his agreement in the joint statement we had made in January, when he agreed to a statement that we would meet on January 16 with the other members of the community who had an interest and where a date was set. If he had been of that view then he should not have misled the public. It is also the case that prior to that, here had been a call by the PSOJ for a crime summit in order to achieve the same objectives. I find it quite extraordinary, and in fact disturbing, in the willingness to change positions on a whim simply because there seems to be a perception of political advantage,” Dr Phillips told a press conference in Kingston on Wednesday.

He was responding to Prime Minister Andrew Holness's dismissal of his call for an urgent effective crime plan which includes building national consensus. Dr Phillips, in his budget presentation, had also called for the zones of special operations (ZOSO) to be expanded immediately.

“The recognised formal process for building social consensus that has been practised by both governments is the social partnership…I don't know that there is any dissonance in this country around uniting against crime and violence,” Holness said.

He further charged that, “the only dissonance is on that side. I am always willing to meet and discuss but I'm not going to give any cover for obfuscation, any cover to escape the responsibility for the decision that that side took that has put the lives of many Jamaicans at risk”.

According to the joint statement issued on January 8, following another meeting with teams from both sides, the Government and the Opposition were to have further talks on national security and crime management following that initial meeting of the two leaders and their teams

It was agreed, among other things, that further discussions would be held, beginning with a meeting on January 26 with other stakeholders such as churches, the private sector ,and human rights and civil society groups.

Holness told the House on Tuesday that the Government is taking an intricate and strategic approach to dealing with safety and security, which may not be readily seen.

Outlining a number of measures, including the modernisation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the expansion of the Jamaica National Reserve, he emphasised that the enhanced security measures legislation is being designed to empower the security forces with the tools deemed necessary to disrupt criminal networks, reduce violence and increase public order.

The main elements of the framework for the draft legislation include: conditions that must exist to trigger and sustain the measures; a system of accountability and judicial recourse to protect the rights of citizens; specific powers such as search and detention; and persons designated with responsibility for use of such powers.

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