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Travel advisory to a city gone mad

BY JASON MCKAY

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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A crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulty or danger. The recent Level Two Travel Advisory by the United States of America speaks specifically to visitors coming to a high-risk zone and our authorities having no ability to contain the risk. The limited state of emergency cements this.

The indirect message is that Montego Bay is a wild and untamed Dodge City and the police are unable to combat the insurgence. Although this message is totally inaccurate in both its direct and subliminal meaning, its impact on our tourism product is huge. This, therefore, as earlier defined, is a crisis.

It is a crisis both economically and socially, and has the effect of belittling our police force in the international arena. I would certainly say if there ever was a time for a crisis decision to be made it is now.

This is not the first time in our history that we have faced challenges of this nature. In the 1970s there were consistently high murders, which resulted in the government constituting The Gun Court and enacting the Suppression of Crime Act.

History at one time condemned these responses, but in truth they were necessary actions aimed at curtailing crime, which had peaked at 899 murders in 1980, a figure which, ironically, would be welcomed at this point.

Difficult decisions were also taken in the post-1980 era to maintain these legislative changes despite significant opposition both locally and internationally. In fact, we still maintain the Gun Court despite legal opinion that no judge without a jury should have the power to arrive at a verdict and sentence offenders for periods in excess of the Parish Court's restrictive guidelines.

The crisis solution lies in the hands of the prime minister. He was, after all, elected to this role and as such should be expected to lead us in our times of need.

We looked beyond his age, we looked past his inexperience and we chose a leader who would be of an age to suffer the consequences of his decisions with us. Therefore, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, it is time for you to make a landmark crisis decision.

Yes, it is the prime minister to whom I speak. The minister of justice or the minister of national security can change at any time. When Jamaica voted, they voted for Andrew Holness.

Our former leaders who led us both in the 1970s and 1980s have been significantly criticised for their actions. Michael Manley was called reckless. Edward Seaga was called cold, hard and impassionate. Neither was called indecisive. They made decisions we didn't like, but they made crisis decisions.

Prime Minister Holness now has to make up his mind to be unpopular with both the local and international human rights groups and create legislation that will put Jamaica back in control of Montego Bay. I am not going to just say “create legislation and fix the problem”, I am going to spell out the legislation the prime minister needs to introduce.

Economic destruction

Jamaica is being destroyed by roughly 100,000 gang members. There are three million of us. It is unfair that we should be condemned to economic destruction because of three per cent of our population. With this in mind, the legislation would be geared towards the 100,000.

The legislation would speak to detention without charge once the divisional commanding officer and crime officer sign a document designating a person as a member of a gang. This legislation would begin as a response to the crisis in Montego Bay, so it would be limited to gang members in Montego Bay, who would also be eligible for arrest in any parish in which they are held, once they have been designated as members of a gang.

The legislation should be subject to review after two years. Why I say two years is because it would take a little under that time for the legal eagles to have it designated as unconstitutional. However, by this time, the crisis would have been averted and maybe by then a medium-term solution would have been found.

The obvious question is this: Where would we put these gangsters?

The answer is to build a detention facility at Up Park Camp.

We have done so before — both in the 1970s and in other periods of our history. Even Sir Alexander Bustamante was once detained there.

I am fully aware that these periods of our history are not ones we like remembering, but the economic collapse of Montego Bay followed by that of Jamaica will impact us all, whereas my suggested detention centre would only impact people who find themselves on the commanding officers' and the crime chief's gang list.

This may seem drastic and draconian, but as I have said before, our nation's gangsters became totally lawless when consequence was removed for their actions. This happened largely because of the Bail Act, which created an environment where the charged criminal started awaiting trial on the streets rather than in remand.

This was furthered by decisions to create a public relations programme that painted the police as being harnessed by its own Government. What later occurred was a feeling that there is no consequence for murder.

The theory behind the changes which caused this was a rationale that criminals must face their justice upon conviction. The problem with this theory is that criminals do not fear the court system, they fear remand.

They also fear police action. Having removed both of these threats for their actions, what then is left for them to fear?

This type of result is common when decisions are being made by people who have no real knowledge of the problem they are trying to solve. To me, only a farmer truly understands the logistics of agriculture, so only a policeman understands criminals.

How many police were really consulted in the revision of the Bail Act and the obvious quest to launch a public relations programme that the police 'caan duh yuh nuttin'? I am sure none.

The legislation I propose is a crisis legislation. I know that somewhere inside of the man we elected lies the fortitude of a Michael Manley and the strength of an Edward Seaga and maybe even the skills of P J Patterson.

I am confident that he will do what is necessary to save us from the actions of our most undeserving citizens and in an about-turn, be the first leader of this country in 10 years to make decisions in our interest and not to please people sitting in the European Union or the United Nations.

The limited state of emergency will bring momentary peace to Montego Bay, but the impact on tourism will be significant, thus limiting the amount of time that it can be maintained. It will stall or reverse the monumental growth of the tourist industry in recent times.

We cannot continue to make decisions that impact our economy because we are afraid to upset activists who have their own narrow perspectives of what a nation should do to save itself.

Let this state of emergency serve as a temporary cork to a sinking ship whilst we take this lull and effect legislation that embraces the reality of a country facing a population of gangs that outnumbers the police force by 700 per cent.

This is the point where Andrew Holness becomes a legend or a letdown.

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