If we fix crime, we will fix Jamaica


If we fix crime, we will fix Jamaica

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, December 14, 2020

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You would think that with this pandemic Jamaica would get a break from crime and violence, but every week we are shocked by reports, the latest of which is the murder of four family members, including a pregnant woman, in St Catherine last week.

We are looking to the Crime Monitoring and Oversight Committee (CMOC), established on the signing of the National Crime Consensus Memorandum of Understanding by stakeholders from Government, private sector and civil society, to help us to address, once and for all, the myriad issues that have continued to visit so much pain and suffering on our nation.

Investors have repeatedly reminded us that Jamaica's crime issue is a deterrent. Our own relatives in the Jamaican Diaspora are fearful of returning to the place they still call home. Believe them when they say if we fix crime, we will fix Jamaica.

CMOC, headed by Jamaica Chamber of Commerce President Lloyd Distant Jr, has established key performance indicators (KPIs) to track its progress, including proposed legislation, among them:

• approval of the outstanding Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) regulations by end of the fourth quarter of 2020;

• adding and prioritising approval of sections of the Proceed of Crimes Act (POCA) to include and strengthen the role of unexplained wealth orders and reverse burden of proof, enabling the seizure of assets from individuals who obtained their wealth by crime or corruptly, and those found guilty of facilitating money laundering and other serious crimes, and ensuring that lawyers cannot be paid with proceeds of crime by the fourth quarter of 2021;

• prioritising the approval and gazetting of the regulations to the Public Bodies Management Accountability Act governing the nomination, selection, and appointment of boards of public bodies by end of the third quarter of 2020.

CMOC projects that Parliament will review and agree the implementation of these and other recommendations by end of the second quarter of 2021.

Protecting rights

Last week we observed International Human Rights Day with a webinar hosted by the Institute for Gender & Development Studies Regional Coordinating Office, titled 'Practical strategies for monitoring and dealing with gender-based violence within vulnerable communities'. Important work is being done by the Bureau of Gender Affairs, which was represented by Abby-Gale Clarke; health professionals, represented by Dr Simone French; Office of the Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison; the Jamaica Constabulary Force, represented by Inspector Heather McLean; and the Jamaica Network of Seropositives represented by Jumoke Patrick.

There was a heavy-hearted observation that our most vulnerable were running out of options for protection with the burden of joblessness and the consistent increase in COVID-19 cases. Access to justice has become more difficult for women during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Consider this: While many are criticising the education ministry for announcing that over 60 additional schools have been approved for reopening in January, the school environment could very well be the safest for children in high-risk communities.

COVID-19 vigilance

You cannot help but be impressed when our Chief Medical Officer Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie takes us through those charts showing COVID-19 spikes and the Ministry of Health and Wellness's vigilance as they try to control the spread. Last week's 'COVID Conversation' hosted by Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and addressed by Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie, as well as several mayors, left us grateful that our leaders, including those in Opposition, are all on the same page in their fight against the novel coronavirus.

What is disheartening, however, is that people, many of whom should know better, are throwing illegal parties, even lying that they have State approval. I believe these folks should be taken to a hospital and made to see what being on a ventilator looks like. They need to be reminded that people of all ages have died from this virus. Perhaps the next COVID Conversation should be the experiences of a bereaved relative and those who survived the worst of COVID-19. One such person is politician Basil Waite, who has described publicly the excruciating pain and breathing difficulties which sent him into the intensive care unit at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). Thank goodness he survived and has high praises for the UHWI staff.

Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President Keith Duncan, acknowledging the seriousness of the situation but also the plight of those who always look forward to Christmas for their biggest bump in sales, suggests a disciplined approach regarding opening times and crowd control. Driving around town we see that consistent mask-wearing is still a problem. Perhaps we should resort to giving motorised police loudspeakers as they have done in South Africa — they use it to call out and warn 'non-maskers' as they drive through the town describing them and shaming them.

IDB Road Safety Conference

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in collaboration with the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), last week hosted a webinar, 'Road Safety in the Caribbean: A Safe System Approach to Saving Lives'. IDB Caribbean head Therese Turner-Jones pointed out that road crashes are the second leading cause of death for children in the Latin American and Caribbean region. She noted that the continued high incidence of road crashes has increased the stress on our public health system, already battling to cope with the novel coronavirus outbreak.

She noted that transportation and development of road systems are vehicles for economic development. Indeed, the IDB approved for Jamaica in 2009 one of the first loans in the world specifically targeted at operations increasing road safety.

Turner-Jones congratulated the NRSC on its efforts to educate bikers in Westmoreland on road safety measures. However, I have learned that there is a macho culture associated with that group. They head out to parties in convoy, many without helmets, greeting and honking at each other. According to a resident in the west, they have that same air of bravado when they attend the funeral of a fellow biker. “It is like they belong to a cult,” he said.

Dr Lucien Jones, NRSC vice-chairman, observed soberly that of the over one million who die in road crashes each year, 90 per cent are from developing countries. Like COVID-19, road safety relies greatly on individual responsibility. There must be consequences for carelessness, and we await the implementation of the amended Road Traffic Act.

Ambassador Cobb's autobiography

Ambassador Sue Cobb continued her legacy of meaningful engagement with the Jamaican people, even after she ended her tour of duty here in 2005. She was one of the founders of the generous American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) and for several years sponsored the Cobb Family Lecture at The University of the West Indies (UWI), a platform for exploring issues and solutions by some of Jamaica's brightest minds.

In her recently published autobiography, a collaboration with Dr Laura Tanna, we are reminded that her tenure started on September 11, 2001. Yes, on 9/11, the most testing of times. The title of the book, The Lady of Silk and Steel, is taken from a commentary on Ambassador Cobb's tenure by former Prime Minister P J Patterson, as he described their differences of opinion, yet their cordial and respectful relationship.

There is much to learn from this wise account from an extraordinary diplomat, adventurer, and dedicated grandmother. Published by Ian Randle Limited, all proceeds will go to charity, so buy it for the good and be inspired by Ambassador Cobb's remarkable journey.



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