Back to the drawing board

Back to the drawing board


Sunday, October 06, 2019

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So you think you've found the solution;

But it's just another illusion.

...We've got to face the day,

Ooh we, come what may

We the street people talking

Yeah, we the people struggling

Now they are sitting on a time bomb…

Bob Marley)

Some remarkable statements have been made by important opinion leaders in this country over the past two weeks addressing matters of extreme importance to the well-being and longevity of our Jamaica, land we love.

Say what, ma'am?

The first was made by a Parish Judge Mrs Maxine Ellis and reported in this newspaper on Sunday, September 15, 2019. The headline read 'Judge slams SOE, ZOSO as she chides pregnant accused women'. The summary of her slamming and chiding is as follows:

Parish Judge Maxine Ellis is of the view that the security exercises will not solve Jamaica's crime problem. Judge Ellis made the comment while addressing three accused, two of whom were in an advanced state of pregnancy.

Kneife Ferguson, Shelia Smith and Kallise Brown, who are expected to give birth on November 8 and September 25 respectively, are charged with assault occasioning bodily harm.

“They could a call ZOSO and SOE; it is not going to solve crime. Children are conceived and born in violence,” Ellis said.

This is a disconcerting observation by a member of our judiciary about a major containment strategy in our Government's crime-fighting arsenal. It would be interesting to know how many of her colleagues support her opinion. I, for one, agree. ZOSO and SOE are not crime solvers, though they could be viewed as crime inhibitors, based on current crime statistics. They have been welcomed action for the majority of citizens in the areas established, as the citizens have felt some reprieve and a greater sense of security. In this regard they have been good in meeting some real needs of the people.

The initiatives of the Government were timely and brought hope that the wild runaway crime and consequent fear surge gripping the nation could be contained. Had it not been contained and forced the retreat of the criminal element, albeit temporarily, it would have plunged the nation into a deeper abyss.

It consequently brought a needed psychological boost to the society and gave hope at a time needed. I believe it contributed to a general feeling of societal confidence that created a climate that facilitated the turn in the economy we have seen. But it has failed as a crime solution method to those who had expected it to work.

Be careful with ZOSO & SOE

A colleague of mine told me sometime ago that we must be careful with the ZOSO and SOE. He posited that the danger is that if the ZOSO and SOE do not work, it may empower criminals to believe that they bested the State and therefore think that they can 'up the ante' so to speak and increase their efforts at crime and violence. On the other, he opined, if the ZOSO and SOE work, it could empower smart minds in our military to think that a military solution may be the best strategy to accelerate our national progress toward prosperity. Neither are options we would want to see.

The facts are the SOE and ZOSO are serving a purpose; curtailing some criminal activity, saving some lives but are, by themselves, unable to solve crime because they are not treating the root causes or able to be transformational in approach. They are at best containment strategies.

Say what, sir?

The other disconcerting utterance to which I refer was made by Mr Howard Mitchell, immediate past president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ). Another credible news source referenced his statement in a report titled 'Save our nation - Outgoing PSOJ boss declares increased policing not enough to bring end to lawlessness, prevent total anarchy', published Thursday, September 26, 2019. A summary is below:

The apparent increased incidence of lawlessness and chaos on the roads has captured the attention of the powerful Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), which yesterday called for the Government and civil society to band together to find a solution. In his departing message, the immediate past president of the PSOJ, Howard Mitchell, said it could not be business as usual going forward.

“Repression and increased policing could not be the only responses to this creeping decivilisation of our country. We must find the will to put aside differences in political interest and collaborate to save our nation by strengthening our institutions and implementing social reforms before we descend into total anarchy,” said Mitchell, who served for two terms before making way for Keith Duncan, group CEO, The JMMB Group, who was yesterday elected the 20th president of the PSOJ during a council meeting held at the organisation's offices on Hope Road in St Andrew.

The issue we must consider as important here is, who is calling for help to 'save our nation'. Howard Mitchell is the immediate past president of the private equivalent of our public sector. Howard is the outgoing 'prime minister' of our business sector. His cry should be taken seriously. I concur with the sentiment of Mr Mitchell very insightful and honest. An honesty not often seen among too many leaders.

Say what, minister?

An even more substantively disconcerting statement was recently made by our minister of national security. He declared, it is said, that ZOSO and SOE are not working in Montego Bay.

“Every single social intervention measure that can be thought of has been done in St James; every single one has been active [yet the] homicide rate has moved from 12 per 100,000 to 182 per 100,000. Where is the success? I would like someone to show me,” (Chang says social intervention has not tamed crime in St James By Anthony Lewis Observer writer Saturday, September 28, 2019).

The minister must be applauded for being forthright and honest in admitting that some of his own strategies and those of his predecessors have not worked. It suggests that he and his Government are willing to humble themselves, go back to the drawing board and ask for help to find real solutions. Many of us have been crying for this for a while. Bravo, Minister Chang, we need more of this approach among government leaders.

The editors of another credible national news source responded to Minister Chang's statement, in a piece titled 'Murders, social intervention and national security', published, Thursday, October 3, 2019. They editorially opined:

The lament by the minister of national security, Horace Chang, last Thursday, that every single social intervention medium has been brought to Montego Bay and have all failed miserably, is notable and significant. The minister acknowledged that the churches, the Peace Management Initiative, Citizen Security and Justice Programme and others have done some good, but then pointed to their failure to “effect transformation in Montego Bay”.

Statements instructive & transformational

Judge Ellis's, PSOJ Mitchell's and Minister Chang's admittance are the kinds of approaches that can bring solutions that are transformational in nature. Self-help writer Edmond Mbiaka helped us understand why, when he wrote: “The earlier you admit to your mistakes, the more time you would have to learn and grow from them.” It is foolish in any sphere of life to think that you are achieving purpose, just because you are doing. Purpose is judged by outcomes, not output. Let's now try to “learn and grow” before it's too late.

These three statements from three significant leaders of three spheres of society are not to be viewed as negative criticism of the sacrifice, hard work and good intentions of many. They should be viewed as an objective evaluation of the realities and clear call to us as a society to face the truth of our situation.

The observation and comments from these notable leaders in different sectors in short succession, with no hint of collaboration, should be seen as instructive indicators for urgent attention and action. We cannot continue burying our heads in the sand and deceive ourselves into thinking that we are dealing with the crime problem.

For decades we have made crime a problem for the police to solve, hence the security council has primarily led the charge, ignoring the fact that they are not social transformers but are trained to uphold and maintain the law. The society needs social re-engineering by people with love for the people and passion for national development. We must have a total rethink and come up with solutions instead of inane activity.

Accept the fact that the crime situation continues to be grave. Accept that the moral and social breakdown is not being addressed, hence the slight economic gains being made will soon quickly be eroded. It is time to pluck the problem up from the root, and commit to reorder society to fit the vision of the new Jamaica of which we speak. Craft its vision, and aggressively move to build it.

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or

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