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Criminals in Jamaica are stepping up their putrid game

What are the security forces waiting on to do the same?

GARFIELD HIGGINS

Sunday, June 09, 2019

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Wood already touched by fire is not hard to set alight. — Akan proverb, Ghana

The brazen daylight robbery of a supermarket in May Pen, Clarendon, two Sundays ago, hopefully punched home some unpleasant realities. Many continue to delude themselves with Ostrich-like thinking vis--vis how to deal with those who the police say are known violence-producers. I hope their self-induced slumber has been permanently interrupted.

I do not believe that social powder puffs, or forms of emotional embrace, will soothe or silence the ravenous beasts among us who rape, rob, murder, or create other forms of criminal mayhem. They must be hunted, captured, and put before the courts. Those who attack State personnel, so as to endanger their lives and/or the lives of other law-abiding citizens, must not be treated with kid gloves. It is a matter of us or the criminals. That much has long been clear to me.

Criminal elements who have the resources to acquire AK-47s, M-16s, and other assault rifles, plus have the apparent tactical awareness to use them, are not petty thieves. These are super predators. If they are not neutralised very quickly, who knows, they might even get it into their heads that they can overthrow our democratically elected Government.

This is not far-fetched. It has happened in other countries.

The heist in May Pen reminded us, in no uncertain terms, that our State security apparatus is lacking in many respects. Admittedly, the policemen who challenged the gunmen showed true grit, bravery, fortitude and, most of all, sensible restraint. We must, however, be totally honest with ourselves and use this incident in May Pen as an opportunity to get additional international assistance to fight crime. Our security personnel need further and urgent training and equipping, especially of the high-tech nature.

The best deterrent to crime is the certainty of being caught. It is widely known in our country that if you commit a crime you have more than a damn good chance to get away scot-free. It is not rocket science, therefore, that our crime rate is one of the highest in the world.

The Israelis and the French have some of the best-trained and sophisticated security teams in the world. I think we need to seek their assistance with the further upgrading of our security personnel. Israel's Sayeret Matkal, for example, is one of the world's most elite units. Its chief purpose is intelligence gathering. The Sayeret Matkal's proven expertise in hostage-type situations is legendary. Only their best of the best become a part of this group. I feel we could learn a lot from them.

I believe France's National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, or GIGN, could also help us to significantly strengthen our security responses to criminal attacks, especially like the one that took place in May Pen. Among other things, the GIGN is respected globally for their advanced skills in hostage situations. Credible reports are that the GIGN has freed more than 600 people since it was formed in 1973.

I know immediately some are going to say, but these are counterterrorism units. Yes, they are. And I know the definition of terrorism. What is to stop criminal elements, such as we saw in May Pen, from festering into sores of a terrorist variety? One does not need to be a criminal expert to figure out that if you give criminals an inch they will take a mile. I don't think I am being alarmist here.

It is evident that criminals in Jamaica are stepping up their putrid game. We saw from amature, eyewitness 'coverage' of the May Pen robbery elaborate masks and gloves, as well as high-powered weapons that can fire hundreds of rounds in seconds. I don't believe for one moment that what we saw in May Pen is unique to those seven or eight crooks.

The choice before us is straightforward — either we equip our security personnel with the requisite skills and equipment to enable them to be 10 steps ahead of criminal elements, or be prepared to live in a State where life is “nasty, brutish and short”. (Thomas Hobbes)

Security of citizens and property is the primary purpose of the State. This is a constantly evolving activity. A State which cannot adapt fast enough to honour this primary function creates a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Winter on Peter Phillips's presidential perch

Recall a little over a year ago I wrote, inter alia: “The birds also tweet that there are loud whispers in the upper echelons of the PNP for younger leadership at the helm of Norman Manley's party. The birds sing that September 2019 will be a September to remember for Dr Phillips.” ( Jamaica Observer, March 25, 2018)

Approaching his 70th birthday, time is not on Peter Phillips's side.

Now this headline: 'Phillips, Bunting hold high-level meeting amid mounting speculation of leadership challenge'. ( Nationwide News, May, 27, 2019)

The story said, among other things: “ Nationwide News understands that a high-level meeting was convened today between PNP [People's National Party] President Dr Peter Phillips and Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting.

“They met this morning amid growing speculation in the PNP that Bunting is getting ready to challenge Dr Phillips this year for the presidency of the 80-year old party.

“Allies of Dr Phillips told our news centre on the weekend that Dr Phillips intended to use the meeting today to offer Bunting the role of campaign director for the next general election, which are constitutionally due in 2021.

“The Phillips supporters say if Bunting declined the role of campaign director, Dr Phillips could advise the next meeting of the party's powerful National Executive Council (NEC) that he's in a battle for the leadership of the party.

“The supporters of Dr Phillips say Bunting was already offered the role of campaign director by PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson, but he declined.

“When asked whether that's true, both Robinson and Bunting declined to comment.

“The PNP general secretary told our news centre that the party has not yet finalised the post of campaign director.”

What was the outcome of the meeting between Peter Bunting and his party leader?

Loop Jamaica, on May 28, 2019, had this banner headline: 'Bunting rejects Phillips's offer, sets stage for challenge – sources'.

The story said, among other things: “Opposition leader and president of the People's National Party (PNP) Dr Peter Phillips must be well aware of the phrase 'uneasy lies the head that wears a crown' as it becomes increasingly clear that he will be challenged for the leadership of the 80-year-old party.

“That challenge could come as early as September from Central Manchester Member of Parliament Peter Bunting when the Opposition party holds its annual conference, unless Bunting is persuaded to change his mind, according to Loop News sources.

“Bunting, who first entered the House of Representatives in 1993 when he defeated former prime minister and JLP stalwart Hugh Shearer in the battle for the South East Clarendon seat, reportedly flatly refused an offer at a compromise during a high-level meeting with Phillips on Monday.

“According to our sources, Bunting, a former minister of national security who is currently the Opposition spokesman on industry, commerce and competitiveness, brushed aside an offer to be Phillips's campaign director for the next general election. That election, which could determine whether the PNP returns to Jamaica House or remains in Opposition for an extended period, is constitutionally due in 2021.”

The birds, those ubiquitous and reliable Black-Bellied Plovers, Bananaquits and John Chewits are singing:

“July, July, July, July

Oh me, oh me, oh me, oh my

July, July, July, July

Oh me, oh me, oh me, oh my”

Those are lines from a song by the great American R&B legend Billy Paul.

Recall, in this newspaper on February 24, 2019, I wrote that the birds were again chirping that winter would soon descend on the presidential perch of Dr Peter Phillips.

Some weeks ago I also wrote, among other things: “The coming days and weeks will be interesting, the birds sing. The birds also warbled... long-ago-declared aspirants for the top job in the PNP are courting so-called super delegates, making overtures to party elders, and assessing the strength of their troops in readiness to challenge Dr Phillips for the presidency this year.” ( Jamaica Observer, April 14, 2019)

More anon!

Needed: Ministry of Rural Development

On February 27, 2016 I wrote in this newspaper that the incoming Jamaica Labour Party Administration should set up a Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Rural Development. I have not recoiled from that view.

I grew up in deep-rural St Mary. I love rural Jamaica. I am pretty familiar with many of the nooks and crannies of Jamaica. I can say, with assured confidence, that the majority of our deep-rural towns and districts have been left largely underdeveloped for donkey's years. Some have been ignored, as a matter of fact.

In the last several months I had reason to visit parts of deep-rural St Thomas, St Ann, Trelawny, and St Elizabeth. When I add certain data I had already collected in Portland and St Mary, I believe my call for a Ministry of Rural Development is that more urgent.

I remember during the by-election in Portland Eastern it was a significant challenge to consistently and efficiently make telephone calls and access various data services there. This is not something unique to Portland Eastern. Improving cellular and broadband connections in rural towns and districts is urgent.

Compared to the major commercial centres, cellular and broadband services move at the speed of molasses on a snail's back in many of our rural towns and districts. This cannot continue.

In many rural towns and districts a formal connecting bus service has not existed for near 30 years. With factors such as these being the reality of many, there are direct implications for internal migration to urban centres, where existing infrastructure is already under significant pressure.

Not everyone wants to live in Kingston, Montego Bay, or Mandeville. I, for one, would gladly relocate to deep-rural St Mary were it not for the lack of certain critical services there.

A national development plan for rural Jamaica that has specific timelines for implementation and matching resources is needed urgently. I believe such a plan should focus on these and other areas:

* dedicated incentives for the setting up of businesses in rural districts and towns;

* improvements in housing stocks;

* social isolation-mitigation strategies;

* increased training opportunities for folks working in agriculture and other industries; and

* high-speed broadband and cellular services.

These are things that we must do. I think we can.

I will say more on this important matter in a future piece.

Standing my ground

Two Sundays ago I wrote here, among other things: “Should we begin to focus, however, on the protection and education of women and girls without or with little reference to the protection and education of men and boys? I say no!”

My point was an obvious one. I was simply calling for equity [fairness in all situations] in the protection and education of men and women in our public discourse, policy crafting, and implementation.

I was inundated with responses. Some readers accused me of sexism and all sorts of isms and schisms, much of which, I must confess, I have never even heard about before.

And then it got something like this:

A reader, who clearly misconstrued what I wrote, sent me an e-mail which said among other things: “I do not need a man in my life to be a father to my son. I can do that myself.” Unwittingly, she had in fact showcased a kind of thinking which supports why equity is needed.

For me, whether she needs a man in her life is a separate matter from her child needing a father. No, I don't agree that a mother can father a child or vice versa. Credible research has shown that fathers are critical in the home and play an invaluable role in the wholesome upbringing of children. Where fathers are absent from the home children do worse in some 80 key development areas.

I might get more backlash for these sincere comments, but so be it.

A few e-mail told me at length how men were oppressors. And some enunciated what they said was the structural unfairness of the judicial system against men. And, of course, there were many others. Let's keep the discussion going.

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!


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