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Why is the PNP still playing around?

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, September 03, 2017

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The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts. — John Locke

In 1976 there was the Echo Squad. Then in 1980 there was the Ranger Squad. Like Nicodemus, the Eradication Squad came upon us in 1981. In 1986 the Area Four Task Force sprang out at us like a jack in the box. In 1992 there was the much-talked-about Operations Ardent. In 1993 there was the Special Anti-Crime Task Force, which is still the subject of verandah talk in some rustic and urban communities. In 1995 there was Operation Crest. In 1997, there was Operation Dovetail. The Organized Crime Unit surfaced in 1998. In 1999 there was Operation Intrepid, some say 'Insipid'. The Crime Management Unit, most famously associated with retired Senior Superintendent Reneto Adams burst on the streets like a storm in 2000...still others came and went.

A common denominator of all these state squads was that they were all knee-jerk reactions to massive increases in serious crime, in particular murder. They were rapidly assembled, dispatched, and then more often than not rapidly disassembled. These ad hoc state squads, by virtue of their modus operandi, also deepened distrust, especially among the youth in the security forces, in particular the police. In the midst of these realities the 'informer fi dead' culture was effectively placed on steroids.

The bamboo fire approach to dealing with our periodic upsurges in heinous crimes has not worked after many decades. Recall the genesis of the Gun Court?

“The name Leo Henry was already well known in Kingston and Jamaica long before two hapless gunmen opened fire on the popular businessman on a busy city street in broad daylight.

“The name would be further cemented in memory when, after his murder, then Prime Minister Michael Manley hurried the construction of a Gun Court to try persons accused of shooting crimes, painting it red 'so that it would look dread' and prescribing 'indefinite detention'.

“As the wounded Henry lay sprawled on the street, the life slowly ebbing from his body, the gunmen snatched his briefcase and revolver and made their escape.

“That was Kingston in March 1974, a city in the grips of 'an upsurge of violence', in the words of then Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Chester Orr, QC (later senior puisne judge, now retired).

“Orr was opening the case for the prosecution in the murder trial of the two men charged with the death of the 40-year-old Henry, who was managing director of Modern Furnishing Company Ltd, situated at Slipe Road in Kingston, opposite the now defunct Tropical Theatre.

“The two accused were Noel Riley, 20-year-old labourer of 2a Union Street, Mandeville, Manchester, and 19-year-old Anthony Forbes, cabinet maker of 6 Piccadilly Lane, Kingston 12.” ( Sunday Observer, February 17, 2013)

Recall also the Suppression of Crime Act that was put in place in 1974. Sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon Peter Espeut, in one of his many insightful articles, made this observation in relation to the dreaded Suppression of Crime Act:

“It placed extraordinary powers into the hands of the police to stop, search and detain, and led to the erosion, and abuse, of the human rights of many poor Jamaicans. The Suppression of Crime Act did not lead to the suppression of crime, and had to be repealed.” ( The Gleaner, February 17, 2017) This act was repealed after 20 years.

Albert Einstein said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity. The People's National Party does not seem to understand this simple rule.

Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Dr Peter Phillips, last Tuesday, trumpeted at a press conference at the headquarters of the People's National Party (PNP), for the provisions of the zones of special operations Axt to be implemented right away. I am not surprised. Recall when Phillips was minister of national security he told the country we needed, “severe, extreme and resolute measures” to fight crime. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the late British poet famously said, “Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within.”

Did Phillips's knee-jerk measures work? No! I believe Phillips was an abysmal failure as minister of national security:

“In 2002 the murder rate moved to 40 per 100,000, and by 2005 it had risen to 64 per 100,000 population, placing Jamaica among nations with the highest murder rates in the world.” [Jamaica Constabulary Force: Police Crime Statistics] On Phillips' watch, murders peaked at 1,674 in 2005. [JCF statistics]

Dr Phillips's record of reducing crime is spotty at best. The fact that he did not score many runs while he was Minister of national security is a matter of public record. An article in this newspaper on August 28, 2005 noted the following comparisons between Phillips and K D Knight, who also served as security minister: “KD Knight can boast 40 or more pieces of legislation to strengthen crime policy, new and better vehicles for the police force, new policy direction for the police and a revitalised victim support programme, among other performance indicators. Phillips can make no such claim.”

The Gleaner of August 29, 2017 said, among other things: “Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips says he will be recommending solutions to address Jamaica's crime problem when he hosts a press conference this afternoon.” Dr Phillips's recommendations were mere regurgitations.

I believe the Andrew Holness Administration is correct in its conscientious approach with regard to the implementation of the zones of special operations Act. It is critical that all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted for the protection of citizens' rights. We simply cannot continue to create communities of Jamaicans who see the state as the enemy — with Hobson's Choice of kill or be killed. James Baldwin American novelist argued that, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” I agree.

Phillips never truly supported the zones of special operations, as we say in local parlance, from 'mawnin' [the outset or beginning]. He termed the laws as “oppressive” some weeks ago. At a PNP meeting in Falmouth, Trelawny, a few days go, he repeated similar sentiments:

“The Parliament never get any opportunity to consider it. We were told that it had one day to sit. Them sit one day, then bring the report the next day. When we were asking for more time they said no, it must be done now, it's urgent. The Senate got one day. They had to sit from morning 10 o'clock to bout 10 o'clock the night to consider it because we were told that is the most urgent bit of legislation,” Dr Phillips remarked.” ( Jamaica Observer, August 28, 2017)

Is it that Phillips is really afraid that the zones of special operations are going to be so effective that he left without a platform to inveigh against the Administration? Is Dr Phillips simply applying the strategy of what some political scientist term a 'coward's advantage'? The green-eyed monster which took hold of Phillips prior and during the last general election, seem to be reasserting itself.

Helicopter choice

The birds, those ubiquitous and reliable Black-bellied Plovers, Banana Quits, and John Chewits, are singing that significant numbers of PNP supporters in St Mary South Eastern are upset with the helicopter choice of Dr Shane Alexis, former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association. They chirp that the late Dr Winston Green spent many months 'grounding' with constituents before he was elevated. The birds shriek that if the PNP are to have a glimmer of a chance they will need to reconsider the choice of Dr Alexis. They tweet that since special arrangements were made to facilitate Angela Brown Burke in St Andrew South Western, a similar facilitation should be extended to St Mary South Eastern. The birds sing, that Floyd Morris; Imani Duncan-Price; Raymond Pryce; and Seya Wilson, daughter of former education minister, Maxine Henry-Wilson, were all identified as possible candidates and were approached by different high-ranking members of the party on the matter. The birds sing, that all flatly, declined. However, two are quite interested in St James Southern. The sitting Member of Parliament is Derrick Kellier. More anon!

More egg on Peter Bunting's face

Peter Bunting needs to tell the country who was the minister of national security when these shenanigans were taking place at the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA).

Documents seen by the Jamaica Observer confirm that in 2014 when the reputed thug applied for the gun licence, the then FLA board was advised that in May 2012 he was convicted in the United States of fraud and sentenced to 17 months' imprisonment, then deported to Jamaica in September 2013.

A report from the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) also advised the FLA that the convict is suspected to be involved in gang activity in crime-ridden areas in the old capital. In November 2014 the FLA board wrote the applicant and indicated to him that his request to be issued a firearm licence has been denied because he is “not considered a fit and proper person to be armed”.

But in a shocking development which has raised eyebrows in law enforcement circles, the applicant was written to by the FLA and advised on February 12, 2015 that his application has been approved. The letter reversing the initial decision to deny the convict a nine millimetre gun licence was signed by three members of the then FLA board.

Law enforcement sources have confirmed that the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA) probe involves 257 cases which go as far back as the infamous Patrick Powell missing file investigation.

Last Thursday, the Sunday Observer received information that the FLA found out last week that man living in one of Kingston's tough communities was in possession of four handgun licences. He was summoned by the authority and the weapons seized.

The newspaper was also informed that a firearm holder was able to renew his licence in July 2017 while being incarcerated abroad.

“This is an administrative function and facilitated by corrupt employees,” a source close to the FLA said.

It was also disclosed last week that the case of a man who was reportedly granted a gun licence, despite allegedly attempting to mislead the FLA into believing that he lives in Jamaica, is among the cases of gun licences issued under suspicious circumstances between 2012 and 2015 being probed by the police. These details were revealed in a document prepared by the FLA and submitted to MOCA. In this case, the applicant was initially denied a gun licence in 2013 by the then board because investigations showed that he lied about his place of residence.

Official FLA correspondence confirm that the man submitted a letter of appeal to the FLA and claimed he had become a resident of Jamaica and is contracted to a central Jamaica-based company run by a man with political links. The FLA board reversed its decision and issued the man a gun licence.

The case of an applicant who was convicted of lottery scamming and fraud in the United States but was issued a gun licence in 2014 is also being probed by MOCA.

Another case where an applicant who was denied a gun licence on May 15, 2014 because he had been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm but was granted a licence with no expressed explanation for the U-turn is also part of the extensive MOCA probe.

A host of other instances where individuals who were issued with gun licences between 2012 and 2015, despite FLA investigators having raised concern about them being found to be illiterate or having been convicted of violent crimes, are also under investigation.

The revelations of suspect issuing of gun licences during the course of the past six to seven years come following an assertion made by former national security minister Peter Bunting that while he was minister, between 2012 and 2016, the FLA did not issue gun licences to people of questionable character.

Bunting's claim was scoffed at by a law enforcement source connected to Jamaica's international partners who spoke with the Sunday Observer on the weekend and who has knowledge of the MOCA investigation. ( Sunday Observer, August 27, 2017)

All well-thinking Jamaicans should throw their full support behind Shane Dalling, chief executive officer of the FLA.

Bullets cannot be recalled. They cannot be uninvented. But they can be taken out of the gun. — Martin Amis

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

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