A ministry of peace and human development?
OUR tendency in this space to not get overly excited by promises, especially coming from politicians, is well documented — not because of cynicism, but rather the long history of promises which too often prove to be a comfort to a fool.
When the promise emanates from the heady, intoxicating atmosphere of a political platform it’s always a signal not to take it too seriously.
Yet, we have to acknowledge a cautious sense of hope in the announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness at his Jamaica Labour Party Annual Conference on Sunday that his Administration is contemplating the creation of a new ministry of peace and human development to tackle violence.
Justifying the concept of such a ministry, Mr Holness declared: “Jamaica is not a country at war, but our homicide rate, our deaths due to violence equates countries that are at war. What it means is that Jamaica is in conflict.
“We are in conflict with ourselves, we are in conflict with our neighbour, our family, our intimate partner, our employer, workers, teachers, students, and we’re in conflict — citizen and State. We cannot continue to be a society in conflict with ourselves.”
Violence, he said, was at an intolerable level and was changing the character and nature of the Jamaican people, reducing the quality of their lives and making them aggressive toward each other.
He correctly pointed out that violence comes at a great economic cost and that a reduction in violence would lead to a lower health-care bill, a reduction in the country’s policing and security needs, while increasing citizens’ creativity and social well-being.
The prime minister said his Administration had commissioned a study on such a ministry, the centrepiece of which would apparently be a reorganising of the government apparatus to bring all the agencies that deal with families, communities, social development, parenting, and the like under one ministry.
Admittedly, we are not enamoured by the idea of yet another study which the prime minister said should be ready by the end of this year. Over the years since Independence in 1962 the problem of violence has been studied to death (no pun intended), with many reports gathering dust on disparate shelves.
But the idea itself has some real possibilities if a way can be found to keep it out of the partisan political agenda. Tribal politics breeds violence, so it would be foolish to think that a ministry to control violence could work.
The best hope for such a ministry being effective is the extent to which it mobilises our people to fight violence as one, and not the way it is being done now with the political parties uselessly playing at one-upmanship.
We suggest to Mr Holness that provision be made to have a junior minister in the proposed ministry of peace and human development from the Opposition to ensure that it operates as a non-partisan body.
Another important point to be made is that, even though the prime minister did not mention crime as part of the focus of that ministry, there is no likelihood of success in controlling violence by treating them as separate issues. It’s a clear case of which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
We look forward to hearing about the result of the study. Hopefully it shows a deep understanding of the problem and does not turn out to be just another money spender.