Bunting slaps Government over handling of crime
Singling out the high incidences of murders in the country as an indication of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)-led Government’s poor stewardship of the country, Opposition Senator Peter Bunting lambasted the Administration for what he deemed a “bankruptcy of ideas”.
During his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Thursday, Bunting ripped into the JLP Administration’s handling of the crime portfolio, again criticising the excessive use of states of public emergency (SOEs) to deal with the high crime rate, while boasting of his previous Government’s better control of Jamaica’s number one scourge.
Bunting said that while over the last few months, going back to about August, the Government and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have been celebrating the reduction in murders relative to last year where presently, it is down to eight per cent, “but even when you’ve been heralding that…the public has reacted with confusion and disbelief as the daily media stories reporting murders, double murders, triple and quadruple murders and shootings, don’t seem to accord with the statement coming from the Government and the JCF”.
He said that the same week the leadership of Government and JCF were “touting the supposed success of SOEs initially imposed in November and a declaration of five additional SOEs, their self-congratulatory indulgence was short-lived as at least 21 murders took place in the next three to four days, most of them in those SOE parishes.”
“The incidences of violence coming to public attention intensified thereafter, including the heartbreaking murder of a second-form student of Anchovy High School, Randy James, this was after the declaration in the SOE parish, fatally shot while seeking shelter during a downpour; the murder of well-known businessman William “Baba Roots” Webb at this home in Darliston in the SOE parish after the declaration; the double murder of the Thompson brothers, 18 and 20 years old in Farm View, Green Pond, St James, SOE parish.”
Bunting also mentioned the double murder of the two Moody siblings in Westmoreland and the bodies being filmed being buried in a shallow grave.
“Now, imagine the impunity with which criminals feel they can operate to be filming the burial after the murder in an SOE parish…And just this morning, I read that the bursar of Hopewell High murdered in the SOE parish of Hanover on the school compound in broad daylight,” he said, adding that Jamaicans have also become accustomed to the attacks on Beryllium vehicles by multiple armed thugs.
These incidents, he argued, “highlight an Administration bankrupt of ideas that continue to rely solely on ineffective emergency measures. These measures will not curb the deeply rooted issues of crime and violence”.
Touting his Administration’s handle on the crime situation, Bunting came armed with a chart showing a comparative analysis of the average murders under each Administration over a 16-year period.
He pointed out that the average number of murders under the PNP between 2012 and 2016 was 1,129, which he said was still too high, “but we were tackling the issue from multiple directions and achieved by the way, the lowest average for any four-year period in the last two decades.
“Now calculate the average for the almost eight years the JLP has been in office – 2016 through 2023, and you’ll get an average annual figure of 1,416…on average about 300 more murdered each year under this JLP administration than during the previous PNP Administration.
“This is a whopping 25 per cent increase in the annual murder rate between the two periods. That means more than 2,300 Jamaicans additionally have been murdered over the last eight years than if the JLP Administration had just maintained…not improved the average”, he said.
Bunting said that while he takes no joy in pointing this out to the public, “we cannot talk about good governance, we cannot talk about accountability yet hide the Holness Administration’s abject failure at fighting violent crime.
“The Opposition PNP cannot be complicit in manufacturing the consent of the people against their own interests. We owe it not just to the memory of the thousands murdered but to the tens of thousands of grieving relatives and friends to the terrified communities, to the environment of fear that cause people to ‘tek weh’ themselves if they see an armoured cash delivery in their vicinity,” he said.
The senator said that inevitably, when the Opposition is asked what they would do differently, he said he would start by pointing to the 2012 to 2016 period that resulted in fewer murders even though the ministry had a fraction of the financial resources and manpower that is there now.
“The major difference…is that we recognise that crime prevention efforts, and social investments were as important or even more important long-term than just crime control or suppression efforts. That’s why we developed the Unite for Change initiative for example,” he said.
He lamented, however, that that the JLP Administration abandoned the Unite for Change programme, defunded the Peace Management Initiative, phased out the Citizen Security and Justice Programme — and every crime prevention initiative was abandoned and all the Ministry of National Security resources were redirected “to the failed policy of the militarisation of policing and to the serial and routine use of states of public emergency.”