There are certain strategies people in power or those responsible for the well-being of others employ. These strategies are echoed in every sphere of society as they simply make it way easier for us to perform our duties as elected or assumed leaders.
One of the most important duties we have is to reassure those to whom we are responsible and preserve the aura of hope. In doing so, we often employ the strategy of putting on a brave face; acting as though everything is under control when really the opposite is true.
However, the mentioned strategy is recommended as a stall tactic while we hammer out solutions. Surely, there is a time frame that varies with each institution but there is a point at which our duty is to be openly transparent about the state of affairs. This construct completely loses its value when all we are doing is putting on a brave face. At what point do we acknowledge the state of crime and violence in the country and admit that we have no idea how to employ anything beyond band aid solutions?
According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), as of August 14, 2022, Jamaica had seen a three per cent rise in murders since May of this year. The JCF is in the process of preparing another statistical report and I can stake everything I own on yet another crime increase. At this rate, the report might as well read "More crime than last time." Let it be known that this is no indictment on our police officers and other sworn protectors as I applaud their efforts under the circumstances.
I am a father and a businessman before a politician, so assured security has and will always be a point of concern for me. Thankfully, the Lord has blessed me well enough so I am able to insulate my children from certain ills and injustices. However, being the minister of security is an entirely different league of responsibility. An administration cannot proclaim to hold its ministers accountable and then proceed to completely ignore the failings of Dr Chang. Unfortunately, I have had to "call name" (as our people would say) but such is the task of holding each other accountable.
Dr Chang simply does not have the answers to our ever-increasing crime rate and neither do I. What I do know, is the "brave face" tactic has lost its potency as it has been on display for too long. There is no shame in admitting that we need help as some tasks are simply bigger than us. Identifying or classifying the problem is the first step of problem-solving. What comes next is identifying possible solutions. I am sure our Minister of security has at least got to this point but the JCF's statistical reports dictate that our minister requires assistance in either identifying further solutions or implementing the good ones.
History teaches us that wherever a society is faced with a seemingly insurmountable task, there is usually a mass gathering of sorts. The key attendants are usually pillars of the society that represent sectors or subcultures of said society. Perhaps a mass assembly of this nature could serve us just as well as they served our forefathers. I propose that we extend invites to some university professors, the PSOJ, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), representatives of the security forces, the education ministry, Church groups, the Opposition and some members of the general public. We all need to sit in one room and formulate a plan. It does not make sense for a problem of this magnitude that impacts every citizen to be tackled by a single sector of an administration. We have tried that and I need not remind you of the definition of insanity.
I have never felt more unsafe as a citizen of this nation. I say this as a successful businessman who has access to resources to protect myself somewhat, so I know this has to be the sentiment of anyone even remotely less fortunate. Women, children, business owners, police, politicians, grandparents, tourists… nobody is safe; at least not according to any crime statistic that features Jamaica. We need to do something else — a brave face will only get us so far and no more.
Hugh Graham is CEO of Paramount Trading Company Ltd, and Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Western.