Crime consensus — A distant hope but a dream that must not fail!
CMOC Chairman Lloyd Distant Jr

Jamaica is fortunate for having someone of the mettle of Mr Lloyd Distant Jr who is, no doubt, cut from the cloth of his outstanding father who served the country well in several sectors — commercial and voluntary.

We can't help but notice that Mr Distant, an accomplished sales leader and business executive with a strong finance and technology background, has a propensity for taking on tough assignments and succeeding.

However, the one notable exception to his history of victories, both domestically and internationally, we think, is his campaign to reduce the burden of personal income tax as a way of spurring growth in the Jamaican economy.

On his election four years ago next month as president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, he vowed to target income tax, passionately declaring: "We have heard the cries for the abolition of income tax — viewed by many as being an idealistic endgame. The chamber, while maintaining abolition as the ultimate objective, has distilled its more immediate demands to reducing reliance on income tax as the primary source of public funding by placing greater reliance on indirect taxation."

Of course, we know that that idealistic endgame remains just that today and will most likely be so for the foreseeable future. No Jamaican Government will have the economic foresight or the political guts to take the bull by the horns.

Fortunately, Mr Distant's failure in that regard has not caused him to surrender his fighting spirit. His next big project was the achievement of a national consensus on crime, whose futility might just be deeper than the income tax dream.

Mr Distant is chairman of the Crime Monitoring Oversight Committee (CMOC) which came about after hard campaigning by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and a group of civil society organisations.

On the rising tide of blood and mayhem resulting from the relentless murder of Jamaicans, the groups dragged the politicians kicking and screaming into a national consensus around certain deliverables in August 2020.

One important stipulation of the consensus addressed the use of the military, tribunals, detentions, and certain governance procedures, among other tools which allowed for the declaration of a state of public emergency (SOE) once the murder rate was above 32 per 100,000.

The politicians were able to remain supportive, at least verbally, of the CMOC up to December 2021, always waiting for an opportunity to drop out.

That opportunity came in January 2022 when the question of the use of SOEs came to the fore. The fight over the SOE escalated up to the Supreme Court and forced the Government to reduce its reliance on that measure as a major crime-fighting tool. The Government felt it had been let down by the Opposition. And that was that.

Mr Distant and his team, on August 26, 2022, spoke out against the lack of success of the crime consensus, calling for political will and maturity to make it work. As we have done in this space, he urged the politicians to get behind closed doors and hammer out a pact upon which they can go forward.

A working consensus will remain a distant dream (pun intended). But as long as Mr Distant's enthusiasm and belief do not wane, there is hope. He cannot, nay, he must not fail.

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