SOEs and the Opposition: Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all
Members of the security forces on patrol during a state of emergency (Photos: Joseph Wellington)

The Government has once again resorted to states of public emergency (SOE) as its preferred tool to bring down the frightful rate of murders — expected to spike in the Yuletide season.

It seems clear that the Administration has little to nothing else in its anti-crime arsenal, given that it still has to reach for SOEs in seven parishes, despite a court ruling that they were breaching the constitutional rights of detainees.

When the Opposition successfully brought that action in the court, it argued that the Government must find more effective means of fighting crime that avoided taking away the rights of detainees, most of them poor people.

We in this space have not embraced SOEs as a routine crime-fighting measure because its extraordinary powers were never meant for normal policing, and it lets the authorities off the hook where doing the hard work to bring crime under control is concerned.

At the same time, we can never agree with the Opposition in its position which suggests that SOEs should not be used, despite the continuing rise in murders, each more brutal than the previous and which has kept this country on the edge.

The Opposition, having been Government before and having also failed to staunch the flow of blood from murders, knows very well that the crime monster is dreadfully difficult to tame. It knows, too, that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.

So, while we wait as a country to find the perfect solution, the Government must utilise all means at its disposal to put the gunmen on the run and calm the frayed nerves of the citizenry, especially as we enter the Christmas holidays.

It seems to us that, if the Government were smart, it would negotiate with the Opposition about declaring an SOE before making a public announcement. If having done so the Opposition refused to get on board, then let the public know. That way no one could accuse the Government of "political theatre", as Mr Peter Bunting has done.

Still, we hope that the Opposition will throw its support behind SOEs in St Catherine, Clarendon, Kingston, sections of St Andrew, St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland, because one innocent life taken is one too life many.

Having said all that, we must continue to urge the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) to bury the partisan political axe and jointly lead the attack on crime and violence.

Neither party has been able to find the solution after years of trial and effort, new police squads, joint police and army initiatives, gun amnesties, resorting to commissioners of police from the military, and the like.

The one thing they have yet to do is to unite the country to fight crime as one. We'll never have enough security personnel to throw at the crime problem. It is the Jamaican people in their communities who can arm the police with quick and accurate information about criminal activities that will make the difference.

But, as we have seen, the fear of retaliation from criminals has paralysed the populace. Seeing the PNP and the JLP working together in earnest will galvanise Jamaicans against the relentless murderers.

That is the Christmas gift we need.

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