At his wits’ end because of violent crime in St James and wider Jamaica, minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister Mr Homer Davis has raised eyebrows by urging a meeting between criminal gangsters and police as part of the push for solutions.
And in Kingston, on Wednesday, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Mr Daryl Vaz likened dangerous behaviour on the roads — which has largely contributed to Jamaica’s high death rate among motorists and pedestrians — to violent crime.
Some may struggle to see the logic of Mr Vaz’s reasoning. But, in fact, we believe the source of the problem triggering Mr Davis’s anguished ‘shout out’ and Mr Vaz’s assertion is one and the same. That, we suggest, is a pervasive culture of lawlessness that must be reversed if Jamaica is to sustainably progress.
Says Mr Vaz: “We [road users] are in a similar crisis to what is happening with the murder rate with weapons and guns. When one drives and goes about his law-abiding day’s routine, from morning till evening, and is obeying all road traffic signs, and if you stop at a stop light, you see motorcyclist with no licence plate, some of them stopping briefly, some of them not stopping at all. I don’t want to just limit to only motorcyclist or taxis, I call [them] rogue motorists.
“As one who most times drive himself, I see it, and it irks me, because I realise that without law and order and discipline we are no longer a civil society, and we need to treat this in parallel to what we are doing and all that we are implementing to fight the monster of crime.”
All of us who walk, ride, or drive know exactly what Mr Vaz is talking about.
Statistics from the Road Safety Unit up to Wednesday showed 212 people had been killed in 187 accidents on Jamaican roads since the start of 2022. That means the country is again at risk of exceeding 400 fatalities, as was the case last year when there were 484.
A big challenge is that it is hard to take authority figures seriously when a new Road Traffic Act passed by Parliament in 2018 — promoted as a game changer for road users — still can’t be implemented because of delays in the passage of supporting regulations.
We know not whether to celebrate or cry at news that road traffic regulations which were tabled by Transport Minister Mr Audley Shaw in February, but which have been sitting idle for months, have now been withdrawn and replaced by a new set.
As we understand it, the expectation now is that debate will take place in short order, that the regulations will be passed, and the new law implemented by September.
We note the persistent cautionary word from Government — including Prime Minister Andrew Holness — that alongside the new Road Traffic Act there will be strong, effective enforcement.
We wonder, because as it is now there are laws which forbid speeding, reckless driving, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, et al, which are ignored as a matter of course by many road users. To make matters worse, reports suggest the current ticketing system is not working well.
Like Messrs Davis and Vaz, Jamaicans anxiously await law and order.