KINGSTON, Jamaica— The embattled Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang who many observers and political watchers thought would have lost his place in the Cabinet has the full support of Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
The prime minister said as much during a Sunday morning media briefing at Jamaica House where he announced a seventh Zone of Special Operation, this time for the violence-plagued area of south Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland.
His declared confidence in his security minister is despite murders topping the 1,400-mark in 2021, a 10 per cent increase when compared to 2020, and the fact that Jamaica remains stubbornly among the top five most murderous countries on earth with a murder rate of more than 46 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Chang's position is not helped by the fact that more than 40 murders were committed in the first two weeks of the new year. Among the victims have been several children, including last week's brutal slaying of a nine- year-old boy who was found inside his mother's motor vehicle with his throat slashed, shortly after she claimed that she was forced from the car by armed men as she slowed to negotiate potholes.
Asked if he retained Chang as a member of the executive based on performance or whether partisan political considerations may have helped to determine his decision Holness said “There was no partisan or political consideration”.
The prime minister outlined that he asked Chang, who is also the deputy prime minister, to take over the tough national security portfolio before the 2020 general election.
“It is the most difficult portfolio in the country. It requires a long term commitment to the plans that we have in place and we're not going to change the current situation through a flip of a switch. The problems are deep rooted and they require significant structural, institutional, cultural and resource reform,” Holness argued.
He argued further that such reforms take time, “particularly the legislative, particularly the policy and the structure”. He said the current police force is far more intelligence-based than at any time in the country's history.
“What you're seeing now is a direction of resources into our security apparatus that gives us domain control on land and at sea to the point where if you believe you're going to enter Jamaica illegally and stay here, you have another thing coming,” the prime minister declared.
He said Jamaica has now demonstrated the ability to both interdict boats with guns coming in from other jurisdictions “and we have demonstrated the capability to interdict fugitives from other jurisdictions”.
“This is the beginning of the transformation of the security forces into security forces that can be compared to security forces worldwide of the highest standard. It will take time,” Holness added.
“It therefore means that I cannot at this point, unduly interrupt the plans laid and the institutional knowledge that has been gained, which minister Chang has, being at the helm of the ministry of national security.
“I have full confidence in minister Chang, in his knowledge, in his competence and in his heart which is to ensure that every single Jamaican is safe,” said Holness.
But, despite his reassurance, one prominent clergyman is not buying it. On Saturday, presiding Bishop of the Christian Holiness Church in Jamaica, Dr Alvin Bailey, ripped into the prime minister's decision to retain Chang in the cabinet after last week's reshuffle.
According to Bailey, Chang should show “moral rectitude” and resign immediately.
In a statement, the bishop stated that if Chang refuses to resign, the prime minister should relieve him of his duties in the interest of the safety and security of the Jamaican people.
Bailey said he was concerned by the minister's inability to show the nation that there is a plan to bring back law and order in the country.
“Under Dr Chang's watch, crime and violence islandwide has reached alarming proportions and shows no sign of abatement. The violent, frightening and brutal nature of the killings reflect wanton disregard for law, order and the efforts of his administration. So, he must take responsibility for the ineffectiveness and incompetence of his leadership,” Bailey declared.
“It is clear that Jamaicans have lost confidence in the minister of national security. It is also clear that he is unable to earn the support and confidence of Jamaicans in the fight against crime, which is an important component. This makes the reshuffle of the Cabinet a sham, as Jamaicans were expecting the prime minister to announce a new minister of national security,” Bailey added.
Continuing, he said “With the current minister remaining in the post, the prime minister has made a mockery of the process of a Cabinet reshuffle, made worse with the announcement of a new ministry”.
The clergyman, who is also Vice-President of the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance, also questioned the competence of Police Commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson, who he said holds the position of “technical director and chief strategist” for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
“Where is his strategy to cauterise crime? While the nation waits, there is unrest and demotivation among the rank-and-file of the JCF on the matter of promotions and emoluments, but the only talk is about the need for more resources for the JCF to be effective. What is the plan to apprehend the ever growing number of criminals who have taken over our country? Have those in authority run out of ideas to bring back peace to this nation? In fact, while the commissioner remains quiet, Jamaica burns!” Bailey stated.