JUNCTION, St Elizabeth — Opposition spokesman on national security Senator Peter Bunting is insisting that the Government apologise to Jamaicans for allegedly misleading the country before seeking political consensus on crime.
Bunting's call at the St Elizabeth South Eastern People's National Party (PNP) constituency conference in Junction on Sunday followed Prime Minister Andrew Holness's appeal last Thursday for the Opposition's support in tackling crime.
"The PNP is a party that will always do anything that will positively impact on the safety and security of Jamaicans, so we are not going to say no, but before reconciliation and before forgiveness must come repentance. Come to the country and apologise… then we can talk about finding consensus and moving forward," Bunting said.
He pointed to statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) up to August 13, which showed 934 murders recorded since the start of this year.
"At this pace we will have probably over 1,500 Jamaicans murdered by year end. Let me put that in context. The worst year under the PNP was 1,200 murders. At that time, when it was less than 1,200, Andrew Holness was campaigning from Negril to Morant Point promising the people of Jamaica that if you only elected him you could sleep with your windows and your doors open," said Bunting.
"So this is not an incidental failure of this Government. This was the central plank of their campaign, and every single year we have had hundreds more murders than the worst year under the PNP," he added.
Bunting pointed to rising crime statistics in St Elizabeth.
"Murder up 44 per cent, shootings up 162 per cent, robbery up 208 per cent. Now, in this context, a couple months ago the prime minister was in St Elizabeth expressing surprise that there were gangs and organised crime in St Elizabeth. What country is he living in?" asked Bunting.
He criticised the Government for not continuing Unite for Change, an anti-crime initiative launched in December 2013 by the national security ministry when the PNP formed the Government. The campaign had sought to empower "each citizen to take back Jamaica from the clutches of criminal elements".
Said Bunting: "Last Thursday I was representing the [PNP] leader [Mark Golding] at a function at Jamaica House — the National Commission on Violence Prevention. Suddenly the prime minister, three, four, five times in his presentation is talking about that we really need to find a space for consensus, 'Isn't that true, Peter?' he keeps saying to me, 'Isn't that true?', so you know I'm looking at him and I am saying to myself, is this the same man when we launched the Unite for Change and we said crime is whole of society problem, and we must come together, him said him nuh inna that, 'people elect a Government fi solve crime'."
"Six years after being elected now him a look space fi consensus. When we said beg yuh, keep Unite for Change, it is an important programme… It is about investing in [young people with] better schools, housing, social programmes, garbage collection, infrastructure, dem seh no, dem nuh inna that. Dem a build up the military and send more soldiers inna ballistic vest with M16, declare state of emergency after state of emergency," said Bunting.
He said the Government is out of ideas in tackling crime.
"When we went to them, Dr Peter Phillips, with an opinion from an eminent Queen's Counsel that said the use of states of emergency in this way is unconstitutional, Andrew never waan nuh space for consensus that time, him seh tek weh yuhself, more state of emergency," said Bunting.
"When finally the PNP's position, standing for the rights of people, was vindicated by the courts in the country; finally when they [Government] are completely out of ideas; finally, when 93 per cent of the people of this country — which must include a whole heap a Labourite too — seh dem have no confidence in the Government to solve crime, now dem looking space for consensus," he added.