CORAL SPRING, Trelawny — Dr Horace Chang has rebuffed a claim by his Opposition counterpart Peter Bunting that the national security ministry’s budgetary allocation to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) strongly dwarfs that of the Jamaica Defence Force’s (JDF).
Addressing the 79th Jamaica Police Federation Conference at Ocean Coral Spring Resort in Trelawny on Tuesday, Bunting accused the ministry of providing the JDF with more than two times the amount allocated to the JCF.
“A budget is a statement of priorities, and when you examine the budget of the Ministry of National Security over the last seven years, what you will see is that the JCF has been treated as the poor cousin of the Ministry of National Security,” Bunting charged.
But the claim was refuted by Chang, who made a virtual address to the conference held under the theme ‘Stronger Together Towards Tomorrow: Conquering the Challenges of Change’.
“The police [force] is not a second cousin of the ministry; it is the primary responsibility of the ministry. We only provide administrative services to the Ministry of Defence,” Dr Chang said.
“There is an unusual reference from time to time to what has been done to the army versus the JCF. It’s two different organisations. They are all Jamaicans and I don’t wish to adopt, which is more colonial, the practice to divide and rule. The army is a much smaller organisation and has a smaller span, has two operation bases — in Up Park Camp and Burke Barracks in Montego Bay — and some training in Moneague,” Dr Chang said.
“The Jamaica Constabulary Force spans the entire country and covers the entire spectrum of law enforcement [with] over 200 facilities in which there are 186 police stations and is the primary symbol of the legal authority of the Government in our communities. That stands out for the police and cannot be changed nor will we make any effort to change that,” Dr Chang explained.
Bunting had provided statistics to support his point that the JDF has been allocated the lion’s share of the recurrent and capital budget of the Ministry of National Security over the period 2014 and 2022.
“Between 2014/15 and 2021/22, the recurrent budget increased from $50 billion to just over $80 billion. Now, let us drill down to the JCF and the JDF. In that time, the JCF’s recurring budget increased by a third, about 33 per cent. The JDF’s recurring budget increased by over 100 per cent, three or four times the percentage increase the JCF had,” said Bunting, who served as national security minister from 2012 to 2016.
“When we look at the capital expenditure side specifically, the JDF’s capital budget peaked at over $12 billion. The JCF has not even gotten half of that. So consistently the JDF gets more than twice the capital allocation that the JCF has... as a result of what I consider an ill-advised and badly skewed expenditure,” Bunting argued.
Dr Chang, however, countered: “We started the capital investment because that’s the easier one. The ministry itself, I can say, you and I know, is public, was not institutionally organised to manage the kind of funding we are putting in there... that’s just the reality. It took a while to get the ministry oriented and organised to be able to put the kind of capital required, and then we were hit by COVID for two years. We are on that road; we are in fact investing heavily in the police force.”
Meanwhile, Bunting raised the issue of the operational differences between police and soldiers.
“The soldiers are neither trained nor equipped to do the work that police officers can do. I have no problem with soldiers being used in support of policing but they cannot be used instead of police. And that is why, for example, we saw those embarrassing episodes in the Denham Town ZOSO. Inexcusable! There is no reason — no matter how provoking the civilian lady may have been — to be kicking an unarmed woman who they alleged was pregnant. There is no justification for using a rifle butt like an axe and hammering people in their head,” Bunting stated.
Meanwhile Dr Chang, in his address, dismissed speculation of a merger of the two forces.
“There is no intention to merge the JCF into the JDF at any time,” he said. “And there is no intention to diminish the role of the police force in relation to territorial law enforcement vis-a- vis the Jamaica Defence Force. With the level of violence in the country we have had to put the JDF on the street much more than is normal.”