Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Priorities for the Holness Government

Published:Wednesday | April 20, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Kevin Sangster
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) and members of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party make their way to Gordon House in downtown Kingston.
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Prime Minister Andrew Holness, while being sworn into office recently and apparently having recognised the likely signal sent by the electorate upon the Jamaica Labour Party's narrow victory in the February 25, 2016 general parliamentary election, remarked that there is simply no room for error in his administration. With that declaration, I could not agree more.

After the disaster that was Sandrea Falconer as information minister, this administration simply cannot afford to be incompetent or disordered in its efforts to properly inform and communicate with the public.

I have absolutely no reason to doubt the capacity of Senator Ruel Reid to function effectively as information minister; however, his large portfolio responsibilities, including the crucial education portfolio, and his not being based at Jamaica House, may make his job as information minister a bit challenging.

Perhaps Prime Minister Holness should consider appointing a Jamaica House press secretary to better relate to the public, especially in respect of matters emanating from Jamaica House.

I hope Gender Affairs Minister Olivia Grange will ensure that the sexual harassment bill becomes law as soon as possible and not become caught up with seemingly inconsequential matters regarding gender mainstreaming, to the extent that the focus of such is more on women empowerment than rescuing our men.

For sure, to the extent that we have a gender-inequality problem, it certainly is not an issue largely affecting our women, who have been soaring to the highest heights in our society, attracting international attention in the process; but more so regarding our males, who are seemingly becoming more like an endangered species with many not being suitable partners for our soaring women.

Former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller tabled the sexual harassment bill last December shortly before the dissolution of the last Parliament. The minister should hasten its enactment and facilitate a public-education campaign to sensitise and prepare us for a serious culture shift in this regard.

 

ROAD TRAFFIC ACT

 

Transport Minister Michael Henry, who expressed concerns while in Opposition about the seeming folly with respect to the posted speed limit on some sections of our roadways, like the North Coast Highway, should move to bring some better sense to same, including bringing about any necessary amendments to our laws. Perhaps he will address same as he moves to ensure the prompt passage of the long overdue new Road Traffic Act.

Finally, newly appointed National Security Minister Robert Montague, like his immediate predecessor, has asked for divine guidance. While divine guidance is always good, we need to think more creatively and act more boldly in frontally dealing with our crime problem. Others have done it, and we are no less capable.

As former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington recently asserted, until we stop giving criminals a slap on the wrist in terms of punishment; until we give them reasons to believe that they will be caught and appropriately punished, we will continue to have this challenge.

One measure Minister Montague should consider is sunset legislation to facilitate the Jamaica Defence Force working on joint islandwide operations with the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

This operation should last for at least two years in the first instance, subject to renewal, and be operational across the entire island to prevent criminals from merely migrating to areas where there is no such action being held simultaneously.

The focus of the joint operation should be equally on major and minor crimes, with the goal to bring about a greater sense of law and order in our society, the success of which will hopefully provide that cultural change for the better.

We should not be concerned about hurting our tourism product with the heightened security presence across the island, as especially in this age of increasing security consciousness, there is similar security presence in many major First World cities that are big on tourism, such as Paris, London, New York and Sydney.

Tourists in those places feel more secure than scared with such heightened security. It should be no different here in Jamaica, as we make the case forcefully to our criminals that no place in Jamaica will be safe for them.

- Kevin K.O. Sangster is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and sangstek@msn.com.