Sun | Nov 19, 2017

Ronald Mason | No stomach for tough measures?

Published:Sunday | July 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM

In 1979, some 37 years ago, the Parliament of Jamaica had a debate on hanging. Dudley Thompson, then minister of national security, said as reported by Hansard, "We are in Jamaica where, to many people, life is cheap and one must lift that veil of terror and restore the smiling faces that used to be on Jamaicans."

Another government member of parliament contributed "a new breed of man, a new breed of animal in society. The breed of animal is like a cancer in the society and must be eradicated". In this year, 2016, we must acknowledge that as society, we have failed. The landscape has become more horrific, and the rhetoric has got more vitriolic.

What is the national priority? Is it to have everybody cowering in fear? Crime is costing us dearly - some four to six per cent of GDP is lost, yet the politicians talk loosely about growth and stability.

 

INEPT SECURITY MINISTER

 

We have an inept minister of national security who displays his inexperience by moving to shut down public access to information. Preowned cars are going to do the trick while criminals acquire wealth through lottery scamming and businesspersons trade with them for big profits. The murder statistics, as published, are incomplete. We speak glowingly about arresting the alleged perpetrators in some high-profile murder, but we have no joy in reporting convictions.

Why is it in the fight against crime and criminals we do not learn of the creation of a DNA database? If we want to get arrests and subsequent convictions, we must employ all the available tools.

The criminal defence Bar will probably oppose the involuntary collection of DNA for a databank. Why do we not have more widespread use of the provisions in law for the interception of communication? Its use has already been tested in the 'Dudus' case.

We, as a society, must decide what the national priority is. Let us understand clearly the criminal defence Bar has a strong financial interest in the maintenance of the status quo. There is so much that they are instinctively against as abridging some suspects' rights, as we seek to get that suspect convicted. The end result is that the citizens in Jamaica cower in fear.

It cannot be that we, as a society, knowing full well that development, a better standard of living, more tax revenue for education and health cannot happen as long as crime is rampant.

We do not want a limited state of emergency, because we would never ever countenance giving up some rights and freedoms of the criminal inclined to attain greater security for the many. We need to expand the debate on security in exchange for limitation of our rights and freedoms. In recent history, Horace Chang, an MP from the bloody parish of St James and whose constituency is plagued by lottery scamming, remarked that the dismantling of garrisons will not take place. Is he inferring that gunmen will continue to be provided with succour and comfort by politicians who command the allegiance of garrisons?

Recently, Crime Stop has been advertising a reward of J$100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction in a criminal event. Can this be serious? Does somebody with some sense actually believe that a Jamaican citizen in the year 2016 is going to risk his life and the lives of family and loved one for less thanUS$800?

 

BOUNTY PROGRAMME

 

Society should recall that other countries used a bounty programme, 'Wanted Dead or Alive'. We may modify to eliminate the reference to dead. Offer to pay significant amounts of money for valuable information.

This does not infringe on people's rights and freedoms, but since the police are constantly reminding us of how many gangs they have to encounter, they name persons of interest and invite them to report on a date and time fixed. Offer J$5m tax free and you will find with whom the suspect is sleeping and where he/she spends time. Flush them out with money, technology and a better-trained police force.

I am prepared to engage with the diaspora to set up a trust fund that will provide those in America 501(c)(3) tax relief. This trust fund would be outside the control of these bumbling, ineffective politicians and designed solely to pay for information that could lead to the reduction of crime. This, I am sure, will lead to proper and thorough investigations by the police.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.