Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Editorial | As we welcome General Anderson

Published:Monday | November 14, 2016 | 11:00 AM

Our reflex, like most people who know him, is to welcome the appointment of just-retired Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson, to the newly created post of national security adviser. For, on the face of it, General Anderson is well qualified for the job.

He led the army for six years. Before that, his job in the Jamaica Defence Force included implementation of the military's own Strategic Defence Review, plus coordination of the National Security Strategy. Further, he headed the group that developed the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) security plan for hosting the 2007 Cricket World Cup when CARICOM essentially operated as a borderless community. He managed the plan's implementation.

In other words, General Anderson ought to be versed not only on Jamaica's internal security issues, but should also have a regional perspective of the threats faced by the small, vulnerable countries of this region from global terrorists, home-grown counterparts and domestic criminals.

However, a full and clear appreciation of General Anderson's proposed role and a determination of whether his skills are being best utilised demand further and better particulars from the Government.

According to the Jamaica House statement, General Anderson is the principal technical adviser to the Government, an appointment that emulates best practices in jurisdictions such as the UK, Canada, India and Australia. He will advise Prime Minister Andrew Holness and National Security Minister Robert Montague on matters "which broadly include defence, crime and security, and public safety-related policy and strategy, inter-agency cooperation, partner nation engagement and regional and international security". Clearly, General Anderson has a full plate.

The issue for this newspaper is not whether he will give good and worthy advice. There is little doubt that General Anderson will, as have many individuals, committees and consultants for a long time. Indeed, while it has not been shared with the public, we expect that the latest of a these, the crime plan commissioned by the National Security Council in August, and announced by its chair, Prime Minister Holness, is, if it has been completed, a good document with great strategies for dealing with Jamaica's most pressing problem.

The weakness, however, is not of advice or of plans; it is a failure of implementation. A legitimate fear, therefore, is that General Anderson and his staff will proffer great strategic advice that ends up where such offerings usually do - in dusty, old, occasionally remembered files. Unimplemented!

It is not insignificant that Mr Holness' Economic Growth Council listed citizen safety and security, only after macroeconomic stability, as critical to delivering the promised annual growth rate of five per cent within four years. Jamaica is well on the way to locking in the latter requirement. It struggles with the former, which will require institutional transformation of resistant agencies, underpinned by priority allocation of limited resources.

This effort will require a distinct champion, preferably someone with the imprimatur of the head of Government, capable of insisting on action from recalcitrant agencies and their leaders. In other words, that person should be the face of change. Is that among General Anderson's terms of reference?