Mon | Jul 16, 2018

George Davis | Can we believe Andrew Holness?

Published:Friday | February 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM

This Andrew Holness administration is squinting as it looks into the eyes of the Jamaican public because it has failed to curb violent crime.

Back in May 2016 when he addressed Parliament in his first turn as prime minister in a Budget Debate, Holness promised to crush the rampant criminals.

In a speech that was lauded by the usual suspects, plus some analysts looking to curry-favour for a nice board appointment or few, our prime minister spoke with passion about how crime and violence was a significant constraint on Jamaica's growth and economic well-being.

He declared boldly that incrementalism in the approach to fighting against violent crime was useless and would not be the course taken by his Government.

Holness asserted that bold and decisive measures were needed, suggesting that implementation of same was nigh. In the classic political way of speaking in headlines while keeping the crucial details tucked away in a folder or in some technocrat's head, our prime minister declared that given the sensitive nature of some of the counter-measures, he would not be disclosing them in his Budget speech.


Being responsible


On the one hand, you could say that the prime minister was being responsible by not alerting the criminals to the specific actions to be taken by the security forces. On the other hand, you could say that his words reflected the fact that there were no credible counter-measures to be implemented and his words were just meant to assuage those hacks and talking heads who would fume and froth while blabbering about the prime minister omitting solutions to crime from his Budget speech. You decide.

The prime minister spoke with conviction about a domestic violence coordinator being installed at every police station in the country. He told Parliament that the idea was to initiate prompt dialogue between the disputing parties and law enforcers so that early intervention could prevent quarrels from escalating into murder.

There are no data to verify whether this promise was kept by our prime minister. But there are data, in the form of the rash of murders resulting from domestic violence, where several women have been either hacked, stabbed, or shot to death, to make a failure of that measure.


Mandatory sentences


The prime minister spoke of many other measures to deal with lotto scamming, bolster the vehicle fleet for the security forces, introduce mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes, and build more mobile police stations across the island.

Though he stated clearly that this Government was not about incrementalism in the fight against crime, the Holness administration is yet to support the JLP's boast that it's better at fighting crime than the PNP.

The management of crime, especially murders, was always going to be the Achilles heel of this JLP administration. Many words have been spoken by the Government, even as the criminal vipers continue to manipulate our collective fear. Holness convinced many that the JLP had the crime-fighting formula.

Well, from the results to date, there seem to be several flies in the ointment. And while the ointment continues to spoil, the public watches aghast as the national security minister sets out his stall draped in red and green fabric, unveiling two balls of blue, one Seville orange, a vial of fowl blood, one bottle of cream soda, an imperial quart bottle of white rum, a small bottle of kananga water, and scores of legal-sized sheets of parchment, each soaked in bay rum and addressed to every police station in the country.

On one side of each sheet of parchment, Minister Montague, who's right-handed, has used his left hand to scrawl the name or alias of every gang leader in the country. On the other side of the parchment sheets, he has scribbled instructions about how to combine the various ingredients and cast a spell that will have the gangsters surrender to the police.

The minister's intention is to obeah the criminals. And we, the public, are not seeing the results of his novel approach to crime fighting because in his wisdom, the goodly minister also obeahed the instructions to cast the spells.


- George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to and