Hardley Lewin | The speech PM should've given
Much has been said about the recent press conference related to the Government's response to the spike in crime, and particularly, the introduction of the concept of preventative detention. While the intention of the concept was well intentioned, one cannot help but feel that what transpired was a knee-jerk reaction to public pressure that something be done.
It is times like these that we need steady hands and calm nerves - we must reject the temptation to play to the optics of the situation. This is not an invitation to do nothing, but a call to implement carefully thought-out measures that are focused, doable, and sustainable.
Consider for a moment if at that press conference, the prime minister had said as follows:
"My fellow Jamaicans, the country, in recent weeks, has experienced a significant increase in murders, particularly of women and children. The Government has not been insensitive to these developments and the consequential increase in the fear of crime. I wish to advise the country in very broad terms of my administration's plans to tackle the crime problem in a comprehensive manner that, with your help and input, will tame this monster that has plagued our country for far too long.
"We will be proceeding on the basis of two different trajectories, the first being the immediate, or Phase 1, which will involve heightened operational activities to deal with the urgency of the moment.
"The next trajectory will see the gradual rollout of medium- and long-term strategies to bring about a sustainable reduction of all crimes, including murder.
For Phase 1, in addition to current policing operations, I have directed the acting commissioner of police to roll out, within the next 48 hours, increased policing measures to restore order within the society. We insist that order must be restored to public transportation, road use, noise abatement, sanitation, etc.
"You will see highly visible policing activities and the public can expect minor inconveniences from time to time, but we ask for your understanding and cooperation. The acting commissioner of police will communicate further details to the public as required.
"Phase 1 will continue and will be rolled into Phase 2, which, as I stated before, will be the medium- and long-term strategies.
I will be in a position to communicate the details of Phase 2 within the next few weeks, but I can share with you that these strategies will be designed to:
1. Target the centre of gravity (money and leadership) of criminal enterprises.
2. Reduce all forms of crime.
3. Restore communities.
4. Transform the police.
5. Sustain the gains made.
Phase 2 will be an all-of-government approach working in tandem with civil society.
"You have my assurance that we are serious about tackling the problem of crime head on and defeating it. There is no other path. I look forward to addressing you again on this matter in the coming weeks."
Mr Editor, it seems to me that a narrative somewhat like what was outlined above would not have had us mired in arguments about preventative detention. In fact, we would have done something tangible while we await the announcement of the comprehensive plan.
- Hardley Lewin, rear admiral (rtd), is a former chief of defence staff and former commissioner of police. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.