Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Ronald Mason | Crime, solution and national unity

Published:Sunday | June 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Crime in Jamaica is a complex, far-reaching issue that is draining the society. People are cowering in fear. It is pretty obvious at this point that only drastic measures are likely to restrict the fear that has been induced.

In a letter published in The Gleaner on June 22, 2017, Michael C. Moyston of Montego Bay outlined a measure to shut down the "murderous rampage that has gripped Jamaica". I would suggest that his proposal be further examined, but we must understand that it would only be a temporary fix.

I would offer the following things to be considered and adopted where it could prove to be beneficial in the war on crime. All the officers to be chosen for a 100-man elite squad of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) must be psychologically screened and found to be worthy of being called elite. In the next phase, they should undergo modern training in the use of firearms, defensive action, and assessment of intelligence. They should also have the right to partner for specific operations with others of the same squad.

In the first 120 days, the squad would be accommodated at Up Park Camp. Funding for this exercise should be strictly monitored by the hierarchy of the JCF. All of this is predicated on the public having trust in the police force. This is severely limiting, as most Jamaicans do not trust the police or the politicians. However, at this point in this most far-reaching exercise, decisions would have to be made regarding the JCF itself. If this kind of exercise cannot be undertaken, the JCF should be forthwith disbanded and replaced.


Dangerous path to tread


The Government of Jamaica is currently engaged in offering the society a programme that they could restrict to certain areas and have those areas be restricted to a state of emergency at the whim and fancy of the prime minister. The very nature of this proposal raises questions of trust and is a very dangerous path to tread.

We are about to have at least two parliamentary by-elections. What safeguards exist that the determinations for the geographical shutdown in special zones will not follow a political script? It all comes down again to a matter of trust. Do you, as a citizen of this country, trust the political direction of the Jamaica Constabulary Force? I would imagine that the degree of trust is almost nil.

Countries have, from time to time, faced great challenges and had to address their viability. Jamaica has already been referred to as a failed state. Currently, the political divide is markedly higher than it should be. Almost no one believes that persons with opinions could be non-political. The margin in Gordon House is one seat.

Independent analysis shows us with a worsening corruption problem. The trust factor is missing and once-active, positive people have tuned out from civic discussions. How do we rekindle a national identity to tackle the major problems we have? The creation of a government of national unity should be explored. Both major political parties must do something to capture citizens' participation in solving our problems. The political class is fighting over spoils and benefits while "the kingdom goes to waste".


New approach needed


When one can use crime on the political platform to gain votes and there is every likelihood of 180 being murdered in June 2017; when all the promises regarding police vehicles, forensic capabilities, fair, just and speedy trials are only platitudes being offered by a totally bankrupt Cabinet, then we need a completely new approach.

The scoring of cheap political points is continuing to do major harm in an already hurting society. It serves to belittle the intelligence of the Jamaican people. We have begun to ignore the crisis that is Jamaica when the Cabinet minister in charge of tourism requests that the mainstream media play down the reports of the wanton crime that stalks everybody who does not have close-protection security.

It makes no sense to bleat about damage to the country's economic prospects when citizens may not even live to collect the minuscule wages or pensions. Hospitals overrun with injuries derived from violence to the extent that cancer treatments have to be relegated to non-essential, and then we plan to borrow J$9 billion for Government to get more information on its citizens. When will all these loans be repaid, and by whom? Years ago, there was a popular song that said "everything crash". It was premature then, but very apt today.

The important things that affect the lives of the citizens, all the citizens - crime, health care, education, social intervention and infrastructure - are played like strings on a guitar for political purposes.

A government of national unity would decrease the need for the political one-upmanship and give the country a break so that we could focus on the real issues. If we do not get a government of national unity with concurrent attention to the challenges of the day, we will not have peace, growth or sustainable investment.

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