Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Mark Wignall | What more can a Ministry do?

Published:Thursday | October 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM

For some time now, Jamaicans have remained stumped by the level of violent crime gripping the nation. For the most part, we all watch the news in agony and despair as we sympathise with the family, friends and loved ones of those who've fallen victim to the continuing scourge of crime.

The majority of us are heartbroken as we discuss the tragedies in our homes, work places, barbershops and taxis. We grieve as much as we speculate. The frightening reality is we know not when next the vicious gunman will strike, but we wait with almost a certainty that the desperado will.

Jamaica's crime problem stems from a long history of corruption, extreme poverty, breakdown of the family and lack of social initiatives. Like most other societal issues, what we face is stagnant, stinking water under the bridge.

The focus should lie less with where our crime starts but how we identify, conquer and progress. Despite the best efforts of successive governments, crime plan after crime plan, here we are.

At some point, we must accept that we are responsible for our crime even if governments are the easiest fall guys.

For everything you saw and did not report, for every criminal we allow to go unpunished, for every 'see and blind, hear and deaf', this is the price we pay. This well we've fallen into was dug many generations ago.

 

A BURDEN TOO HEAVY TO CARRY?

 

I do not believe that Minister of National Security Robert 'Bobby' Montague is a bad man, nor do I consider him incapable, but I do consider Jamaica's national security portfolio a heavy burden to carry.

There is always the inside joke that national security is where ministers go to die. Without a minister selected, there is already the notion that whoever takes up the mantle will fail under its crushing weight. Unlike many other ministerial portfolios, national security's demands grow greater year after year.

One major concern is that the minister does not get to choose the commissioner of police, but he is mandated to work with him. There are positives to this when compared with the turbulent years of the late 1970s when governments treated the top cop like a personal instrument that wielded power on behalf of the government.

I speak to Minister Montague more than any other minister. The reason for that is obvious. Violent crime is every one's business and the search for sustainable solutions is the order of the moment.

He does what he can, and for that I certainly believe Montague should be given his due, especially if he measures his words more carefully and make them more 'consumer friendly'.

This year, the ministry spearheaded several successful initiatives. The traffic ticket amnesty in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport and Works, to date, has earned $160 million since its start in August.

Minister Montague's ministry has also spearheaded the 'We Transform Campaign', which seeks to remove the stigma associated with juvenile facilities, while working with the more than 242 children aged 12 to 17, currently remanded in the island's juvenile correctional facilities.

This year, the minister called for the promotion of the island's cops, who have not seen a promotion in the past two years. To date, 28 senior cops have been promoted. Let's hope it works as a motivating factor in greater productivity.

Jamaica now has the largest maritime presence in the Caribbean, thanks to four new vessels secured from the United States. No one man can fight crime; just ask all the previous ministers of national security.

I am anxiously awaiting the full roll-out of CCTVs, Minister Montague.

 

LOVE IS THE GREAT SOLUTION

 

For every cold, there is a good dose of cough syrup. For every crime-stricken country, there is the return of love, as was suggested by Earl Witter in his epilogue of the Public Defender's report into Tivoli. What we need is the return of caring for each other and the understanding that it does take a village, not just to raise a child, but to rid the country of violent, uncaring gunmen.

We must commit to strive for the return of the justice, brotherhood and peace we so eagerly pledged to as children. If we don't, we are doomed to endless gunshots and added pain.

- Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.