Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Editorial | In a state of anarchy | When Secretary Tillerson visits

Published:Sunday | January 28, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The visit of United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not have come at a better time. He will travel to Jamaica on February 7, the last destination of a whistle-stop tour that wends its way from the US state of Texas to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, and Colombia.

Though broad issues such as energy and democracy will be on the agenda, Secretary Tillerson will seek to co-opt support from the Jamaican Government on any pressure it brings to bear on the crisis swirling in Venezuela.

Even though the US will seek to dictate the direction and tenor of the discussions he has with the government officials here, we implore Prime Minister Holness to maximise the advantage of conversations with one cog in Washington's quadrumvirate, which includes President Donald Trump, the treasury secretary, and the attorney general.

Mr Holness, with diplomatic subtlety and dexterity, should wrest control of those meetings to focus on Jamaica's national security crisis and its existential lurch towards anarchy. Secretary Tillerson comes to Kingston in the midst of skyrocketing violence, which has seen murders jump, year on year, by 20 per cent in 2017. In fact, 2017 was Jamaica's third-bloodiest year in post-Independence history.

 

Near-collapse

 

The state of emergency imposed in St James, home to the tourist capital Montego Bay, magnifies the gravity of the near-collapse of Jamaica's national-security infrastructure. For as the police and military try to put out fires in the northwest, triple and quadruple murders - in Linstead, St Catherine, and Hermitage, St Andrew, respectively - occur in the southeast.

And the dysfunction doesn't stop there. The police have ceded control of the streets, and disorder is the new normal.

Prime Minister Holness should engage Secretary Tillerson in frank dialogue on the creeping anarchy that is metastasising every sphere of Jamaican life. Mr Tillerson has interest in the equation.

The guns that wreak havoc on Jamaican communities are not manufactured here. They are mainly smuggled through porous US ports into Caribbean waters, falling into the hands of lords of war who traffic in drugs and other contraband.

Mr Holness must emphasise American complicity in the escalation of Jamaica's gunrunning and violence crisis and explain that Washington needs to do more to enhance scrutiny on its end. This does not excuse Kingston from its own failings, but highlights the bipartisanship required to destabilise gun traffickers on both fronts.

Secretary Tillerson's visit is also serendipitous because it gives the Holness administration a platform to seek greater assistance from the US in its ongoing state of emergency in St James, to boost the security forces' intelligence-gathering capacity, forensic capability, surveillance, and interterritorial networking.

If the US retreats from its shared responsibility and allows Jamaica's safety and security apparatus to further unravel, President Trump may have one more "s***hole" country on its southern border to worry about.