Ronald Thwaites | Opportunistic cooperation
What is clear is that there is not much more to the Government's crime plan than zones of special operations (ZOSO) and semi-permanent states of emergency (SOE).
Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives debated the extension of the St James SOE, with the prime minister and minister of national security straining hard to conflate the welcome but very limited gains from these measures into national triumphs and offering little or nothing about what will happen when these interventions inevitably end.
It was not convincing. Of course, the decline in the murder rate compared with the holocaust of 2017 is a blessing, but it is obvious that the scrape-up tactics of the security forces have netted very few arrests and negligible convictions, and there was dubious evidence of any comprehensive destruction of criminal gangs, let alone the curbing of the deep antisocial maladies that everyone admitted are the real causes of crime.
Andrew Holness said as much, but I wonder if he realises how much his own analysis screams out the culpable inadequacy of his own administration's policies. He rehearsed the breakdown in family, squalid living conditions, toxic politics and corrupt police as underlying foundations of social mayhem. But what is being done about them? The ministry papers outlining social intervention undertaken so far are helpful but hardly fundamental.
Health fairs, community clean-ups, summer camps, zinc-fence removal and a little help for small businesses ought to be normative in every community of a self-respecting nation. I was looking for the hundreds of jobs, combined with intense resocialisation for the thousands of idle, potentially trigger-happy hands in the parish. Why not redeploy some of the security officers from the futility of the command posts to training programmes in inner-city Montego Bay?
REAL SOCIAL INTERVENTION
Project HOPE should be everywhere in each ZOSO and SOE! That would be transformative; that would be real social intervention. All the business establishments, particularly in the hotel and business-processing sectors, that breathe easier from the relative calm must make space for apprentices. Use some of the massive money that the prime minister would not disclose to Horace Dalley for these purposes.
Mr Holness showed us a frightening video of the murderous weapons, one capable of wiping out every single person in the Gordon House chamber without reloading, which, he asserted, are still coming into Jamaica. This was meant to underline how dangerous criminals are and how necessary it is to extend the SOE.
But he was silent as to how these guns get here, who the politically connected money men are who finance the deals; and how any such measures depended on the SOE.
CORRUPTION IN THE FORCE
Then there came the bombshell: Both ministers acknowledging corruption among certain officers in the police as one cause of endemic crime. I asked what steps had been taken to remove such elements from the force, but they had no answer whatsoever.
No one would expect details, but at least a firm assurance that the issue was being confronted. Nothing! Even though Horace Chang's rationale for continuing the SOE is that it gives space for the communities to "renew confidence" in the security forces. How?
So because we do not want to take more radical steps to stanch crime, we extended the SOE.
At the outset, there had been a knowing smile (I hope not a sneer) on the prime minister's face when he asked for the Opposition's cooperation to continue the security measures. I am sure he knows how empty his repeated words about cooperation have become.
We eventually did agree because the PNP was fully aware that to have even abstained would have led to them being blamed by the Government for sabotaging crime-fighting.
But Andrew Holness had no riposte to Fitz Jackson, who pointed out that this Government has little intention for real bipartisan collaboration. Their idea is that the other side must just agree with them. A spirit of sharing, jointure and accommodation is rare and happens only when it is opportunistic - as when a two-thirds vote is required.
The long summer recess beckons.
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.