Tue | Jul 23, 2019

Devon Dick | Ending state of emergency caused murders to decline?

Published:Thursday | May 2, 2019 | 12:22 AM

Since the ending of the states of public emergency in St James, parts of St Catherine and Kingston, the number of murders between January and the first three weeks of April has declined nationally, with 41 fewer murders ( Gleaner, April 23). So can it be concluded that the ending of states of emergency has caused the number of killings to decline islandwide?

Concomitantly, during the same period, the number of killings in St James has increased by 19. Does it mean that it is the ending of the state of emergency (SOE) that caused the number of killings to increase?

How could the same action cause different results? One should be cautious when making ‘cause and effect’ statements.

Furthermore, if the country has recorded a decrease in killings, in spite of the increase in St James, it means that the rest of Jamaica has seen 60 fewer killings. On this trajectory, the country will see 180 fewer people being slaughtered for 2019, a remarkable achievement.

One possible explanation for the difference in murders in St James when compared nationally could be that during the SOE in St James, the parish got a generous allocation of boots and resources but with a better spread; the country is reaping the rewards. If that is the explanation, the argument will have to be whether one life in St James is more valuable than two lives in other parts of the country.

Perhaps, the solution lies in rectifying the short staff of 2,000 persons within the Jamaica Constabulary Force, paying them better because of the importance of the work. Rehire retired cops and solicit support of citizenry, etc.

There needs to be better analysis of what is driving the number of killings. The commissioner of police, in response to a query about the increase in the number of guns recovered, said it was due to the ending of the SOE, and so men were carrying guns on their person, which would not have happened under the SOE.

Since recovering more guns is good, does it mean that ending the SOE was a good idea? Since guns are the main weapons of choice to kill people, we need to get the guns. Getting the guns can lead to reduction of the number of murders in the long run.

NO BIG DEAL

But was the declaration of the SOE unconstitutional? According to the Constitution, the governor general must be ‘satisfied’ that a public emergency has arisen as a result of any natural disaster, outbreak of pestilence or infectious disease or ‘other calamity, whether similar to the foregoing or not’.

The second reason is when there is action ‘so extensive in scale as to be likely to endanger the public safety or to deprive the community of supplies or services essential to life’. By the way, the regulations also ‘provide for payment of compensation and remuneration to persons affected by the regulations’. However, there is no clamouring for reparations for those who were detained unjustifiably.

This issue of the constitutionality of SOE should benefit from a ruling of the chief justice. It appears that something being unconstitutional is no big deal, whether one supports (mayor and big business) or opposes another SOE (hoteliers and small businesses). Unfortunately, no one is seeing the connection between the NIDS Act being declared unconstitutional, based on a paradigm shift in the Constitution, and the implications for reasons allowable for the declaration of the SOE.

About two years ago, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica called for a summit on crime to which the PM gave assent. With the PM now declaring another SOE for St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, we need it now more than ever so that we can get a better analysis and ensure things are done according to the Constitution, resulting in the implementation of good and lasting solutions.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com