Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Ian Boyne | Ignore critics, pass anti-crime bill now

Published:Sunday | June 25, 2017 | 12:10 AM

Hundreds of persons have died since the Government introduced its potentially life-saving anti-crime zones of special operations bill. How many more will be allowed to be slaughtered while we wait to appease and kowtow to a small but powerful articulate minority? Should we sacrifice the lives of more poor people while we engage in sweet talk and utopian thinking about long-term solutions?

One hundred and sixty-three persons had their lives snuffed out last month. This month, we are on target to offering up 180 more lives to the Moloch of crime. For the first six months of this year, we are projected to feed the graves with 720 fresh bodies. We have already achieved the feat of 54 murders in one single week. But that is not enough to shock some members of our chattering classes. There is no tipping point for them. They are unperturbed. They are asking us to wait for another few decades to solve this problem, for they don't want to be guilty of any "knee-jerk reaction".

They are not allowing themselves to "panic".

We must fix the police force, fix the justice system, fix education, fix family life, fix poverty, fix our Constitution, fix corruption, fix all social problems, fix our intelligence-gathering deficits. Take our time. Don't rush things. There is no emergency. For the last 50 years, we have been using stopgap, Band-Aid measures. It's time to take a few decades to do it right. No need to worry. So what if we have to sacrifice tens of thousands of lives for a permanent solution decades from now?

The utter unreasonableness of the human-rights fundamentalists and bleeding-heart liberals is exposed by their opposition to the Government's zones of special operations bill. If you take the time to read the bill, you will find that it makes provisions for legitimate concerns about excessive use of force and human-rights abuses.

 

Joint command

 

For those concerned about the corruption in the police force and its own links with criminality while noting the superior discipline of the Jamaica Defence Force, the bill provides for a member of the JDF not below the rank of a Major to work along with a superintendent of police as joint command. "The joint command shall be persons who, in addition to their general training as members of the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force, are additionally trained in human rights and the use of force and community-development initiatives."

People keep talking about the Suppression of Crime Act and the various squads and special operations forces over the years. Read the darn bill! This bill is different. This bill recognises the weaknesses of what went before and seeks to address those deficits. It is not the Suppression of Crime Act under a new name. A written report shall be given to the National Security Council every 10 days.

There are strict rules of accountability for actions in a zone of operations. "A person shall not be arrested or detained unless the person in charge of the operations is satisfied that there is reasonable grounds for the arrest and detention of the person." An officer can't just arrest someone because that person dissed him or is sleeping with his woman. You can say that you don't trust even commanding officers. But in that case, what should we do just disband the police and army and give all of us guns to defend ourselves against criminals? The utter stupidity of some of the responses to law-and-order measures is nauseating.

The people who are opposing this anti-crime bill have no useful, practical and concrete recommendations that can work tonight and this week. Listen to all of them. They have absolutely no practical suggestions as to what we could do now to stop the six murders a day. All of their suggestions are long-term. But, as Lord Keynes said, in the long run, we are all dead!

When you lock down certain communities today and cordon off certain areas and take control of territory formerly captured by criminals, they can't roam around and kill whoever they want. Lives are immediately saved in that zone. Clear, hold, and build. The social intervention that all the bleeding-hearts talk about is important and critical element of this bill. It is at the heart of it.

This bill aims to deal with those concrete crime-fighting measures that can have an impact immediately (if the Government will just exercise the courage of leadership to pass the bill!), as well as provide for the crucial social services needed. It attempts to restore public order to communities overrun by criminals. This bill aims to liberate poor victims who have been criminalised and terrorised by heartless breasts. It sets out provisions to protect the human rights of decent citizens.

When a person is detained in any special zones operations, he shall be told why and "forthwith be taken before a justice of the peace, who shall determine whether or not there are reasonable grounds for the arrest or detention". And "where a justice of the peace is not satisfied that the arrest or detention is reasonably required in the interest of justice, he shall order that person to be released forthwith".

Body cameras are to be worn in the operations "having regard to available resources", which are not limitless. There is no way one can objectively read this Bill and say it is the same as the Suppression of Crime Bill or that it recklessly gives power to the security forces to kick off poor people's doors, ransack their houses, steal their flat-screen TVs and shoot their family members. I am not naive about politicians, but anyone who knows Andrew Holness knows that he genuinely and not just for political correctness cares about human rights. My problem with him is that if there is any imbalance, it is on the side of his bleeding heart.

Holness would never preside over any bill that facilitates the trampling of human rights. I think he has delayed implementing this bill because he is genuinely a democrat at heart and is intent on finding consensus. But he had better learn by now that many of his fellow human-rights advocates are anything but reasonable or conciliatory. They are theological in their opposition; not scientific.

The view that the prime minister should not have the right to declare a zone of special operation for six months but that that power should be vested in the Parliament is not unreasonable. I understand it, but I believe that the prime minister as the one with ultimate responsibility for national security is properly invested with that power. And I certainly believe it is the prime minister's call as an elected official, and not the police commissioner's. The people's political representative/s must have the responsibility to make certain critical security decisions.

We need more human-rights activists like Rodje Malcolm of Jamaicans for Justice (one of the brightest young persons I have heard in a long time. He gives me tremendous hope in terms of his level of argumentation.) I find Malcolm and Clyde Williams very sharp and highly reasoned. Human-rights fundamentalists keep violating the rules of logic by pitting the need for social intervention against hard policing. We need both.

We desperately need justice reform, police reform, education reform, economic reform, etc. at the same time we need to cauterise the high murder rate now. And the fact of the matter is that this bill is only part of a wider menu of things that the Government is doing to improve security. Government is already addressing some of the near-term and long-term things that critics and the People's National Party (PNP) are urging. The PNP is quite predictable in its opposition to this crime bill and no one should respond to them with more than a yawn and a sigh.

The prime minister must demonstrate the courage of leadership to act now. Enough lives have been lost while he has sought an impossible consensus. There will be done. Act now to pass this bill. Every single life is precious.

- Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist working with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ianboyne1@yahoo.com.