Sun | May 27, 2018

Canute Thompson | We need more than a state of emergency

Published:Sunday | January 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM

There seems to be a unanimous welcome of the state of emergency in St James. Anything to stop Jamaica's runaway murder rate is welcome. But I expect that the Government is fully seized of the fact that this state of emergency is not, and cannot be, a medium- or long-term fix. It is also a recognition that a limited community ZOSO has been completely ineffectual.

An effective response to the social disease of crime requires a multipronged approach with the weight of resources being devoted to dealing with the root causes of crime. A state of emergency cannot treat root causes of crime; it is merely treating with the worst symptoms.

The root causes of crime remain poor parenting, generally weak family structures, and the lack of efficacy of the education system. Unless we take steps to effect reductions in the number of teenagers who are raising children without family and community support, significantly increase the number of schools that are performing satisfactorily and transforming the lives of students, and provide more youths with access to decent employment, we will continue to have a problem with crime.

In a time of desperation, we tend to welcome anything that promises relief, in the same way a person in pain will welcome respite. But the necessary decision of a state of emergency, in the most murderous place on earth, should not lead us to think that we have found or implemented a sustainable solution to the disease of crime.

Meanwhile, the Government needs to come clean on the used-car purchase fiasco involving a company whose principal has exceedingly close ties to the governing party. The country needs to be vigilant on this issue. I have raised at least 20 questions on this issue. Here are another four:

1 Did the Government pay the taxes on the first set of 30 cars that were delivered, and, if so, on what basis did it make that payment and what factors led to the decision not to pay on the second set?

2 What were the provisions of contract between the Ministry of National Security and O'Brien's International Car Sales & Rentals concerning the payment of taxes, and were there other provisions in this contract that were atypical, relative to contracts between the Government and other suppliers of motor vehicles?

3 Has the Ministry of National Security drawn down on the performance bond, as it said it would, and, if so, will the Government provide the public with evidence of this money having been recovered by the Government?

4 Will the Government tell taxpayers in whose name the payment of the sum of more than $200m was made and the account to which that money was lodged, as well as account for how that money was used, that is, whether it was expended to purchase vehicles?

I recommend that the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee invite O'Brien's CEO to provide some information.

- Canute Thompson is head of the Caribbean Centre for Education and Planning and lecturer in educational policy, planning, and leadership. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and canutethompson1@gmail.com..