Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Gordon Robinson | Montague finally gets it!

Published:Sunday | March 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Minister of National Security Robert Montague (left) in discussion with newly appointed Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, when he called on the minister at his office in St Andrew on March 20. Montague, much criticised for rising murders, wants greater say in the operations of the force.

Recently, there has been good news for Jamaica coming out of the national security (natsec) ministry.

Perhaps galvanised by long-outstanding public threats of Cabinet reshuffles and poor public assessment of Government's various 'crime plans', the ministry has suddenly taken several steps in the right direction.

As in all successful rehabilitation exercises, this one began with admissions of guilt and acknowledgements of the problem. On January 23, Minister Robert 'Bobarum' Montague delivered a sincere-sounding apology to the nation for his distasteful "obeah man" joke, and, two days later, a speech on "new crime-fighting operations" to a Jamaica Stock Exchange seminar. The speech was chock-(not 'stock') full of truth and reconciliation; frank and fearless; and hit so many nails on so many heads, I'm sure construction projects islandwide were delayed to source fresh material.

I took the trouble of securing (no pun intended) a DVD of the speech, but with the Ampersand away seeking higher education (again) and Skullhead III (now aka 'SkullDougery', formerly 'The Computer Whiz') under pressure with his V(I)P work, my information technology skills fell short of permitting actual viewing. So, I rely mainly on memory but should warn readers that I've recently been forced to change my name by Droll Deed Poll to Al. Those of you obsessed with formalities can call me Mr Zheimer's.

Bobarum began projecting honesty and sincerity by abandoning the stage and walking among the audience while speaking. He insisted that all wasn't lost on the crime-fighting front. He gave an accurate history of crime, as we know it today, beginning in 1960s-70s, driven by politics; morphing into drug smuggling and growing unchecked into the many-headed monster we face today, including lotto scamming, organised and cybercrime.

"We must acknowledge we have a problem and that it's home-grown," he urged, putting an end to political mischief that repeatedly blames Jamaican crime on US gunrunners who wouldn't be able to affect Jamaica without Jamaican customers who, for decades, illegally exported ganja as payment for imported guns.

 

SHORT-TERM CURE

 

In a simple but long-avoided truth, Bobarum freely admitted, "The state of emergency in St James is not the cure-all for our problem." He correctly explained: "It provides us with space to cauterise, to shock, but the other social-intervention systems and justice systems must now chip in." This is FINALLY an acceptance of reality, namely, that 'emergency' means a short-term problem curable by short-term shock tactics. Jamaica's crime problem can't be solved by states of emergency (SOEs) alone, no matter how well intentioned or brilliantly implemented. Issues also arise as to the legality of declaring SOEs as a reaction to high murder rates, but that's for another day.

His comments on justice exposed the justice minister's bankrupt strategy of complaining about judges. He explained that judges are overburdened, with more than 40,000 cases in backlog and pointed out, "We have some of the best judges in the hemisphere, but we keep retiring judges at 70 years old. At 70, a judge is just ready to work." Bang goes the minister. Ouch, said the nail!

Showing a breadth of vision not usually associated with politicians, Bobarum pointed to societal failings such as creeping corruption exemplified by simple indiscretions like using company equipment to photocopy your child's study material. This is more important than it sounds because it reveals a state of mind that turns a blind eye to crime unless it's a crime against YOU. Since everything begins in the mind, and we're all little creators made in God's image, our state of mind can be a collective force corrupting societies.

He spoke of the need for proper parenting. With incisive analysis, he inserted another nail in the obfuscation's coffin by explaining that a youth pointing a gun at another youth is really pointing at the system that brought him to that, including the broken home, broken community, and stress and conflicts within the home and community. This is raw, uncomfortable, unvarnished TRUTH! Jamaica must either confront these social issues or live with high rates of violent crime forever!

Asserting that the "security architecture is unsustainable", he spoke with feeling about his own sense of helplessness as society's distrust of politicians led bullied legislators to pass laws effectively cutting him off from influence on operational crime fighting yet making him the national scapegoat when things go wrong.

 

SUBJECT TO IMPEACHMENT

 

I support him conditionally in his quest to have operational influence on JCF but not until citizens have operational influence over him. Government ministers must be subject to impeachment by Parliament and MPs subject to recall by the electorate. Only then can natsec ministers have the authority they need to properly perform their jobs and take responsibility for operational matters.

This is a speech well worth watching in full.

Then, a skilfully promoted and named initiative, Jamaica Eye (national CCTV system), was launched at NIDS (don't be naughty, it's just my abbreviation for National Indoor Sports Complex) on March 14. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend because although it represented another strategy I've been advising for years, it clashed with the first day of the Cheltenham horse racing festival. In this life, we must keep our priorities straight.

I recognise that Jamaica Eye is a continuation of a programme instituted by a previous administration, but it's a vital necessity for any successful crime-fighting plan AND a creative, effective way of deploying scarce resources in tandem with the private sector to bring modernity to policing methods.

But Jamaica Eye can't stand alone. Cameras are essential, but proper training of police officers, especially in the collection, collation, analysis, and application of resulting data is more fundamental. I worry that, generally, police personnel don't have the tech savvy to effectively use the system.

Jamaica Eye's first task must be to stop the lunatic fringe approach of taxi/bus drivers who create havoc on the roads daily, causing adverse economic and health spin-offs. I've reduced my own driving simply because I'm convinced my driving experiences are certain to trigger heart attacks.

So, the good news is that natsec ministry has finally focused on the task at hand. This brings to mind a picture of 20 lawyers at the bottom of the sea which, as we all know, is a good start. There's still much more to be done, especially in inculcating the philosophical imperative that teaches us, until the scourge of violent crime is under sustainable control, that we must disarm the citizenry. I've written before how bemused I am whenever I hear the impassioned vitriol aimed at this simple proposal under the guise of a need for self-defence. If I had a dollar for each time the mantra 'outlaw guns and only outlaws will have guns' has been tossed my way, I'd be a wealthy man. This sillier-than-normal clichÈ obscures the actual facts in a cloud of generalisation and only exposes shallowness of thought.

Ironically, we live in a society where male insecurity (I never hear from women in this regard) must carry a gun to establish manhood (or maybe to substitute for it), yet there's no such thing as a licensed knife. Anyone found on the streets with a (concealed) knife is locked up and the weapon confiscated, but guns are 'licensed' at will and distributed like confetti. Does the distinction have anything to do with who is likely to carry a knife as opposed to who carries a licensed firearm?

In 2002, a study of categories of crime in Jamaica, undertaken by G. Lemard and D. Hemenway of Harvard School of Public Health, found the main motives for homicides were disputes (29 per cent) and reprisals (30 per cent). Gunshot wounds were the cause of death in 66 per cent of all homicides. Guns were used primarily in reprisals, robberies, and drug/gang-related homicides. In 50 per cent of dispute-related homicides (i.e., 15 per cent of all homicides), the perpetrator used a knife.

In 2016, a study 'Crime and Violence in Jamaica', done by Anthony Harriott and Marlyn Jones, found that 70 per cent (2012) to 79 per cent (2009) of murders were by the gun; 11 per cent by the knife; and "the rate of firearm offences in Jamaica is among the highest in the Caribbean".

But to quote from the iconic Alfred E. Neuman: "What? Me worry?" Why bother to reduce availability of ALL guns as a national rather than individual urgency? Whatever you do, don't dare take away MY gun! It's an important crutch and wing man in my quest to attract as many females as possible. If you confiscate my gun, I might be forced to use my natural cannon.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. 

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