Returning residents safe in Ja - junior minister
Returning residents, once set upon by criminal elements across the island, are now safe and no longer being targeted, State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Arnaldo Brown has declared, in seeking to reassure Jamaicans both at home and in the diaspora.
Addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston, offices yesterday, Brown noted that actions taken by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) had ensured that the group was no longer under specific threat from criminals.
"There was an issue in the past, where returning residents may have been targeted. However, that issue has been frontally addressed;" said Brown, who was speaking with journalists about preparations for the upcoming Sixth Biennial Diaspora Conference to be held June 13-18.
"The police took it on and brought it under control and it is under control now, because people have been indicted, arrested (and) prosecuted for those crimes, so there is a downward trend in relation to these incidents."
He acknowledged that the issue of public safety was one that would be discussed during the diaspora conference to be held in Montego Bay, St James.
Brown said he felt it would be an opportune time to sensitise the diaspora about some of the nation's ongoing crime-fighting strategies.
"We will have at least two sessions that will be looking at the issue of public safety, and at one of those sessions, we will be inviting members of the diaspora to support the initiatives of the Government, especially the 'Unite for Change' initiative, which we believe, over time, will bring down the levels of crime on a sustained basis," said Brown, who argued that the crime-fighting expertise of some diaspora members would be invaluable to the programme.
Gov't not serious about crime
But while Brown expressed satisfaction that persons coming back to live in Jamaica are relatively safe, Percival LaTouche, president of the Association for the Resettlement of Returning Residents, was less than optimistic about the 'Unite for Change' initiative.
LaTouche, speaking with The Gleaner hours after the forum, argued that if the Government wanted returning residents to feel safer in the island, it needed to show that it was serious about law enforcement.
"I think we have enough initiatives that have gone nowhere, because talk is cheap. What we want is for them to stop the talking and just enforce the laws, then we will all be more secure," he said.
While acknowledging that, to the best of his knowledge, no returning residents have been murdered so far this year, LaTouche said robberies were still a major concern for his organisation, as it has recorded more than 20 such incidents over the past four months.
LaTouche noted, however, that crime was not unique to Jamaica and would not prevent persons from coming back home.