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Target: crime - Gov't to redirect 'unprecedented' resources to fight murder wave

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Robert Montague, minister of national security, makes his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.
Robert Montague (left), minister of national security chats with Peter Bunting, opposition spokesperson on national security, before making his sectoral presentation at Gordon House yesterday.

The Government has announced that it will be pumping massive resources over a three-year period into the national security apparatus to reduce the wave of murders that has been unleashed by criminal elements, particularly in western Jamaica.

National Security Minister Robert Montague said he was not daunted by the surge of murders rocking the country even as he vowed to pump unprecedented resources into fighting crime.

Montague announced that the administration is moving to establish a broad-based committee chaired by university lecturer Dr Orville Taylor to guide policy, set standards and evaluation benchmarks, and give general guidance on national security.

The committee is expected to receive support from civil society, the media, trade unions, academia, and other sector interests.


Tough decision


One of the key tasks of the Taylor-chaired committee is to set a timetable for implementation of all the recommendations that have been made over the last 20 years.

He suggested that several critical ministries of Government have made the tough decision of delaying the implementation of vital programmes in an effort to divert massive resources to tackle the crime problem.

In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Gordon House yesterday, Montague thanked the ministries of industry, commerce, agriculture, and fisheries, and economic growth and job creation, as well as transport and mining and local government for pushing most of their available resources to target crime.

Indicating that he was unable to provide details of the strategies that would be implemented to deal with crime, Montague said it would be unwise to do so as the criminals would also be privy to the information and take pre-emptive action.

"We have our needs, and while our international partners can, have, and will assist, as an independent sovereign nation, we must lead the way. We must put our money where our mouth is. Crime is our problem. We must begin to take the hard, tough choices to deal with it," Montague asserted.

Montague made it clear that the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) had been working to clear a backlog of applications dating back to 2012.

He said Jamaicans must be given a chance against "dog-hearted criminal", noting that law-abiding citizens could and would get gun licences, but proper vetting and training must be done.


Licences to be revoked


A tough-talking Montague declared that the FLA had started to review some persons who currently have gun licences. He said that the FLA would revoke some licences as the holders should not have been issued with a licence.

Highlighting that 134 people who have been charged with murder have committed a similar crime while on bail, Montague said "bail must be restricted in certain circumstances".

On Tuesday, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte set off intense debates in legal circles when she said that the constitutional rights of Jamaicans might have to be abridged or infringed as the Government prepares to take action against criminal elements.


Amend Bail Act


She indicated that the administration would be attempting to amend the Bail Act.

Yesterday, Montague cited a case where a man was charged with murder and subsequently faced the court on five separate occasions for murder.

"Yet he was offered bail again. His mother was warned not to bail him. She persisted in trying to bail him. She was also murdered. Six murders - six lives - six Jamaicans," Montague lamented.

The legislation to make the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) an independent body will be brought to Parliament shortly, according to Montague.

He urged the anti-corruption agency to be fearless in carrying out its duty, declaring that it should go where the evidence leads it.

"I say to all those people who keep collecting money and don't do any work, stop it! Get in touch with MOCA before we get in touch with you."