Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Curtailing rights a wrong move - Bunting

Published:Sunday | January 29, 2017 | 1:00 AMJason Cross
Members of the Jamaica Defence Force on operation in the Corporate Area.
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The controversial proposal to restrict some rights of Jamaicans in a tough stance against crime has been given the thumbs down by former Minister of National Security Peter Bunting.

"That has been tried over and over again from the '80s coming right up. I don't agree with that. I believe that you can be strong on crime and also strong on human rights," Bunting told Gleaner editors and reporters last week.

"There has been all these special police squads, the Suppression of Crimes Act ... and my view is that things like those just don't work," added Bunting.

He was responding to veteran journalist and Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne who ignited a firestorm recently when he called for the curtailing of some civil liberties to tackle the crime monster that has claimed more than 100 lives across the island since the start of this year.

"I am calling for locking down certain communities, locking away certain known crime perpetrators, going into homes without search warrants, and stopping vehicles on the road.

"Curtail some of my civil liberties in the interest of all. You can't have human rights if there is not a viable state. We cannot allow Jamaica to become a failed state and to let our prospects for economic growth evaporate before our eyes because our politicians and chattering classes are cowards," declared Boyne.

But Bunting dismissed Boyne's call, which, he argued, originated out of frustration and would represent a "knee-jerk reaction" to a major problem.

"What Mr Boyne said reflects a level of frustration, which I understand, but we've been there before," said Bunting, who shadows the national security portfolio from the opposition benches in Parliament.

 

STRATEGIES SHOULD BE GROUNDED IN RESEARCH

 

According to Bunting, what needs to happen is that the county's crime-fighting strategies should be grounded in thorough research before placing focus on the areas with the highest-impact potential.

"When I came into office, there were thousands of curfews being imposed every year. Some communities were under perpetual curfew, and the year we eliminated the use of curfews as a day-to-day tool of policing was (when) we had the lowest numbers of murders in the last two decades."

Bunting charged that the approach recommended by Boyne, who argues that the only anti-crime measures that can have an immediate effect on crime deterrence must involve some curtailment of civil liberties enjoyed in normal times, would only lead to a worsening of relationships between the citizens and law enforcement agencies.

"These are just sources of friction between the police and the communities, but they are not really effective against serious and violent crimes.

"When you create these sources of friction, what you get is hostility towards the police, and you reduce the likelihood of real information passing to the police about where guns are hidden and about who are the perpetrators of violent crimes," said Bunting.

The former security minister argued that the fight against the crime monster demands a trusting foundation between law enforcement agents and citizens.

"Rather than trying to look for ways to infringe on the human rights of the population or to curtail them, my view is that we try to build a foundation of trust between the population and the police.

"We must focus on improving the professionalism of the force so that people know every time a policeman is stopping them, they won't be shaken down for a drink or a bribe," said Bunting.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com