Tue | Nov 21, 2017

Businesses support JCF-INDECOM relationship going before House board

Published:Wednesday | August 16, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

Business leaders are supporting a recommendation for the parliamentary committee with oversight for national security to examine the relationship between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) made the recommendation for the Internal and External Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives to be given the issue after hearing submissions last year from members of the security forces and the INDECOM head, Terrence Williams.

In its report tabled last month, the PAAC noted that "the strained relationship between the security forces, particularly the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and the Independent Commission of Investigations," was among the concerns raised during deliberations that also included the Jamaica Defence Force.

"It was highlighted that while there was a need for the Independent Commission of Investigations to provide oversight, the body could have an inhibitory effect on the operation of the security forces," the report added. "This has serious implication given the high level of crime and violence in Jamaica."

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica has now said it is in agreement with the recommen-dation of the Dr Wykeham McNeill-chaired PAAC.

 

BODY VERY NECESSARY

 

"I think it is a good thing. It doesn't hurt to have the relationship examined," said Dennis Chung, the organisation's chief executive officer. "It should be very clear, though, that a body like INDECOM is very necessary to ensure that there's a check and balance on the police and at the same time understand the role that the police play."

Chung said since INDECOM's establishment in 2010, the relationship with the police has been "stormy", but he said that "can be good". "It means that people are being kept on their toes. I wouldn't say that's a bad thing."

The Jamaica Police Federation, which represents cops below the rank of inspector, has consistently criticised INDECOM and its leadership for the alleged hesitancy of its members to do their work, claiming they fear investigations and legal costs.

JCF officials had also told the PAAC that they had a problem with Terrence Williams' leadership of INDECOM. However, Williams responded that there was no adversarial relationship with the police.

But the PAAC wants the issues to be fully ventilated and has suggested the matters be put to the Internal and External Affairs Committee. Before that committee can go ahead with the proposal, the Parliament would have to vote in favour of it when it reconvenes from its summer recess.

In June, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the INDECOM law needs to be reviewed.

"We have to find the right balance," he argued, "to ensure that criminals don't feel that they can use the existing laws as a way to protect them. Laws protect the innocent. Laws must protect human rights."

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com