Wed | Feb 19, 2020

No more asking criminals to cease fire, pursue them relentlessly, Venesha Phillips adamantly declares

Published:Tuesday | February 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Defence Force soldiers patrolling the streets in August Town, St Andrew after several persons were shot, one fatally in the community yesterday morning.

Venesha Phillips, councillor for the Papine division and caretaker for the Eastern St Andrew constituency, is adamant that a swift move must be made to halt the practice of local officials appealing to criminal elements to put down their guns.

Instead, Phillips suggests that the security forces must be given the necessary room to hunt and remove violence producers from the community of August Town and other areas across the island.

She was speaking to The Gleaner yesterday in August Town, St Andrew, in the aftermath of the killing of 35-year-old correctional officer David Stewart on August Town Road and the wounding of two others by gunmen, who then turned their weapons on police personnel responding to the explosions.

"I want to use the opportunity to call on the security minister and the prime minister, because this cannot be one for just round-table talk. We have been doing round-table talk for years now. It cannot be a process of engaging criminal elements, because that does not work! That actually furthers criminality in Jamaica," the tough-talking politician expressed.

"We cannot, as leaders, continue to talk about meeting with the different groups, asking them to stop. How do you ask a criminal to engage in a ceasefire? Seriously!? That is craziness! You must treat criminals like the criminals they are. What about the guns they have and the lives they have already taken?"

Phillips labelled that strategy flawed because it doesn't send a strong message to the criminals.

"It is that approach, I believe, that has been giving support to these guys and that will not allow them to realise that we are sufficiently serious about cauterising crime. Once you meet with them, you are validating them. How do you ask victims to trust the system when the system is validating these guys? I believe the police should be pursuing them relentlessly."