Howard Mitchell | ‘Do the right thing’ to fight crime
Howard Mitchell, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), used his welcome address at its President's Breakfast Forum last week to urge all Jamaicans to do their part in tackling the crime monster. This is a lightly edited version of his address.
We thought that it would be fitting at our last forum for the year to end the series with the same topic that we had at the beginning of the year, the issue that has plagued us every year for more than the last 30 odd years - crime.
There is an urgent need to understand the concept of citizen security and its role in crime management and to raise awareness of how all of us can assist the Government in raising the level of citizen security and confidence.
According to the UNDP Human Development report for Latin America 2013-14, Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region in the world where lethal violence increased between 2000 and 2010, and its citizens identified crime and violence as their main concern.
For the Caribbean subregion, the UNDP Caribbean Human Development Report 2012 reveals that the elevated rates of violent crime and insecurity are related to a limited range of human choice, which means the existence of inequality of opportunities that restrict the choices of life among large sections of the population.
In this sense the report says, "crime may thus rightly be regarded as a problem profoundly related to development ... and which results in a lack of confidence in the state security institutions, such as the police or the justice system ..."
Violence and fear limit people's ability to exercise choices and take advantage of opportunities, and are obstacles to human development, the exercise of human rights, and the strengthening of democratic governance.
Some of the most common manifestations of insecurity in the region are related to youth violence, gangs and gender-based violence, especially domestic and sexual violence against women and girls, which includes femicide, the most extreme form of this type of violence.
At this point, given my track record throughout the year, I think you are waiting on me to launch a diatribe against the state and the political directorate.
Well, it's Christmas and I think that we need find some goodwill and cheer, even for politicians.
Besides, the fact is that we have seen growth and improvement in the economy. We have heard some strong and decisive words from our prime minister. We have noted a very definite effort to improve on the delivery of justice.
And our commissioner of police is to be congratulated on his steely determination to change the Jamaica Constabulary Force into what he describes as a "force for good".
Excellent slogan! "a force for good" and his efforts must be supported by all well-thinking members of Jamaican society. However, we are not happy about the data provided by the public defender and are awaiting the corrective measures that must immediately be taken to ameliorate the conditions in which state of emergency detainees are held.
That said, I want to point out and remind all of my fellow members of the PSOJ, and of civil society, that the maintenance of law and order, and of discipline and peace are not only the responsibility of the state.
Each of us has a duty and responsibility to the nation that birthed us and the society in which we live to 'Do the right thing'. We owe ourselves, and each other, to try our level best to act with consideration and mindfulness of our mutual human rights and to respect those rights without having to be whipped and punished and monitored every day.
As much as we call upon our leaders to do the right thing, we must, as leaders in our own way, strive to do the right thing as well. Equal rights and justice are our rights to receive and to bestow on others.
And at this, the final president's forum for 2018, which hopefully will increase our awareness of the meaning and value of citizen security as a tool of crime management, let us all take away the realisation that this is the only country that truly belongs to us, the only country that we have a right to call our own and an obligation to develop and grow by doing the right thing to the best of our ability at all times.
Please respect yourselves and your fellow citizen this Christmas and enjoy a happy and holy season in peace and security.