Mon | Sep 23, 2019

AG scolds colleagues on crime

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2019 | 12:11 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Amid a spate of deadly attacks by criminals, and lawmakers in Parliament trading blame on Tuesday about which administration failed to tame the crime monster, Attorney General (AG) Marlene Malahoo Forte had a sobering message for her colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

“I don’t believe any of us can sit comfortably in the House with what is happening in the wider society. I don’t think any of us can,” Malahoo Forte began, as the heckling subsided and her colleagues began to take notice.

“And I find it unfortunate that we are not able to devote the time, in a serious way, to discuss these issues. I find it unfortunate,” she continued to a loud ovation from both government and opposition members.

Up to last weekend, 580 persons were murdered across Jamaica since the start of the year, a six per cent decrease when compared with the corresponding period last year, official statistics have revealed.

Among them were a security guard and a money courier who were shot dead by hoodlums who stole around $3 million in a daring daylight robbery in the resort town of Montego Bay, St James, in March.

Last month, the nation saw pictures and videos of heavily armed thugs as they carried out a brazen daylight robbery at a supermarket in Guinep Tree, Clarendon, making off with approximately $3 million.

But as St Andrew South West Member of Parliament Dr Angela Brown Burke made her contribution to the debate on a motion to extend the zones of special operations in Mount Salem, St James, and Denham Town, in west Kingston, lawmakers shouted criticisms across the floor about which administration had done more to tackle crime.

Then Malahoo Forte rose to make her contribution the debate.

“I find it unfortunate that we continue to descend into a blame game when people continue to die, when our people are living in fear, when the brazenness of the criminals is at an all-time high. None of us should be comfortable in this House,” she said.

ALL-TIME HIGH

“Criminality is at an all-time high in this country,” the attorney general insisted.

Opposition member of parliament for Clarendon Northern, Horace Dalley, who volunteered to speak on behalf of all political representatives in the parish, made an impassioned plea for immediate action by the security forces.

“Right now, Clarendon is under siege,” declared Dalley.

“Robberies in Kellits, high-powered weapons, military formations, Butty Farm Store … go upstairs shoot Mr Butty Benjamin, move to rob the Western Union, move to rob the FLOW store … move to Spaldings [and] shoot up in middle day … the parish of Clarendon, three Sundays ago, made international news,” he said, making reference to the spate of robberies culminating with the million-dollar heist in Guinep Tree.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang acknowledged that the nation is at a “difficult state” and warned that unity of purpose of the Parliament is critical.

“Today is not a day for pointing fingers or blaming anyone. I think what we have to do is accept that, as a country, we have made some mistakes coming up to this point,” he conceded.

He said the Government was aware of the deepening violence in several areas, but pointed to the various measures being implemented, including billions of dollars earmarked to build out the capacity of the security forces.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com