It can't be going too far to say that the imminent installation of Colonel Trevor MacMillan as Jamaica's national security minister has been handled, up to now, with grave insensitivity and clumsiness.
It has heaped indignity on Derrick Smith, the incumbent for the seven months of Prime Minister Bruce Golding's administration, having shadowed the portfolio for most of the 18 years the Jamaica Labour Party was in Opposition.
With nearly 550 murders reported so far this year and crime generally remaining high, Mr Smith understandably has been under pressure for not showing results. His critics, both in and outside the Government, have questioned his competence and have complained that he has brought no new ideas or initiatives to the job. Whatever may be the truth of this argument, Mr Smith is right when he posits that crime in Jamaica is endemic, having festered and morphed over more than two generations and will therefore require more than a few months, or fine speeches, to reverse its evolution.
PM swift action
Nevertheless, we must commend Prime Minister Golding for his swift action in dealing with this number one issue of crime.
Unfortunately for Mr Smith, but perhaps politically fortuitous, the security minister has been ill for the past month or so and has been away from the job. It provided the perfect circumstance for Prime Minister Golding, for whatever reason, to shuffle portfolios. But we would have expected that it would be done in a matter that would have left Mr Smith with dignity - a resignation, or request for reassignment, perhaps, based on ill-health that has been made worse by an extremely stressful assignment.
As it happened, the plan for Col MacMillan's appointment was leaked last weekend, but with government officials denying specific knowledge about the move, while Col MacMillan was confirming his elevation. "It is factual; it is going to happen," he told this newspaper.
Unless this approach was a deliberate strategy by Mr Golding to test the wind, the manner of the disclosure is likely to prove problematic for the prime minister. For if senior members of the Cabinet were genuinely unaware of the imminent appointment, the manner of Mr MacMillan's confirmation would likely seem dismissive and a slap in the face of an old colleague. Indeed, some will deem the tone of Col MacMillan's statement at best arrogant. Prime Minister Golding, whatever happened at yesterday's meeting of the Cabinet, will probably have some soothing and repair work to do.
For Col MacMillan, his response will have to be proven competence and solid achievement. He, of course, is not entering totally uncharted territory.
Col MacMillan served for nearly three decades in the Jamaica Defence Force as well as three years, in the early 1990s, as commissioner of police. The cynics will argue that crime did not decline during his tenure at the constabulary. That may be so, but it's not the sum total of his effort, for he began the process of attacking corruption in the police force and rebuilding respect for, and public confidence in, the institution.
Significantly, too, Col MacMillan headed the task force, set up by Mr Golding while in Opposition, that made recommendations for holistic solutions to Jamaica's crime problem. He will now have the opportunity to implement that plan. We wish him well.
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