EDITORIAL: If Golding, Simpson Miller are serious ...
In Parliament last week, Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller called for an assault on Jamaica's "growing subculture of violence and disrespect" and for the country's youth to be rescued from the potential "clutches of criminals".
In this passionate intervention in the Budget Debate, Mrs Simpson Miller, who has served as Jamaica's prime minister and hopes to hold that position again, suggested that dealing with what amounts to a crisis of criminality could not be constrained by existing economic and fiscal difficulties.
"We must find the budgetary support and craft the social-intervention programmes which will target the worst crime factories islandwide, and systematically eradicate the conditions which manufacture murderers and turn our playing fields into killing fields," she told fellow legislators.
But Mrs Simpson, who is also the president of the People's National Party (PNP), did not stop there. She proposed that the matter of crime in Jamaica be the subject of a major discussion in Parliament and pledged her side of the legislature, and by extension, her party, "to an alliance of all law-abiding citizens and entities to restore safety and security across all communities of this land".
Anyone who follows the editorial comments of this newspaper, including the current series on crime and criminality on our front page, would conclude that Mrs Simpson Miller's remarks would have The Gleaner's endorsement.
Jamaicans at risk
The reasons are clear. Jamaicans are at risk and scared. In the first 107 days of 2010, a total of 482 Jamaicans were murdered, keeping this country near the top of the league table of the world's murder capitals, with around 62 murders per 100,000 population. Moreover, as Mrs Simpson Miller reminded the country, crime helps to keep us poor. By some estimates, it cuts around seven per cent from national output annually.
But, while we endorse Mrs Simpson Miller's position, we believe she should go further. So, there are two other matters we propose to the opposition leader, as well as Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
Both are aware of the widely held perception that Jamaican politicians, especially those who operate in so-called garrison constituencies, are associated with crime bosses, their proxies or other toughs who help to corral the party's votes. These leaders should provide assurances that people who enjoy, or sit close to, the seat of national power are clean.
In that regard, we repeat our call for Mr Golding to interview his current Cabinet, ministers of state and parliamentary secretaries to satisfy himself of an absence of offensive relationships between members, political executives and dons or their proxies. These interviews should be buttressed by polygraph tests and sworn statements.
Mrs Simpson Miller should do the same with her shadow Cabinet and close aides. We also suggest that similar declarations and tests be standard for elevation to the Cabinet and parliamentary front benches.
Further, both Mr Golding and Mrs Simpson Miller represent what are, by any measure, garrison constituencies. If they are serious about pledges to dismantle these zones of political exclusion, they would resign these seats and represent them only in the context of the removal of political and social ramparts, and ensure the ability of residents to express their right of free will is absolute.
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