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EDITORIAL: Sensible rethink of crime bills

Published:Wednesday | June 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

THE GOVERNMENT has sensibly with-drawn the six controversial crime bills to allow for consultations with the Opposition and other stakeholders on how they ought to be reshaped before being brought back to Parliament.

Many in the governing Jamaica Labour Party may interpret this as weakness, a caving in to opponents. To the contrary, it is an act of maturity, suggesting a willingness on the part of the administration to search for consensus in the face of criticism.

It is important that the Opposition reciprocate, rather than construe the action as a retreat and an opportunity to gain partisan advantage.

The developments over the crime bills, which were hurried back to Parliament after a two-year hiatus, highlight, we feel, the absence of an organised, ongoing parliamentary structure to discuss security and law-enforcement issues. In that regard, we propose the establishment of a standing parliamentary committee on national security, which would meet regularly, even if many of its sessions, given the likely sensitive and confidential nature of some of its topics, would be held in camera.

While the review of the bills will provide an opportunity for their adjustment to meet constitutional tests and the prevention of intrusion by the legislature into judicial authority, we do not believe that this ought to be the sole aim of the consultations.

The time ought to be used by the parties to discuss, develop and present to the people a comprehensive programme for returning Jamaica to a country of law and order.