Quick on lotto scam bill, slow on crime cure
By George Davis
The elaborately named Law Reform Fraudulent Transactions Special Provisions Act (or simply the anti-lottery scam bill) must be one of the fastest-ever laws to have moved through Jamaica's notoriously slow legislative process into the country's Parliament.
The birth of the bill, which has been passed in the House of Representatives but awaits debate in the Senate, seems to have been induced by the actions of our Lord and Saviour, the United States of America. This in the pushback against the nefarious lottery scam which has wrecked the twilight years of thousands of Uncle Sam's treasured senior citizens.
Our national security minister, Peter Bunting, must have stood with a strap over the draughtsman's shoulder barking at him to work faster, once York County sheriff in the state of Maine, Major William King, told The Gleaner on January 21 that the lottery scam was being considered as a topic for discussion at the level of the US Congress.
Clearly, the words from King and the soundings from senior senators in the United States prompted our Government into the kind of action which would cover the country's flanks when such discussions were held. The Jamaican Government, which has to date failed to table anti-gang legislation first proposed in 2010, or DNA legislation which was drafted from December 2009, managed to bring a strong anti-lottery scam bill to the House of Representatives on March 5 this year.
In a clear attempt to prevent the country being stifled by its own flatulence, Bunting & Company raced through the anti-lottery scam bill to ensure that any Senate or congressional hearing in the United States couldn't reasonably ask the Jamaican Government what was being done from its end to thwart the activities of the scammers.
It's not difficult to say well done to the Government for getting the jump on the United States Senate Special Committee on Ageing, which held a lottery scam hearing on March 11 in Washington, DC. Nor is it difficult to marvel at how a committee, in a foreign land, led by 70-year-old Florida senator, Bill Nelson, was able to prompt the kind of legislative urgency and efficiency from the Jamaican Government that its own people are, sadly, not used to.
Many seniors in this country must be wishing their parliamentarians were like Senator Nelson and his committee, placing the issues affecting them on the front burner and getting results. This lottery scam and the albeit late response by United States authorities have forced a reaction from a Jamaican Government like people in this country have rarely, if ever, seen before.
We're still killing each other by the hundreds annually and have a crime investigation toolbox lacking the implements necessary to give our courts the best chance at convicting cold-blooded killers. Yet, no one can allege, with any credibility, that governments in this country have sought to address these issues with the kind of wild-eyed zealotry that we're seeing now with the lottery scam. Shame, really.
Whether it was motivated by fear of a backlash from our mighty neighbours up north, the efforts to date of our Government in managing the public relations and legislative issues attendant to the lottery scam are commendable.
State Minister Julian Robinson has won many more admirers through his performance in the US media, outlining how the Jamaican authorities are handling the problem, while dispelling notions that scamming has widespread support throughout the population.
Bunting's deftness in marshalling the law in record time in the Lower House of Parliament is also commendable, although he has inadvertently provided a thick, heavy strap with which he'll be flogged, should the snail-paced process continue to detain other important legislative matters.
The families of the scammers' victims in the United States are doubtlessly feeling good as their government is now fully on the case. They know theirs is a government that will follow through on commitments to prevent these criminals from victimising other Americans. They feel assured that their leaders will help them find justice. Those families demand and have got the attention of their government, their legislators, their champion.
Here in Jamaica, we wait. And wait.