Ronald Mason, Guest Columnist
IN JAMAICA, at this time, there are few problems more intractable than the crime. It permeates all sectors of society, and in my opinion, based on personal knowledge, not all of it is being reported.
There is no certainty of capture occupying the thoughts of the criminals. They act with impunity and, at times, it is reported, they will act for the equivalent of peanuts - a mere J$5,000 to murder someone. Life is cheap, indeed!
It is for these reasons and the length of time that we have a standalone minister of national security. The recent occupants have been drawn from the military, trade unionism, horse racing and now the world of finance. The sum total of their efforts has been NOTHING.
However, we have reached the point in our history that tackling the crime scourge requires application of forensic, scientific concepts, certainty of apprehension, and the finality of the judicial process.
It is in the review of these generally accepted areas that I conclude that the present minister of national security, Mr Peter Bunting, must go. He is an abject failure in the portfolio. Leave before we all end up dead at the hands of ineptitude and the gunman.
No DNA legislation. Jailhouses having to be closed by the health authorities. No arrests on the importation of bullet-reloading equipment.
No one can figure out your crime-fighting strategy. 'Unite', yes, right. How? You cannot define gang membership. Blame the legal drafting system. God not answering your prayer? You cannot be fired, as Sista P may have to borrow your car again.
Praedial larceny costs farmers around J$5 billion per year. How do we hope to achieve food security and import less? There are no fully upgraded, equipped, staffed forensic labs. The police shoot people like they are having target practice. The clear-up rate for investigations is a dismal 12 per cent. Nevertheless, the police continue to state a "gunman was wanted in connection with multiple murders". He is now "gratefully dead". "Crime will be positively affected with the extradition of Dudus." Remember those words, Mr Minister?
You sit in a Cabinet that wants us, foreigners and locals alike, to invest for growth. You should proclaim the mantra, 'Invest in Jamaica and die.' We have all these educated, bright persons joining the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Have we seen the positive impact?
Why not, Mr Bunting?
Specifically, Peter Bunting is, by all appearances, a competent person based on his history. He is, however, on a mission. He left politics after defeating the former prime minister, Hugh Shearer, in Clarendon. Why? There was no time friendly enough in the line of succession for him to become president of the PNP. Now he is the general secretary, minister of national security, and member of parliament to the more PNP-friendly parish of Manchester. Perfect stage to aim for the top PNP job.
He has done well in the world of finance, so all the pieces of the puzzle are there. One would have thought that a stellar performance as minister of national security would seal the deal. However, he is failing.
The most frightening aspect of his failure is that we continue to die at the hands of criminals. Members in the PNP Cabinet who also want the top job are not going to allow him to succeed. DNA legislation is not priority. They fight over the anti-gang proposal. They allow him to be the focus of bad jail conditions and poor police accommodation.
This slows his march towards the PNP top job. Minister Bunting is not set up to succeed, and he does not have the fight to succeed in the Ministry of National Security. We, the Jamaican people, pay a greater price. We pay with our lives.
One must contemplate the possibility that there is no 'ambitious' politician currently elected who will only fight the cruel element in our society.
So where is the replacement for the minister to be found? That person may well have to be brought into the Cabinet by way of the Senate (not K.D.). Someone with the cojones to make this country become disciplined once again by employing hard policing as well as forensic technology. Someone who is knowledgeable in the art and science of surveillance, tracking and processing of crime scenes.
We must understand that to secure safety, some of our rights and liberties may be infringed on occasion. If we do not restore the sense of well-being, the alternatives are stark. Survival by way of vigilantism? Or surrender to slow, painful death?
Too many persons are dying. Too many depraved persons stalk the land. Too many illegal guns are in Jamaica.
This minister does very well with the video displays and intellectual banter about operations and strategy and policy. Where is the success? If there is a blip in the form of a reduction in a category of major crime, it is the basis for a press conference. Where is the press conference that allows one to, with a clear conscience, call the police to provide security for the business persons' bank deposits? They fear the very police.
Where are the visible efforts being led by the minister? DNA legislation is not a priority, as we hope three years from now the IMF strictures will lead to growth and the jobs this created will reduce crime. In the interim, we bleed and die in our homes. We get shot, stabbed, or are butchered.
This is the harsh reality. Minister must go. NOW!
Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator and talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.