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Dump 'em! Bunting heads list of gov't ministers some J'cans want booted

Published:Wednesday | October 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

Having given up his job as general secretary of the governing People's National Party (PNP) to focus on his portfolio responsibility of making Jamaica safer and more secure, Peter Bunting finds himself atop the list of ministers Jamaicans want shuffled out of the Cabinet.

The Central Manchester member of parliament has been the national security minister since January 2012, and with 44 per cent of Jamaicans saying members of the Cabinet should be replaced because of underperformance or incompetence, Bunting has found himself on the wrong end of public sentiment.

The survey, conducted for The Gleaner Company by pollster Bill Johnson among 1,208 residents of Jamaica from September 6 to 7, and September 13 and 14, found that eight per cent of persons picked Bunting as a Cabinet minister who should be replaced.

In his first contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament as minister, Bunting highlighted crime control and the strengthening of institutions that are concerned primarily with that portfolio as his main priorities.

He said crime-prevention initiatives, including social-intervention programmes, were also critical in making Jamaica a safer country, and so, too, was focusing on the engagement of the wider community towards making Jamaica safe and secure.

Forty-two per cent of Jamaicans have rated the Government's effort at crime fighting as very bad, and 25 per cent said it was bad. Another 14 per cent said it was neither good nor bad; however, 15 per cent said it was good, and one per cent said it was very good. Three per cent did not know.

Bunting has pointed to a recent Inter-American Development Bank discussion document describing Latin America and the Caribbean as "one of the most violent regions of the planet".

The study pointed out that the average homicide rate in 2012 was 23.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, almost four times the global rate, and more than twice the standard used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to define an epidemic, which is 10 homicides per 100,000.

Bunting had set a target of reducing murders to 12 per 100,000 by 2016, down from about 43 per 100,000 at present. The national social partnership, which comprises the Government, the Opposition, and civil society, revised the target to 25 per 100,000 by 2016.

To attain that target, the police force must achieve an accumulated 44 per cent reduction in murders, which means a murder tally of not more than 675 per year.

As of September 20, statistics showed that 708 persons were murdered in Jamaica, fewer than the 856 recorded for the corresponding period in 2013.

PM, PHILLIPS ALSO KNOCKED

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who chairs the Cabinet, does not fare much better, the poll found. In fact, six per cent of persons want her out, and five per cent want to see the back of Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips.

Dr Omar Davies, the transport, works and housing minister; Phillip Paulwell, the science, technology, energy and mining minister; and Lisa Hanna, the youth and culture minister, also featured heavily in the poll. An identical four per cent has called for the trio to be replaced in the Cabinet.

One per cent want to see the back of Education Minister Ronald Thwaites.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com