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Horace Levy | Getting special-ops zones to work

Published:Monday | July 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMHorace Levy

Clear, hold, build. This is the declared path of the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) strategists. According to the Submission to the joint select committee of Parliament by the Office of the National Security Adviser, it's what was done in 2003 in Denham Town, Hannah Town and Payne Land, except that the Government people never did the 'build' part after the army's very effective 'clear and hold'.

But was the army's 'clear and hold' actually effective? Where did the cleared-out bad guys go? To prison? Or to another part of the island? Are there data to substantiate the claim? If so, they should be made public to convince the rest of us that the process really worked. That it was just the build part, the follow-through, which never happened. Simply displacing criminals, if that was what actually took place, is no solution.

Consider Tivoli Gardens in and after the 2010 'incursion'. The claim is made that there was just no follow-through, no build. While truly no follow-through occurred, in fact, no proper clear occurred either. There were detentions of a few prominent persons, but few charges and no convictions. The same personalities are still there. So no hold either - that is evident from the shooting and the deaths that still go on.

The NSA submission also claims (Section 3) that it was its strategy in west Kingston that became the model adopted in 2008 by Brazil in its handling of some favelas in Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian approach was touted for the first few years as the 'Final Solution' to ghetto criminality. Just as Brazil trained up for the new method, another set of military police, 9,500 at last count (because the regulars were too corrupt), so here it is the army that is leading the charge. The army is distinctly more than co-pilot. And it has been busy getting trained for its new role.


Murder rate climbing


The trouble with the model in Rio is that the murder rate, which had initially dropped, has been climbing back over the past three and a half years. Killings by police are sharply up, as also killings of police. Also, the social input that was to accompany the law enforcement never happened. Will it happen here? How will the $2 billion added to the budget of the Ministry of National Security (MNS) be spent? Previous and current usage is not reassuring.

Funding to the Peace Management Initiative, which comes through the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), which also falls under the MNS, to begin with is too small. Additionally, CSJP has delayed it almost four months, since April, seriously stalling PMI's Violence Interruption Programme.

But there is a deeper problem with the ZOSO strategy here. While infrastructure and education, foci of the NSA submission, are necessary, its analysis is weak in one crucial respect. No sign emerges that the nature of the 'highly at-risk state' of the jobless thousands of youth and of their community life is really understood. Without that UNDERSTANDING and how to handle what it reveals, such as PMI (East) has demonstrated, the ZOSO project is headed for yet another round of failure.

Another failure would be disastrous. Violence would become even uglier, its cancerous tumour spreading poison throughout the entire body. Violence must be recognised as an independent, self-propelling 'agent' now. It must be decisively checked and cauterised.

- Horace Levy is a senior member of the PMI. Email feedback to and