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Bunting ranting as Jamaicans are dying - Smith

Published:Monday | July 13, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
Derrick Smith (right), Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokesman on national security, addresses a press conference at the JLP's Belmont Road, New Kingston headquarters while Pearnel Charles Jr looks on.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting is today set to square off with his opposition counterpart, Derrick Smith, in Parliament for Round Three of a verbal battle raging over the 2015 murder statistics.

Apart from a promised statement from Bunting at today's parliamentary sitting, Smith warned during a press conference yesterday that he expected answers to questions he has tabled.

Characterising Bunting's castigation of his tenure as a vulgar presentation laced with arrogance, Smith served notice that he would not be intimidated by what he described as the minister's rant on Sunday.

Even as Bunting suggested that Smith was "rejected, recycled and discarded", Smith said that he was not troubled by the depiction.

In an apparent swipe at the minister, Smith asserted that he would not accompany Bunting down the path of vulgarity. He said he would not suggest a withdrawal of Bunting's "john crow" remarks, as he was comfortable with the knowledge that he was socialised well by his parents.

Bunting said on Sunday that: "Some in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leadership have been behaving like a set of john crows, like vultures, gleefully reacting to every loss of life as an opportunity to gain political mileage".

With "Jamaicans dying and the minister ranting", Smith said that no amount of intimidation from Bunting would silence him and that he was prepared to work with anyone to solve crime in response to Bunting's declaration that "one hand can't clap".

"The crime situation is a major concern and we will continue this to the nation's attention. The Opposition is completely disappointed with what the Govern-ment has to offer," he said.

Although Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams has advised against the counting of bodies, the verbal spat between Smith and Bunting appears to be centred around current murder figures.

Smith presented data on the annual murder levels since 1960 to prove that murders had a tendency to shoot up during periods when the PNP was in power.

"With all the spin that he is attempting, the JLP has a much better track record," Smith declared, after Bunting said "war" during a political meeting in Eastern St Andrew on Sunday.

personal attacks

Bunting said that it was Smith who launched the first attack in his absence, but Smith reacted to the minister's labelling him a coward for talking when his back was turned.

He said he could not have known that Bunting had "tiptoed" out of the country and spent two weeks away while more than 45 Jamaicans lost their lives to the gun.

Smith said that while Bunting was on his vulgar romp in the Corporate Area on Sunday, police were on two crime scenes in western Jamaica, processing a quadruple murder in Westmoreland and the shooting of three others in neighbouring St James.

Smith contended that Bunting had descended to unseemly personal attacks at a time when the murder toll had surged to 629, representing a 22 per cent jump.

He said 13 of the 19 police divisions islandwide have recorded higher numbers of murders over the corresponding period of 2014.

Smith said that it was Bunting, in his role as Opposition spokesman, who had sabotaged further decline in the murder rate when he opposed the extension of the limited state of emergency in the aftermath of the 2010 military operation in west Kingston that was responsible for bringing down the homicide rate.

He also poured scorn on suggestions by Bunting that he was unceremoniously booted as national security minister by then Prime Minister Bruce Golding as the crime rate raged out of control.

He said he was removed after suffering a severe bout of diabetes which led to him undergoing multiple surgeries.

Smith also brought along crime data to show that murders have rocketed out of control during periods when the PNP was in office.