Thu | Jan 27, 2022

Letter of the Day | What is next for the states of emergency?

Published:Monday | November 29, 2021 | 12:05 AM


Last Thursday evening, I watched the last 15 minutes of the Senate Debate regarding the resolution to extend the period of the current states of emergency (SOEs). I stayed up for a while after the vote was taken and then retired to bed.

I dreamt that night that early Friday morning, the prime minister, Andrew Holness, called the leader of the Opposition, Mr Mark Golding, and invited him to Vale Royal to have a full and frank discussion on the crime situation, with a view to finding a set of agreed positions on the way forward. He asked Mr Golding to bring with him Mr Peter Bunting, his spokesman on national security, and advised that the minister of national security, Dr Horace Chang, will be with him.

I said to myself, “We will either have a meeting of the fantastic four or a meeting of the four horsemen,” time will tell. I hoped that they would leave their egos with the police security at the gate to Vale Royal and proceed to the meeting, allowing no one else to be present, save for, maybe, a few interruptions from J Wray and all the little ‘Nephews’.

After calling Mr. Golding, the prime minister summoned his security chiefs to a meeting at Jamaica House. He instructed them that they are to jointly prepare a comprehensive set of strategies and operational initiatives to support each strategy. The plan is to be designed to reduce the current murder rate and restore public confidence. He further told them that they should be prepared to attend the Cabinet meeting on Monday to present and discuss their plan.

I thought that this directive was eminently sensible. Our security chiefs are two generals who are well-educated, well-trained, well-experienced and well grounded in the art of critical thinking and strategic leadership. I have every confidence that, working with their staff, they can produce and execute a plan that will get the job done, without resorting to the ultimate tool in the law-enforcement toolbox, the SOE, the sharp end of which has already been blunted.

I woke up to realise that it was only a dream, and the great euphoria and expectations I felt in the dream quickly dissipated. I cannot think of another moment in my lifetime where leaders, big men and big women at all levels, need to lead, and not be led by popular opinion, but by what is just, upright and correct. Can they answer the clarion call?

Incidentally, the president of the Senate, in his passionate plea for the removal of a safeguard in our constitutional arrangements, referred to the “illegal and corrupt” 1976 state of emergency. My recollection of the finding of then Chief Justice Kenneth Smith is that the state of emergency was “illegal but not corrupt”.

Given the manner of the execution of the recent states of emergency and the purposes for declaring them, we may very well elicit a similar finding if a proper tribunal were to pronounce on them. I am not a lawyer, so spare me your poisonous barbs. I am just a simple sailor who loves his country and want us to do right by her.