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Nelson to unveil tough measures today

Published:Friday | January 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Additional activities to be undertaken by the Jamaica Defence Force are expected to figure prominently in the Government's latest strategy to break the back of gang-related violence to be unveiled today.

National Security Minister Dwight Nelson, who is three months shy of his first anniversary in managing the tough crime portfolio, will be fleshing out the Government's latest anti-crime initiative when he makes his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate.

It is understood that the JDF is to be given additional powers in the crime-fighting efforts.

Nelson would not say much but confirmed that talks were ongoing at the highest level in relation to a proposal to broaden the powers of the army.

For many years, the army has served as supplementary arm of Jamaica's crime-fighting mechanism.

There have been calls for the soldiers to take on more of the crime-fighting responsibilities as the portfolio became increasingly challenging.

In the face of the strenuous objections from the then Opposition, the P.J. Patterson administration was forced to scrap a plan to enact legislation to give the JDF powers of arrest in the 1990s.

Tough measures coming

The national security minister has warned that the measures to be announced today will be tough.

Nelson said the measures would be imposed without fear or favour.

Another major plank of the minister's presentation is the development of an anti-gang legislation, which is to be fast-tracked in Parliament.

Nelson told The Gleaner that he would today present the broad outline of the proposed legislation to crack open the range of gangs wreaking havoc on communities across the island.

The proposed legislation is to be dispatched to the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel for drafting before it is fast-tracked through Parliament.

Additionally, Nelson is expected to outline the Government's position on the six anti-crime companion measures, which were stalled in Parliament last year.

They are the DNA Evidence Bill, Amendments to the Bail Act; Offences Against the Person Act; as well as the Parole Act; Amendments to the Firearm; and the Constabulary Force Interim Provision for arrests and detention Act.

The anti-crime bills were presented in late 2008, but attracted strong opposition from human-rights groups as well as the parliamentary Opposition.

It is understood that the Government will not be backing down on implementing the measures after Prime Minister Bruce Golding expressed regret that they were not pushed through last year.

The national security minister has been hauled over the coals for the record-breaking number of murders last year.