Wed | Mar 22, 2023

Make them tremble, Mr Minister

Published:Monday | May 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Having listened to the presentation by Senator Dwight Nelson, the national security minister, to the Upper House on Friday, we are even more convinced that Government is groping around in the dark in the fight against crime.

The majority of our murders, Nelson said, are the result of organised crime syndicates that are bent on maximising their profits from crime. Yet, despite projecting this view, we have not seen that strategy from Government that gives us any reassurance that there exists any will to hit at the core of organised criminality.

As far as The Gavel is concerned, organised crime spreads its tentacles far and wide and the drivers of these rings normally sit in high places and are well protected. Not only do we want to hear that great 'we-are-coming-to-get-you' declaration but we also want a 'flush-and-destroy' strategy that would cause even the most powerful of criminals to tremble.

The minister did say that Government would be strengthening the enforcement of the Proceeds of Crime Act by increasing the number of agents available to investigate financial crimes, particularly in the area of civil forfeiture which will allow the authorities to seize the assets of criminals.

Revitalise Operation Kingfish

But we can't seize properties unless persons are convicted in court and it is proven that their gains are from criminal activity and are therefore ill-gotten. It therefore begs the question: What is the strategy of taking down these criminal masterminds and is there the will to do it? Nelson, like most Jamaicans, is aware that at another point in our history, Operation Kingfish was to be charged with this responsibility. It appears, however, that Kingfish has been morphed into just another police unit which no longer has a mandate of taking down elite criminals. We must go back there.

The Gavel believes that one aspect of organised crime that we do not hear enough of is that which involves politicians, especially in garrison constituencies. In fact, before coming to power in 2007, Bruce Golding's Jamaica Labour Party, which now forms the government, acknowledged the link between politics and crime so much so that it pledged to apply some of the brightest, freshest approaches to tackling the monster. Among the promises were to enact into law the relevant provisions of the Code of Political Conduct with appropriate criminal penalties as part of a broader move to break-down garrison politics. Golding's team also promised that the political ombudsman would be required to monitor the conduct and activities of political representatives, especially in garrison constituencies, and report to Parliament. He would also be entitled to refer any matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Any report made to Parliament by the political ombudsman which reflects negatively on the conduct of any elected official would constitute grounds for impeachment and removal from office. We have seen no such move to deliver on these promises.

We don't consider it mere coincidence that, as Nelson said, more than 70 per cent of the murders and shootings occur in the parishes of St James, Clarendon, St Catherine and St Andrew. All of these parishes have elements of garrison constituencies and, based on what we have heard from the police, operatives in these problem areas take orders from 'bigger bosses' in other garrisons.

We believe that it is high time Government moves to honour its promise to break down these garrison walls which are a threat to law enforcement. The fact that Nelson did not even mention the issue in Parliament gives us little comfort that there is any such determination at this time.

Action needed

We have heard Nelson's philosophical junk about the street crime unit, consultation committees and legislation such as the repressive anti-crime and anti-gang bills. We have also heard about the need to increase the use of technology in crime fighting and, to the minister's credit, he has acknowledged the power of communities in fighting crime.

However, what Nelson has not done is that he has not given Jamaicans a reason to believe he is on top of his game. Surely, he has not convinced anyone that they will not die in vain should they stand up in their communities and lead the fight against crime