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Politicians have a hand in Jamaica's crime problem - Bunting

Published:Thursday | May 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

NATIONAL SECURITY Minister Peter Bunting on Tuesday urged fellow politicians to "acknowledge our contribution" to Jamaica's crime problem, saying the country's chances of reversing the crime epidemic will only be achieved through changing attitudes and behaviours.

Bunting, while contributing to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, said to substantially reverse violence in the country, "we have to change the attitudes and behaviours around the violence-related risks and causal factors".

The minister said Jamaica has, for decades, developed a subculture of violence and lawlessness that has been reinforced and promoted by segments of the society. He said the connection between elements of both political parties and criminal gangs and dons is one of the causal factors in the culture of violence.

"Criminals would support party candidates and were often rewarded with contract works. Hopefully, the worst days of this criminal gang/political nexus are now behind us, but we must acknowledge our contribution," Bunting said.

Reversing the culture of lawlessness

The minister said the Government is now embarked on a path to reversing the culture of lawlessness, which he said has overtaken the country, and argues that it will not give "a quick fix or earn kudos within an election cycle", but he is convinced it is the correct strategy.

According to Bunting, law-enforcement activities by themselves do not provide an adequate response to the problem which is facing the country. He told parliamentarians that "sustainable reductions in crime and violence will, therefore, require a deliberate and focused strategy that articulates various law enforcements, justice and social development programmes at the national, community and individual levels that address the causal factors," Bunting said.

Jamaica has recorded 353 murders between January 1 and May 10, a fact that was highlighted on the front page of this newspaper on Tuesday, but Bunting said it would have been "better journalism or a better service if they had put it in context". He noted that the figure represented an eight per cent decline over the same period, when compared to last year, and 44 per cent when compared with five years ago.

The minister also said, compared with five years ago, shootings are down 36 per cent. Some 419 shootings were recorded between January 1 and May 10.

And perhaps mirroring his call for divine intervention to help fight the crime monster, the minister said the task of tackling the problem sometimes "seems overwhelming", adding that the nature of some of the crimes being committed makes it appears that the battle is not against flesh and blood, but principalities in high places.

The minister said that, like Nehemiah in the Bible who returned to inspire his people to rebuild Jerusalem after it was destroyed by war, Jamaicans need to muster a similar spirit and rebuild its walls, which have been shattered by criminality, indecency and unhealthy values.