EASILY, one of the best bits of news we have received this year is that legislation to counter the lotto scam could be approved and passed by the Parliament as early as March 2013.
According to National Security Minister Peter Bunting, a draft document — developed through consultation with stakeholders, including the business community — has been completed and will be tabled in the House by next month.
We encourage legislators to ensure that this bill does not plod its way through both Houses, even as they review it with a fine-tooth comb. For we are resolute in our view that this country should stand firm against the cruel, callous and iniquitous individuals who are involved in the lotto scam.
Regardless of the ridiculous spin that the lotto scammers and their surrogates in dancehall try to put on their evil activities, the fact is that these fraudsters are responsible for countless murders in the country — up to 80 per cent of those committed in St James — and the ruination of lives, particularly those of senior citizens in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom since the emergence of the scam in 2007.
No well-thinking Jamaican should forget that complaints from American citizens about Jamaican lottery fraud soared from 1,867 in 2007 to approximately 30,000 in 2011. We should also recall the US Federal Trade Commission's revelation that lotto scammers are bilking Americans out of a staggering US$1 billion a year, if not more.
The fact that at the root of the lotto scam are organised, violent gangs whose members threaten to burn down elderly victims' homes or rape their grandchildren if they don't keep sending money, speaks to the diseased mentality of the criminals and those who protect them and secure their blood money.
That the scam continues to thrive, despite arrests and seizures of money and property by collaborating Jamaican and US law enforcers, is an indication of how entrenched it has become. That is one of the reasons for our full support of this legislation.
Our anxiety to see it passed is also driven by the fact that the activities of these lotto scammers are damaging Jamaica's name abroad. Last year, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington pointed to that fact when he said that Jamaica was "getting a very bad reputation abroad as a nation of scammers".
That, as well as the murders and the traumatic effect on victims, should push law-abiding Jamaicans to take action against lotto scammers. We all should consider it our duty to give information to the police about the activities of these criminals. For they are enriching themselves at the expense of the entire country.
Again, we appeal to our legislators: examine the draft of this bill carefully, as is your duty, but don't have it languishing in the Parliament, as is the fate of other important pieces of legislation.
People's lives and Jamaica's reputation are at stake.