Editorial

PM, don't prove Dr Phillips right on crime-fight

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

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We are completely in agreement with the Government in its decision to declare a state of emergency (SOE) in the St Andrew South police division where residents are said to be cowering under the gun.

Going by police statistics, the division has recorded the highest number of murders — 94 — among all police divisions since the start of this year, and 25 gangs are said to be making people's lives hell.

“The high level of violent crime being experienced in the St Andrew South (SAS) division, particularly within the past two months, is at a scale and nature such that it greatly endangers public safety. The division has historically been one of the most violent regions in the country…” the security forces say.

We expect therefore that a zone of special operations (ZOSO) will follow quickly in the wake of this SOE, because it is no secret that St Andrew South has some of the worst slums in the capital city, making for the perpetual production of criminals.

Besides the need for a ZOSO, we wonder why this division has not been among the first SOEs to be declared, if indeed it has been — as the authorities say — “historically one of the most violent regions in the country”.

If it is also true that murders have increased in the period by 19 per cent, while shooting incidents went up by 40 per cent over 2018, why haven't the political representatives been more vocal on behalf of their constituents?

Without taking a position on what is happening in the Kingston Eastern constituency, we note that Member of Parliament Mr Phillip Paulwell has cried out about the murders and mayhem in that constituency, going as far as taking the matter to Parliament.

That said, we reiterate our call on both the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and the Opposition People's National Party to swallow their pride, end the one-upmanship, and unite the country around the fight against the gunman.

The abandonment of the Vale Royal talks represents a blot on the record of Prime Minister Andrew Holness. That he has ceded the initiative to Dr Peter Phillips in urging for the joint approach is inexplicable.

Having made the big mistake of voting against the first set of SOEs, Dr Phillips has shown what looks like contrition and is doing the right thing. He has seemed to concede, and would be right in doing so, that the crime fight cannot be left to any Government or the security forces alone.

Dr Phillips was led astray by his 'over-intellectualised' position that SOEs are not the answer to the crime problem. What he should have done was allow the SOEs to staunch the murders while the time was used to craft more long-lasting solutions.

If Mr Holness continues to fail to present a workable programme to dent the crime problem, especially murders, he will prove Dr Phillips right that he has no answer and believes SOEs to be the final solution.

That, of course, will do nothing for the confidence of the Jamaican people that the Government is doing its very best to keep them safe.


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