Editorial

Useful announcements from Mr Holness

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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Jamaica's decision to take a chance with its first post-Independence leader may yet pay off.

Forget the usual partisan knee-jerk approach to viewing our leaders, Mr Holness is showing himself to be a thinking man and a maturing leader. His address to the Jamaica Labour Party conference on Sunday bears this out and provides us a basis on which to assess his leadership going forward.

Among the several very useful announcements he made in that address, two stand out for what they indicate about Mr Holness's ability to reason and to listen to the people at the right time.

First, his decision to entertain further discussions and fleshing out of the national identification system, better known as NIDS. Although the NIDS Bill has been passed by both Houses of Parliament, Mr Holness understands that it would be a pyrrhic victory if he doesn't carry the country with him.

The NIDS should really not be a politically partisan issue, much like crime-fighting should not. But we wouldn't be Jamaicans if we did not toe the party line, even on a matter that affects or will affect each and every Jamaican, irrespective of party affiliation.

In fact, there are people who have been frantically spreading the view online that NIDS is the fearsome “mark of the beast” — an idea conjured up by religion as the precursor to the end of the world. It is therefore critical that, to avoid a large segment of the population resisting NIDs, a massive public education campaign be undertaken to fully explain and get more feedback on the critical importance of the NIDS.

Second, Mr Holness correctly announced the decision to provide money to pay the legal expenses of police fingered by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) in shooting cases and legislation to prevent individuals suspected in violent crimes being given bail to be free to kill witnesses against them.

The prime minister understands that with all the INDECOMs and all the crime plans, nothing will be achieved if the police feel a genuine fear of doing their jobs; and with over 1,400 murders so far this year, waiting for perfection, which may never come, cannot be the answer.

INDECOM's response that it also investigates the army and the prison service, but hears no arguments about low morale stemming from investigations of those bodies, is ludicrous and simplistic because they do not face what the police face daily.

At the same time, we reiterate that the police must make every effort to perform their duties with the utmost professionalism, which includes the highest regard for the rights of individuals.

As to the Jamaicans For Justice view that Mr Holness's claim is baseless, given that in 2017 the police have already killed more people than in 2016 and 2015, the human rights group conveniently forgets the 1,400 murders so far this year, as if that is less important than police killings.

Importantly, too, among the 1,400 are murders of witnesses to murder committed by suspects on bail. This can worsen the long-standing fear of Jamaicans to report crimes to the police. Let's be on the side of innocent Jamaicans.

While the search for the perfect solution to crime and other issues arising therefrom continues, every effort must be made to keep Jamaicans safe. Mr Holness gets it.

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