'Time now'

PM says Gov't ready to take 'firm and resolute measures' to fight crime

Editor-at-Large, South/Central Bureau

Thursday, January 18, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Prime Minister Andrew Holness fuelled speculation yesterday that he may be contemplating a limited state of emergency by saying that his Government is now prepared to take what he called “firm and resolute measures” to deal with Jamaica's “crime monster”.

Addressing a function to mark the 50th anniversary of Fontana Pharmacy, Holness said that his Government had “reached the point where we are now prepared to take these firm and resolute measures to ensure that the crime monster does not destabilise the promising future that is in store for Jamaica.

“Over the past months I have been observing public discourse very closely on this matter. It is an emerging view that now is the time that the Government should take firm and resolute measures,” he said.

“I know that the people in Montego Bay, especially, are very disturbed by what they see playing out on their streets. But this will take great understanding and tolerance from the people because the fight against crime is not just the police, is not just the Government, it's everyone, to reach the point of understanding that the Government must act and act in resolute fashion,” the prime minister said.

However, he argued that such action must be taken “with respect for the rights and dignity of the people, because the truth is that the people who are committing the crime are in the minority. A huge percentage — 99 per cent of Jamaicans — are decent, law-abiding, upstanding people who want to see this country grow and prosper. Now, that one per cent that is causing the destabilisation, we must put in place the laws and the measures to deal with them once and for all…”

At the end of the function Holness ignored persistent efforts by journalists to have him elaborate on his comments.

However, given that the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) were implemented last year — starting with Mount Salem, St James followed by Denham Town, Kingston — as a major crime initiative, there was immediate speculation that Holness may be preparing the nation for another step — limited state of emergency in major trouble spots, including the tourist capital Montego Bay.

A number of analysts and the political Opposition have suggested that the ZOSO initiative is doomed to failure. There was a major hike in murders last year — more than 1,600 — and since the start of 2018 the killings have continued unabated. Montego Bay and the wider St James recorded more that 300 murders last year.

Holness prefaced his comments on crime by pointing out that “business confidence” and “hope” were crucial to the desired growth and expansion of the Jamaican economy.

However, he said, fears of a complete breakdown in wage negotiations between the Government and public sector workers, as well as the age-old problem of crime, presented immediate threats to a climate of confidence.

In the case of the former, he gave the assurance that “we (Government) have taken the necessary steps to bring the parties together to reassure the country that we will have an enlightened discussion as has happened in the past, about how we settle these wage negotiations”.

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