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National crime strategy meeting set for Jamaica Conference Centre this afternoon

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The leadership of both major political parties, and other stakeholders, are scheduled to meet at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston this afternoon, to start discussions on a national crime strategy.

No official announcement on the format and timing of the meeting was made yesterday, but the OBSERVER ONLINE understands that: the meeting will commence at 2:00 pm; both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, as well as Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang and the Opposition's spokesman on national security, Fitz Jackson will represent the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), respectively; and the event is being organised by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.

A number of stakeholders, including the private sector bodies such as the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA); the churches; the trade unions; civil society organisations; and human rights advocate are expected to attend the meeting, which will be a follow up to an initial meeting last week Thursday between Holness and Phillips.

Yesterday, prior to approving three-month extensions for states of emergency (SOEs) across five parishes — Clarendon, Hanover, Kingston and St Andrew, St James and St Catherine — the Senate learnt from the Leader of Government Business, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, that the idea for the meeting was generated by a suggestion from the prime minister at an initial meeting of the parties last week Thursday.

She stated that although nothing else has delivered the reduction in crime and violence as the SOEs, there will now be a wider collaboration and consultations on tackling the problems. She noted that the prime minister had proposed the working group within the framework of an oversight committee.

“And I feel positive about it. I am sure everyone is going into it with an open mind about what can be done better, and how we coalesce around the things which are being done,” Senator Johnson Smith told the Senate.

However, she cautioned that the expectations would have to be moderated, as some of the problems being dealt with are “ingrained and intractable”, as well as multifaceted.

“But, there is a lot that needs to be fixed, and we surely are not divided on that,” she told the Senate. “We are coming together to vote and, in a sense, it is an appropriate setting for the entry into the stakeholders' meeting tomorrow, where all aspects of the society will be represented".

She said that today's meeting will allow all views to contend in the search for a way forward and, in that context, recognising the duties, which the Senate carried out yesterday in approving the extensions in respect of the five parishes covered by the states of emergency.

The Senate approved the extensions with 16 members voting in favour, three abstaining and two absent. The Government needed a two-third majority of the 21-member "upper house" for the approval. Nineteen senators were present. Senators KD Knight, Lambert Brown and Andre Haughton abstained during the voting.

Balford Henry


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