Will ZOSO Mt Salem bring PM Holness to his senses?


Friday, September 08, 2017

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On Friday, September 1, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, chairman of Cabinet, chairman of the National Security Council (NSC), chairman of the Social Intervention Committee (what else?), launched the zones of special operations (ZOSO) programme to curb crime in Mt Salem, Montego Bay, and by Wednesday it had a power cut.

This is not what he hoped for; not what the good people of Mt Salem wanted, and not what Jamaicans need to curb our world-class murder rate. Biblical Salem was a holy place, as evidenced in Genesis 14: “And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was a priest of the most high God,” and our Mt Salem should be no less. But right now it seems a sick joke, unholy and a failure.

So, in one week ZOSO had a mortal, self-inflicted wound. This was our best prospect, but no mass arrests, no files readied for trial, and no cache of high-powered weapons found. Holness staked his credibility on ZOSO; it failed. He talked-up “clear, hold, build”, as ZOSO was to light a fire under criminals for all Jamaica to see in bold headlines as “200 suspects caught in their beds, 50 AK-47s found, crime ends in Mt Salem; ZOSO works, Holness rules forever!” ZOSO fizzled like a damp squib; 20 detained, an old revolver found; hassle for hotel workers and civilians. Un-flipping believable!

So, what happened? The new NSC is spawn of the Jamaica Labour Party Cabinet, with security forces in tow. A proper NSC should report to Parliament or include both political parties. Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is not in it. Sir, the JLP, with one seat more than the Opposition People's National Party, has 100 per cent of the say in the NSC; is it fair? Will it unite all around ZOSO? Wouldn't jointure be better for Jamaica?

Then, for Prime Minister Holness to appoint himself chairman of the NSC is poor judgement and a breach of good governance. Chairman Holness reporting to Prime Minister Holness is institutionally corrupt. The NSC chairman should be a civilian — like R Danny Williams or Dennis Lalor — credible, trusted, rock solid. Politicians come and go; our local legacy firms are custodians of the wealth of our nation, the engine of growth and endure for generations. They have most to lose and add most value; not so for politicians, who build debt then exit and fade. But a GraceKennedy, Musson, JP, United Estates gets stronger with age. Also, Sir, by taking the top slot in the NSC you deny yourself access to independent views crucial to making wise decisions. The echo chamber sounds, “Andrew, Andrew!” but is unwise. Repent!

After one week the operational effectiveness of ZOSO is in question, and it does not get a second chance to make a first impression. The precipitate passage of the law and the long hiatus did not build public trust. Then the data to justify choosing Mt Salem were wrong; there were not 12 gangs, so the security forces were caught out, good people of Mt Salem maligned and upset unnecessarily.

That Chairman Holness elevated Mt Salem, Montego Bay, to the epicentre of killing in our murderous and beautiful island is regretted. Could Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who favours hiding crime data, not stop this idiocy? Is there a death wish, silo planning, or crooked thinking? Let's pray the travel trade is distracted by nuclear matters, and that US President Donald Trump is not moved to tweet us or issue an advisory. The Deus ex machina of the ZOSO is surprise. This means you capture miscreants in their beds, cuddling their guns, with incriminating stuff around, in say three hours, as with every passing hour it falls apart. Tactics such as cordon, stop and search, etc, are not time sensitive or unique and are widely used without success.

So, Chairman Holness, what of clear, hold and build? Has Mt Salem been cleared of criminals? Where have they gone; all parishes? We expected 200 to be surprised; at least 100 files completed in this supposedly intelligence-led operation by matching fingerprints, DNA, bullet traces and, say, 50 charged. But Mt Salem, the top crime zone, had 20 detainees and a rusty gun.

So what will lesser crime areas yield? Then what about “hold”; are criminals trying to re-enter the ZOSO? Do police know who was in there; names, mug shots, or were the generals indulging Chairman Holness's fantasy? What about “build”? Chairman, you convened the social committee, so what data (apart from correct murder figures) do you have now which you did not last month? What's the build budget?

Holness committed political and economic self-harm as ZOSO Mt Salem failed miserably and may have unintended consequences on tourism. His effort is appreciated, but we said it was not inclusive — old stuff, unimaginative, but hoped we were wrong.

As currently structured ZOSO cannot work. Andrew acted with energy to fulfil his rash promise to have us sleep with our doors open and was made to look like a fool by his security minister and the security establishment. Heads must roll. What was to be a ticker-tape start to end rampant crime is a dark day —- hope dashed!

Going forward we suggest that a woman be appointed to head national security, as men did their best and failed. Against the run of play and great machismo, on her watch Portia Simpson Miller broke the back of intractable debt, turned negative economic metrics (acclaimed globally), and put us on a path to growth. You know this better than we do, Sir.

The moral? We must trust our women. Sir, what do you have to lose? We are already first in murders. What tops first? Sadly, Mt Salem is a lesson to never put ego and selfishness ahead of collegiality in nation-building. Friends, lock your doors and windows before you sleep! Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, DPhil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager. Send comments to the Observer or




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