Is Jamaica Finally Transitioning To The Rule Of Law?
For the first time in many years the number of murders in Jamaica appear to be on a declining trajectory.
Factors that appear to be contributing to this consequential development and that may be making many Jamaicans feel safer include:
1. A Prime Minister fully resolved and determined to see Jamaica regain its reputation for being a safe place. Andrew Holness has consistently and willingly invested all his political capital and his survival as a leader to accomplish this singularly pivotal goal. Jamaicans now, are increasingly buying into his commitment to our safety.
2. The deployment of new and major investments by the Jamaican government in the arena of national security. The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaican police have recently been provided more, and necessary equipment. The coastguard wing of the security forces now has additional boats and other essential supplies. Changes have been finally approved and the new road traffic law will soon be fully implemented. On the horizon is new deterrent legislation intended to make illegal gun ownership distinctly unattractive.
3. Finally, more Jamaicans are collectively accepting and beginning to support the need for a society governed by lawful behaviour instead of by gangs and guns. Other initiatives accompanied by the new incentives to reward capturing of illegal guns is garnering increased public support.
4. The ongoing trial exposing the savagery of gang members and their disregard for loss of innocent human life is tipping the scales in favour of the security forces.
5.Deployment of security forces trained as both military and police is strengthening the integrity and effectiveness of classified security operations.
6. The judiciary seems to be favouring more appropriate sentencing for illegal behaviour. And has also worked hard to improve efficiency and transparency.
7. The Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) are helping communities exit the vice-like control of criminal elements. In some of these communities the embrace of legal, structured activities and participation in honest gainful employment is taking hold. The need to rely on the temporary use of States of Emergencies (SOEs) is dissipating. Finally crime producers of all stripes and political persuasion are beginning to loose their vice like grip on once hostage garrisons.
8. The integrity commission appears determined to function as an independent entity and fully address corruption among all strata in the Jamaican society.
9. The Jamaica Eye has been deploying more and more cameras across the island. This has helped to capture illegal activity that would have otherwise escaped the attention of law enforcement.
Continuing to exponentially and immediately expand the Jamaica Eye is essential:
Visionary business owners must wholeheartedly support the Jamaican eye initiative. A small fraction of the extortion money they were once required to pay to gangs can be diverted to now providing long term wholesome protection.
These continuously monitored cameras will not only act as deterrents but can record activities which provide irrefutable evidence in court cases. Less reliance would then be placed on citizens who out of fear are reluctant to appear as witnesses.
Vehicular activity including recording of license plate data is a potential added advantage. The government meanwhile should support the investment of these business owners by deploying cameras at all major roadway intersections across the island to capture vehicular activity and thereby monitor criminal activity. This expansive use of technology will free the police to focus more strategically and deploy their human capital where most needed to maximise positive security benefit.
Police and military leadership and ongoing engagement of citizens are essential in cauterising crime.
The commissioner and the leadership hierarchy of the police must continue their positive engagement with the public. Frequent press conferences and media interviews updating the public on necessary information and success in policing must become the norm.
Visiting and engaging with residents in their communities, school students at all levels, and church groups ought to become the way of life for security personnel. Police should no longer only be perceived of as showing up after a heinous crime. They must be acknowledged as deploying successful strategies to prevent crime and be considered friends and allies with law abiding citizens.
Continuing to aggressively address misconduct and abuse of citizens by the police should be a top priority of the senior brass of the police. The JDF in its supporting role to the police must remove from its membership all those intent on tarnishing its highly respected professionalism. Using the maximum available resources to maintain vice like security along the country’s borders must also be paramount. Working with customs agents, local fishermen and villagers at hotspots known for importation of illegal goods should be accorded very high priority. The use of drones and other inexpensive modern equipment can yield immediate impact without major manpower requirements.
School staff including resource officers must help with the realignment and reeducation of students to foster acceptable and healthy behaviour.
Meanwhile ongoing training of youth at all levels regarding responsible civic duty and behaviour should be prioritised. A curriculum detailing the minimal expectation of all responsible Jamaican citizens should be rolled out.
This curriculum must garner input from politicians on both sides of the political divide. The judiciary, Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), military, police, psychologists, umbrella group of churches, student leadership and other relevant groups should participate in and contribute to the development of this curriculum.
Once developed, this new curriculum should be mandatory and available at multiple levels including primary and secondary education and during the the first year for all tertiary level students. Jamaicans can by this engagement fashion for the society and thus agree on some basic accepted elements of normal discourse and conduct. A sampling of likely topics to be included in the curriculum could include the following:
- The meaning of respect
- Professionalism and essentials of good customer service
- Basics of decorum
- Interactions with the law
- How to maximise use of government resources
- Using the internet safely
- The rights of citizens
- The rights of business owners
- What to expect from a political representative/politicians
- Essentials of Jamaican history
- Major accomplishments of Jamaicans at the international level in sports, leadership, science, culture and business.
This document must be apolitical and without religious overtones.
Realistic goal setting and achievements must drive the realistic expectations for Jamaicans around safety and development in the country.
Since day one Prime Minister Andrew Holness has dedicated his administration to ensuring Jamaica is a safer place for locals and tourists overcome by the majestic beauty and international acclaim for which the island is famous worldwide.
Despite obstacles and discouragement he intransigently persisted with what to many appeared an irrational, false and impossible expectation. It appears his blind hopefulness is now resonating with the leadership of the security forces and Jack and Jill living in the ghetto.
Out of hopelessness they are all, it appears, beginning to see glimmers of true real peace and the potential chance for a safer and brighter tomorrow. The ZOSOs may ultimately be a Jamaican fixture recognised as a concept PM Holness introduced that cemented the change away from garrisons to outstanding, liveable communities. SOEs will be remembered not as instruments used to deceptively incarcerate the political opposition. Instead they will be seen as a transitional tool which significantly reduced the loss of life while the security forces were strengthened and remobilised.
Peace, finally, yes peace at last!
Finally, many Jamaicans may possibly be able to confidently say they feel safe at last. Free at last. And like Martin Luther King, Jr, shout emphatically, “thank God Almighty I am free at last”. Free from garrisons, free from marauding, merciless gangsters and inept politicians.
Free form rape and exploitation of innocent girls and daughters at the whim of cruel dons. Free from random drive by shootings. Free to sit by the corner and engage in a game of dominoes with the man from over the other corner. Yes free, free to walk down any street in just about any community, at any time of the day or night. Truly, finally, Jamaicans will be able to pinch themselves and say, yes, “thank God almighty we are free at last”. Thank you Mr. Prime Minister, the Honorable Andrew Holness.
Guest author: Leon Wright.
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