Take back Mon­tego Bay!

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE -

IT SAYS and means a lot that out­side of the Gov­ern­ment get­ting and keep­ing its fis­cal af­fairs in or­der, Michael Lee-Chin’s Eco­nomic Growth Coun­cil (EGC) iden­ti­fies im­prov­ing peo­ple’s safety as “the most con­se­quen­tial growth-in­duc­ing re­form that Ja­maica can un­der­take”.

We agree. Which is why this news­pa­per sup­ports the coun­cil’s call for a fully funded, com­pre­hen­sive approach to the prob­lem – in­clud­ing the over­haul of the con­stab­u­lary and jus­tice sys­tem to make them more re­spon­sive, ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive, and ac­count­able – and why we back the sig­nals by the Gov­ern­ment of sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial in­creases to those sec­tors in the com­ing fis­cal year.

But Ja­maica faces a cri­sis of se­cu­rity now! Nowhere is that more ap­par­ent and fright­en­ing and po­ten­tially more eco­nom­i­cally nox­ious than in the parish of St James and its cap­i­tal, Mon­tego Bay, a crit­i­cal back­bone of the is­land’s tourism in­dus­try. So far this week, per­haps a dozen peo­ple have been mur­dered in and around the city. Many oth­ers have been in­jured. St James ac­counts for a fifth of the ap­prox­i­mately 900 mur­ders in Ja­maica since the start of 2016.


The sit­u­a­tion shows no signs of im­prov­ing. In fact, it has wors­ened as gangs and or­gan­ised crim­i­nals fight for as­cen­dancy in the lot­tery rack­ets that tar­get mostly el­derly Amer­i­cans who have fun­nelled hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars into the pock­ets of the ex­tor­tion­ists and swindlers. Caught in the cross­fire, law-abid­ing cit­i­zens grow in­creas­ingly fear­ful, com­mu­ni­ties are atom­ised, and le­git­i­mate do­mes­tic busi­nesses are un­der­mined and in dan­ger of be­ing pushed to the mar­gins. Left unchecked, this metas­ta­sis­ing cancer will reach the tourism in­dus­try, sick­en­ing the sec­tor that earns the most for­eign cur­rency and di­rectly em­ploys nearly 40,000 peo­ple.

It is ur­gent, there­fore, that the se­cu­rity forces re­gain control of the streets of Mon­tego Bay and the parish of St James. Ob­vi­ously, the con­stab­u­lary is overwhelmed and in­ca­pable of man­ag­ing the job. Re­cently, Charles Sin­clair, the for­mer mayor of Mon­tego Bay, pro­posed that the army be called out to pa­trol the streets of the city. The Gleaner con­curs.

Tourism in­ter­ests, hav­ing mar­keted Ja­maica as a laid-back, idyl­lic, trop­i­cal resort, have, in the past, been wary of hav­ing the mil­i­tary pa­trol a tourist town. But cir­cum­stances have changed in Ja­maica and else­where. In the face of Is­lamist ter­ror­ism, paramil­i­taries are com­mon sights in the cities of Europe. Fur­ther, we sug­gest the dec­la­ra­tion for St James of a short-term, state of emer­gency – but with ro­bust civil mon­i­tor­ing – to al­low the se­cu­rity forces greater room to ma­noeu­vre against the crim­i­nals.

In the mean­time, the Gov­ern­ment must move briskly to de­velop a se­cu­rity ini­tia­tive in the con­text sug­gested by the EGC.

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