As we wel­come Gen­eral An­der­son

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

OUR RE­FLEX, like most peo­ple who know him, is to wel­come the ap­point­ment of just-retired Chief of Defence Staff, Ma­jor Gen­eral Antony An­der­son, to the newly cre­ated post of national se­cu­rity ad­viser. For, on the face of it, Gen­eral An­der­son is well qual­i­fied for the job.

He led the army for six years. Be­fore that, his job in the Ja­maica Defence Force in­cluded im­ple­men­ta­tion of the mil­i­tary’s own Strate­gic Defence Re­view, plus co­or­di­na­tion of the National Se­cu­rity Strat­egy. Fur­ther, he headed the group that de­vel­oped the Caribbean Com­mu­nity’s (CARICOM) se­cu­rity plan for host­ing the 2007 Cricket World Cup when CARICOM es­sen­tially op­er­ated as a bor­der­less com­mu­nity. He man­aged the plan’s im­ple­men­ta­tion.

In other words, Gen­eral An­der­son ought to be versed not only on Ja­maica’s in­ter­nal se­cu­rity is­sues, but should also have a re­gional per­spec­tive of the threats faced by the small, vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries of this re­gion from global ter­ror­ists, home-grown coun­ter­parts and do­mes­tic crim­i­nals.

How­ever, a full and clear ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Gen­eral An­der­son’s pro­posed role and a de­ter­mi­na­tion of whether his skills are be­ing best utilised de­mand fur­ther and bet­ter par­tic­u­lars from the Gov­ern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ja­maica House state­ment, Gen­eral An­der­son is the prin­ci­pal tech­ni­cal ad­viser to the Gov­ern­ment, an ap­point­ment that em­u­lates best prac­tices in ju­ris­dic­tions such as the UK, Canada, In­dia and Aus­tralia. He will ad­vise Prime Min­is­ter Andrew Hol­ness and National Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Robert Mon­tague on mat­ters “which broadly in­clude defence, crime and se­cu­rity, and pub­lic safety-re­lated pol­icy and strat­egy, in­ter-agency co­op­er­a­tion, part­ner na­tion en­gage­ment and re­gional and in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity”. Clearly, Gen­eral An­der­son has a full plate.

The is­sue for this news­pa­per is not whether he will give good and wor­thy ad­vice. There is lit­tle doubt that Gen­eral An­der­son will, as have many in­di­vid­u­als, com­mit­tees and con­sul­tants for a long time. In­deed, while it has not been shared with the pub­lic, we ex­pect that the lat­est of a these, the crime plan com­mis­sioned by the National Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in Au­gust, and an­nounced by its chair, Prime Min­is­ter Hol­ness, is, if it has been com­pleted, a good doc­u­ment with great strate­gies for deal­ing with Ja­maica’s most press­ing prob­lem.

The weak­ness, how­ever, is not of ad­vice or of plans; it is a fail­ure of im­ple­men­ta­tion. A le­git­i­mate fear, there­fore, is that Gen­eral An­der­son and his staff will prof­fer great strate­gic ad­vice that ends up where such of­fer­ings usu­ally do – in dusty, old, oc­ca­sion­ally re­mem­bered files. Un­im­ple­mented!

It is not in­signif­i­cant that Mr Hol­ness’ Economic Growth Coun­cil listed cit­i­zen safety and se­cu­rity, only af­ter macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity, as crit­i­cal to de­liv­er­ing the promised annual growth rate of five per cent within four years. Ja­maica is well on the way to lock­ing in the lat­ter re­quire­ment. It strug­gles with the for­mer, which will re­quire in­sti­tu­tional trans­for­ma­tion of re­sis­tant agen­cies, un­der­pinned by pri­or­ity al­lo­ca­tion of lim­ited re­sources.

This ef­fort will re­quire a dis­tinct cham­pion, prefer­ably some­one with the im­pri­matur of the head of Gov­ern­ment, ca­pa­ble of in­sist­ing on ac­tion from re­cal­ci­trant agen­cies and their lead­ers. In other words, that per­son should be the face of change. Is that among Gen­eral An­der­son’s terms of ref­er­ence?

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