Clar­ify, please!

JFJ ‘puz­zled’ by Hol­ness’ INDECOM re­view call

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Paul Clarke jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

THE IN­DE­PEN­DENT Com­mis­sion of In­ves­ti­ga­tions (INDECOM) law needs to be re­viewed, Prime Min­is­ter Andrew Hol­ness has said, as his ad­min­is­tra­tion faces grow­ing pub­lic pres­sure to stem the mur­der surge that’s seen an av­er­age seven killings per day in the first half of June. But one of the more vo­cal lo­cal hu­man-rights groups, Ja­maicans For Jus­tice (JFJ), says Hol­ness needs to quickly clar­ify what he means, es­pe­cially be­cause Par­lia­ment re­viewed the law in 2015. “I am a bit puz­zled by the state­ment,” JFJ spokesper­son Susan Goffe told The Gleaner, even as she wel­comed Hol­ness’ re­stated com­mit­ment Thurs­day to hu­man rights. “I am not sure what it is that the prime min­is­ter is con­tem­plat­ing or sug­gest­ing needs to hap­pen at this stage.” It’s the strong­est re­mark from the head of gov­ern­ment on the po­lice over­sight body that rank-and-file cops rep­re­sented by the Ja­maica Po­lice Fed­er­a­tion have cam­paigned against since it was es­tab­lished in 2010 un­der the Bruce Golding ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­spond to al­le­ga­tions of rights vi­o­la­tions by the se­cu­rity forces. Speak­ing at a crime sum­mit n Kingston, Hol­ness noted that INDECOM’s es­tab­lish­ment has con­fronted a po­lice force “that has tra­di­tion­ally re­lied on strong en­force­ment strate­gies” but has been tran­si­tion­ing to be­come more re­spect­ful of hu­man rights.

But, even as he pointed to the “evo­lu­tion”, the prime min­is­ter said INDECOM’s work has been im­pact­ing cops who have com­plained about be­ing ‘afraid’ to do their work.

“We don’t want to pull back INDECOM, but clearly, INDECOM and the op­er­a­tions of that new piece of leg­is­la­tion need to be re­viewed like any other new leg­is­la­tion to en­sure that its op­er­a­tions are not an ob­sta­cle to law en­force­ment.

“We have to find the right bal­ance,” he ar­gued, “to en­sure that crim­i­nals don’t feel that they can use the ex­ist­ing laws as a way to pro­tect them. Laws pro­tect the in­no­cent. Laws must pro­tect hu­man rights.”

COPS FEAR INDECOM

The Po­lice Fed­er­a­tion has con­sis­tently com­plained of the fear cops have of INDECOM, which it in­sists could see crim­i­nals

es­cap­ing be­cause cops do not want to the pun­ished for en­gag­ing them. The union, and even se­nior cops, have lamented the lead­er­ship style of the agency’s com­mis­sioner, Ter­rence Wil­liams.

Hol­ness’ call for the re­view of the INDECOM law fol­lows Jus­tice Min­is­ter Delroy Chuck’s dis­clo­sure to this news­pa­per ear­lier this month that the Gov­ern­ment has re­jected a pro­posal to set up a non-ex­ec­u­tive re­view board.

The pro­posal was among sev­eral set­tled on by a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee that re­viewed INDECOM in 2015. Chuck said amend­ments to the law based on the re­view are be­ing drafted.

The JFJ spokesper­son said she won’t spec­u­late on whether the pro­posed re­view could lead to a weak­ened INDECOM, but added that: “The gist of that re­port was to­wards the strength­en­ing of INDECOM.”

There have been more than 630 mur­ders so far this year, 19 per cent more than the fig­ure last year this time. The sit­u­a­tion has height­ened pub­lic fears and forced a state­ment to Par­lia­ment Tues­day by the se­cu­rity min­is­ter, Robert Mon­tague, who has been criticised for telling Ja­maicans in a ra­dio in­ter­view not to be “overly con­cerned”.

From left: Jus­tice Min­is­ter Delroy Chuck, Prime Min­is­ter Andrew Hol­ness and JFJ spokesper­son Susan Goffe.

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