What more can a min­istry do?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and ob­serve­mark@gmail.com.

FOR SOME time now, Ja­maicans have re­mained stumped by the level of vi­o­lent crime grip­ping the na­tion. For the most part, we all watch the news in agony and de­spair as we sym­pa­thise with the fam­ily, friends and loved ones of those who’ve fallen vic­tim to the con­tin­u­ing scourge of crime.

The ma­jor­ity of us are heart­bro­ken as we dis­cuss the tragedies in our homes, work places, bar­ber­shops and taxis. We grieve as much as we spec­u­late. The fright­en­ing re­al­ity is we know not when next the vi­cious gun­man will strike, but we wait with al­most a cer­tainty that the des­per­ado will.

Ja­maica’s crime prob­lem stems from a long his­tory of cor­rup­tion, ex­treme poverty, break­down of the fam­ily and lack of so­cial ini­tia­tives. Like most other so­ci­etal is­sues, what we face is stag­nant, stink­ing wa­ter un­der the bridge.

The fo­cus should lie less with where our crime starts but how we iden­tify, con­quer and progress. De­spite the best efforts of suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments, crime plan after crime plan, here we are.

At some point, we must ac­cept that we are re­spon­si­ble for our crime even if gov­ern­ments are the eas­i­est fall guys.

For ev­ery­thing you saw and did not re­port, for ev­ery crim­i­nal we al­low to go un­pun­ished, for ev­ery ‘see and blind, hear and deaf’, this is the price we pay. This well we’ve fallen into was dug many gen­er­a­tions ago.


I do not be­lieve that Min­is­ter of Na­tional Se­cu­rity Robert ‘Bobby’ Mon­tague is a bad man, nor do I con­sider him in­ca­pable, but I do con­sider Ja­maica’s na­tional se­cu­rity port­fo­lio a heavy bur­den to carry.

There is al­ways the in­side joke that na­tional se­cu­rity is where min­is­ters go to die. With­out a min­is­ter se­lected, there is al­ready the no­tion that who­ever takes up the man­tle will fail un­der its crush­ing weight. Un­like many other min­is­te­rial port­fo­lios, na­tional se­cu­rity’s de­mands grow greater year after year.

One ma­jor con­cern is that the min­is­ter does not get to choose the com­mis­sioner of po­lice, but he is man­dated to work with him. There are pos­i­tives to this when com­pared with the tur­bu­lent years of the late 1970s when gov­ern­ments treated the top cop like a per­sonal in­stru­ment that wielded power on be­half of the govern­ment.

I speak to Min­is­ter Mon­tague more than any other min­is­ter. The rea­son for that is ob­vi­ous. Vi­o­lent crime is ev­ery one’s busi­ness and the search for sus­tain­able so­lu­tions is the or­der of the mo­ment.

He does what he can, and for that I cer­tainly be­lieve Mon­tague should be given his due, es­pe­cially if he mea­sures his words more care­fully and make them more ‘con­sumer friendly’.

This year, the min­istry spear­headed sev­eral suc­cess­ful ini­tia­tives. The traf­fic ticket amnesty in con­junc­tion with the Min­istry of Trans­port and Works, to date, has earned $160 mil­lion since its start in Au­gust.

Min­is­ter Mon­tague’s min­istry has also spear­headed the ‘We Trans­form Cam­paign’, which seeks to re­move the stigma as­so­ci­ated with ju­ve­nile fa­cil­i­ties, while work­ing with the more than 242 chil­dren aged 12 to 17, cur­rently re­manded in the is­land’s ju­ve­nile cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties.

This year, the min­is­ter called for the pro­mo­tion of the is­land’s cops, who have not seen a pro­mo­tion in the past two years. To date, 28 se­nior cops have been pro­moted. Let’s hope it works as a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor in greater pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Ja­maica now has the largest mar­itime pres­ence in the Caribbean, thanks to four new ves­sels se­cured from the United States. No one man can fight crime; just ask all the pre­vi­ous min­is­ters of na­tional se­cu­rity.

I am anx­iously await­ing the full roll-out of CCTVs, Min­is­ter Mon­tague.


For ev­ery cold, there is a good dose of cough syrup. For ev­ery crime-stricken coun­try, there is the re­turn of love, as was sug­gested by Earl Wit­ter in his epi­logue of the Public De­fender’s re­port into Tivoli. What we need is the re­turn of car­ing for each other and the un­der­stand­ing that it does take a vil­lage, not just to raise a child, but to rid the coun­try of vi­o­lent, un­car­ing gun­men.

We must com­mit to strive for the re­turn of the jus­tice, broth­er­hood and peace we so ea­gerly pledged to as chil­dren. If we don’t, we are doomed to end­less gun­shots and added pain.

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