|The author, Mr. O. Dave Allen, is a freelance writer and community development advocate as well as a political commentator.|
Some ‘big fish’ were caught in a dragnet and they were perceived not as the shooters, but alleged crime producers. So the principle applied here, is to dig out the root, and the branch will wither.
On May 23, 2010 at six o'clock, the JLP Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, declared a State Of Emergency in Kingston, giving the security forces expanded powers of search, arrest and detention.
When the dust was settled, over seventy Jamaicans were massacred in the most consequential military exercise since the Morant Bay Rebellion.
This was impactful despite my own revulsion to extrajudicial and all other killings for that matter, as the state of emergency resulted in a marked reduction in the level of murders island wide; criminal gunmen quivered in fear at the site of decomposing bodies in the May Pen Cemetery .
The St. James Public State of Emergency is a contrived public relations gimmick designed to assuage the fears of a traumatized public and to intimidate the criminal gunmen into submission.
The role out of the St. James Public State of Emergency was like a damp squib, without shock nor awe, uneventful in its execution, inconsequential in its outcome.
Its major achievement is that it gives the parish some breathing space and the opportunity to assess where we are, what brought us here and the opportunity to plot a strategy to get us where we want to go. Unfortunately, this is a crisis that we have wasted.
Let me be clear on this matter on the calling of a Public State of Emergency: I made the call for a State of Emergency in an article published in the Western Mirror recently; in which I said “political will or not, the government has no choice at this juncture, other than to declare a national state of emergency”.
This recommendation was made due to the rampant level of murders on a daily basis coming at the start of the new year and the ineffectiveness of the Zone of Special Operation (ZOSO), citizens were hysterical, panic started to set in and people were looking for an instant solutions.
Something had to be done “not only to assuage the fears of the nation, but to begin to address the problem in the short term”.
The call for a Public State of Emergency in St. James was not well thought out. It was a knee-jerk reaction and It could not have come at the most inauspicious time; when the tenure of Commissioner of Police was in question, charges were being levelled at the Minister for interfering into operations, the rank and file were restive over salary negotiations and the charges of corruption in respect of the importation of motor vehicles for the Jamaica Constabulary Force were widespread.
The damage is already done to the base Industry on which the government relies heavily for its growth projection of ‘4 in5’. The full effects of the fall out will be felt by the tourist Industry and foreign direct investments for years to come. It should have devastating and immediate impact on the 2018 2019 budget.
In looking at the cost benefit analysis, it would seem prudent not to have extended the Public State of Emergency beyond the 14 days prescribed by law. Having successfully reduced the number of murders in the parish, the government should declared the Greater Montego Bay a Zone of Special Operation as a successor to the SOE.
For in the final analysis there is nothing within the state of emergency that cannot be carried out under ZOSO instead of this ‘ginalship’ of 'enhanced security measures’.
A strategic retreat of the of the military to avoid extended exposure and fatigue may be necessary. This would also avoid diminishing returns and consequently risk to the lives of our security forces. Develop an intelligence driven anti-crime strategy, targeting specific areas for intensive cordon and search missions.
The St. James Police have done a good job, they report that last year 2017, they seized a total of 142 illegal firearms and over 4,000 rounds of assorted ammunition in the parish of St James. With more resources, backed by the JDF, they could be effective without the destructive impact associated with a Public State of Emergency
The ‘samfie’ Security Minister, Robert Montague has suggestion that the public state of emergency in St James be referred to as 'enhanced security measures’, is disingenuous. The change of name is superficial and is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of the beast. “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig”
What is required is a well thought out strategy that balances the economic interests of the critical tourist industry and that of the wellbeing, safety and security of the wider society. It is late in the day for the cabinet minister to recognize that “we are in the tourism capital and tourism is the lifeblood and a public state of emergency has a negative connotation”.
But where was the Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmond Bartlett when this matter was being discussed in Cabinet, after all he is the PR guru and should have made the necessary contingency plan in anticipation of the fall out.
This is what we have come to expect from our Minister of Tourism, to be the champion of the industry in Cabinet, instead of flying all over the world hogging every show, while he should be on the ground ensuring the safety and security of the destination and the improvement of the product instead of carrying out a marketing function which is properly the prerogative of the private sector and their respective properties.
O. Dave Allen is a Social Activist and Consultant.
- Countries: Jamaica