My Fellow Jamaicans,

I am speaking to the nation this evening on a subject that deeply concerns every single Jamaican - a theme which all well-thinking, hard working citizens and sectors regard as the dominant problem we must solve - how to bring an end to the unprecedented wave of violence that has been unleashed upon our country by the criminal elements.

I have addressed the nation several times on this issue and outlined a number of measures which have been put in place.

On every available occasion since October 16th, I have repeated the firm intention of the current Administration to implement additional measures because if the vicious forces are allowed to continue, they will surely destroy our society and everything we aspire to achieve.

It is not surprising, that many of you had expected me to make this broadcast sooner and wondered why I had not.

I did not because I wanted to make sure that any new strategy we devised was properly fine-tuned. During the last four weeks, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force were instructed to jointly plan tactical operations for implementation by the end of November. All the elements are now in place.

Last night saw the launch of a joint police/military action in certain targeted communities to smash the criminal gangs that have caused such havoc.
In short, the Security Forces have been authorised to move from a policy of “containment”, which has not yielded the desired results, to a more “proactive” mode of dismantling the para-military groups of organised criminals which now dominate several communities.

We have to make the communities safe once again and to do so, we intend to proceed on a community basis.

The process of identifying the gangs, the nature of their criminal enterprise and their “style of operation” has now been completed, based on intelligence and research.

Our purpose is clear - to restore peace and order everywhere throughout our land.

This initiative will be maintained as long as it takes to rid our country of this criminal scourge.

The military and police will be maintaining an active, vigilant presence in certain targeted communities which intelligence tells us are used by drug dealers and criminal gangs as cover to maintain turf and unleash terror not only on the beleaguered residents of these communities but on the society as a whole.

The mission is to get the guns out of the hands of these criminals and drug dealers and to strengthen the protection and human rights of the overwhelming majority of decent and law-abiding citizens who live in these communities and whose human rights are being trampled and who live in constant fear of these thugs who hold their communities hostage.

Let me immediately assure the majority of citizens in these communities that they have no cause to fear the presence of the Security Forces. They will be there for one purpose only - to root out the criminals and drug dealers.

What we will see during this period is a new, and forceful use of the Army to effectively counter a group of highly armed and extremely ruthless criminals with significant international links. By moving into these areas, we are launching an aggressive drive. We are going to disrupt and dislocate these gangs and put an end to their evil empire. The lawless minority cannot rule. We will not allow it.

Have no doubt about it. We know the criminal element will endeavour to respond, but we have contingency plans in place to deal with these responses.

This is a task we must undertake and undertake now before we are all destroyed by these criminals. This action is about taking control of communities out of the hands of the criminal elements once and for all.

It will take courage and it will take stamina but we have to find the courage and the stamina now. We can wait no longer.

As this mission by the Security Forces proceeds, there will be an increase in vehicle searches and legal roadblocks aimed at intercepting criminals on the move. There will be some dislocations as you move about the country but any inconvenience you may experience will be greatly outweighed by the restoration of our freedom to eventually move all over the country once again, with the confidence of safety and public security.

Your cooperation with the Security Forces at this crucial time is the significant and practical contribution each citizen can make as the entire nation joins in the struggle to bring an end to the activities of these ruthless criminals and restore peace of mind to our citizens.

In respect of the Jamaica Defence Force, we intend to develop and implement a system whereby citizens or communities with complaints against actions by JDF personnel will have recourse in the first instance to the Special Investigation Teams of the JDF. Thereafter, aggrieved citizens and communities will have access to a constitutional body with appropriate human rights personnel under the direction of an Ombudsman, to deal with any such complaints.

The Minister of National Security, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, recently returned from a series of consultations with British law enforcement agencies. Additionally, the Minister on Friday last signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Government. These two countries have agreed to support and assist us in our efforts.

Their active cooperation and practical assistance in apprehending these criminals will be invaluable as we move ahead with this initiative. This assistance will include new training methods for both our police and military personnel.

In a Statement to Parliament on Tuesday, the Minister will give details of the agreements he has reached with these overseas law enforcement agencies, and the anticipated technical assistance, and technical cooperation with these two countries and Canada in respect of drug targets.

On behalf of the people of Jamaica I extend my thanks to them. The entire international community wants to see our efforts succeed.

In addition to the pro-active use of the police and military in the mission to search out and remove these criminals from our communities, the Government will be implementing other programmes which form important elements in the fight against crime, many of which have been agreed on in the bipartisan report of the National Committee on Crime and Violence. It is fair to say that there is national consensus on the findings and recommendations of the Committee. We are committed to their timely and effective implementation. The National Oversight Committee and the Bipartisan Committee will be established before Christmas.

There must at the same time be a focused, multifaceted, integrated, multi -agency approach to the problem. Conditions of poverty, social deprivation, political alienation, victimisation in any form, political tribalism, and general inner-city neglect and decay, as well as pervasive negative values and attitudes all contribute to the crisis. For make no mistake about it - we are facing a crisis. Better and more effective policing is clearly an important part of the solution. But that is not all. That cannot be all.

As I said recently in my swearing-in presentation, “We will engage in a comprehensive programme for the further reduction of poverty. W We must re-double our efforts to successfully implement a programme of inner city renewal and …accelerate the Land reform Programme and other programmes to provide affordable housing for all our people.”

Along with the joint police/military presence in the identified communities, there will be a stepped up programme of economic and social renewal. Many social and economic projects are already underway and there is a comprehensive list of others to be implemented in these communities. They will be pursued with the same intensity and vigour with which the security matters are being pursued.

Following its decision on Pratt and Morgan, the Judicial Privy Council has issued a series of rulings in a number of subsequent cases which has made it impossible for anyone to be executed in cases of capital murder.

Barbados has found it necessary to amend its Constitution so that capital punishment is not abolished by judicial decree.

In order to take similar action we will require the cooperation of the Opposition, which we plan to seek.

The Jamaican people are substantially agreed on the need to resume the death penalty. We intend to heed the voice of the people.

The effective fight against crime must also be waged on the legislative front.

Amendments are necessary to Acts which deal with firearms, finger printing, and the Proceeds of Crime.

Drafting instructions have been approved by the Cabinet which relate to Plea Bargaining and Alibis.

Critical change must be made to the Port Security Act to stem the flow of illegal weapons into our country.

International requirements demand that we pass effect Anti-Terrorism legislation which encompass financial inflows and outflows.

A special legal team, with the requisite professional expertise, is being established under the leadership of the Attorney General, so as to ensure the urgency which our situation demands on the legislative front.

What is distinctly different about the initiatives I have announced tonight?

This a programme, not a short-term operation.

By moving into certain areas, the Security Forces are being proactive, not reactive.

We will be unrelenting in the measures to disrupt and dismantle the criminal gangs.

We will build the confidence of the law-abiding members of the targeted communities by remaining there to maintain order while we support renewal projects.

We are working against the background of a comprehensive, nationally agreed plan.

We are moving on legislation to ensure that no loopholes exist through which the criminals can escape the hand of justice.

Fellow Jamaicans,

We cannot develop the quality society to which we all aspire when in so many of our urban communities a new generation is growing up with the barking of guns as the sound track of their lives.

We cannot develop the quality society to which we all aspire when the human rights of our young children, our young men and women, the elderly, are ignored as they live in constant fear of sudden and violent death at the hands of the criminals who seek haven among decent citizens.

The shock and horror we feel with each new atrocity perpetrated by the criminal elements must be translated not merely into words but into supportive action for the Security Forces as they risk their lives to protect our society.

It must be translated into support for the people of the communities, the families, the individuals who suffer at the hands of the criminals.

It must be translated into active support for the police; each citizen can play his or her part by making the effort to report crime; by obeying the laws of the land.

It must be translated into support for the social programmes designed to lift up the poor and disadvantaged, and assist our unemployed, uneducated young men and women who, if left without hope for a better life, easily fall prey to the temptation to indulge in criminal activities.

It must be translated into renewing in our daily lives the ethics, the principles, the decency, the demonstration of Christian values and attitudes in word and deed that will bring the positive change which our society is crying for.

Let us pledge tonight to use all these methods to build safer communities, a safe, secure, productive and prosperous nation. The future of our country lies in all our hands. Together, let us build the Jamaica we all want to see. Together, we can succeed.

Good night, and may the God of peace be with us all.