Current Affairs

Current Affairs




PM assures tougher crime-fighting moves


PRIME MINISTER P.J. Patterson yesterday assured private sector leaders of new measures to control escalating crime and violence, including the increased presence of Jamaica Defence Force soldiers on the streets.

A release issued from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), after a meeting with private sector leaders, alluded to discussions on crime and violence but skipped the details, including the proposed involvement of more soldiers in crime fighting, which The Gleaner was reliably informed was among the measures discussed.

Mr. Patterson told the meeting that there would be, "strong, new measures to fight the unprecedented level of violence currently plaguing the society", including the establishment of a national commission on crime on which, he said, he expected a strong private sector presence.

The new measures come against the background of increasing levels of crime and violence recently both in the inner city of the Corporate Area, as well as in some rural communities, pushing up the murder toll for the country so far this year past the 860 mark.

Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President Oliver Clarke cited the sector's main concerns as crime and violence, high interest rates and bureaucracy in government.

"We discussed with the Prime Minister the importance of economic growth and the need to resuscitate our urban areas," Mr. Clarke said last night.

The Prime Minister's press secretary, Granville Newell, confirmed last night that the issue of crime was extensively discussed and new measures proposed. He also confirmed the new measures would include the increased use of soldiers in inner-city trouble spots, but said that details of the measures would be disclosed by Mr. Patterson at a later date.

Dr. Peter Phillips, the Minister of National Security, is said to have informed the meeting that the security forces had been asked to review their tactics, "and to move from attempts at containment to dismantling the criminal networks".

During the meeting, Mr. Patterson reiterated the Government's commitment to a model of private sector-led growth with the Government providing the enabling environment.

The Prime Minister also gave an update on the Memorandum of Understanding that had been signed with the private sector, noting that there had already been action on the modernisation of the Customs Department as well as the removal of taxes on dividends.

He also addressed the issue of the soon-to-be established Legislative and Regulatory (Legs and Regs) Unit to reduce bureaucracy. Legs and Regs is an attempt by the Government and the private sector, working together, to remove legislative and regulatory barriers to investments and commercial activities in the private sector.

On the matter of high interest rates, Mr. Patterson said that an upward adjustment in bank rates had become necessary, in response to the movement in the foreign exchange rate during the election period, but promised that with stability there would be downward movement.