Crime top of agenda - Government to wage war on gangs
published: Friday | November 15, 2002
By Vernon Daley, Staff Reporter
DESTROYING "THE monster of heinous crime" is high on the list of the Government's priorities, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said yesterday at the start of the new parliamentary session.
To this end, the Police Force and the military will soon have to report to Parliament regularly on the measures they are taking to tackle the island's ballooning crime problem.
Mr. Patterson, in announcing that Parliament's Internal and External Affairs Committee would be requiring the security forces to give account for their anti-crime plans, periodically, said, "But the actions which must be taken are now in train and we must give the security forces our unequivocal support." He was speaking at yesterday's swearing-in ceremony for Senators and Members of Parliament at Gordon House, Duke Street, central Kingston.
The Prime Minister disclosed also that an oversight committee would be set up to monitor the operations of the National Crime Plan which has been agreed by the Government, Opposition, the Church, the business community as well as other groups within the society.
With more than 900 murders so far this year, many Jamaicans have become panicky, as fear of crime sweeps the society. Earlier this week, Dr. Peter Phillips, the National Security Minister, tried to assure the nation that the Government's soon-to-be-announced crime plan would break the back of escalating crime problem.
Mr. Patterson said that Jamaicans should band together to root out crime and return peace and order to the society.
He said: "High on the list of priorities is containing and then destroying the monster of heinous crime and organized violence, which is tearing at the very heart of our development agenda.
"...The fight against crime has to be undertaken on several fronts. It is a fight in which all people of goodwill must be ranged on the same side. There can be no room for division on this," the Prime Minister said.
Fingerprint legislation as well as legislation to introduce plea bargaining are among the Government's arsenal to curb the growing crime wave.
In addition to crime, the Prime Minister named Constitutional reform, Local Government reform and the building of national unity as the other priorities of his Government over the next term.
A burning constitutional issue to be resolved is the proposed Charter of Rights Bill, which is to replace the present set of rights Jamaicans enjoy under the existing Constitution.
During the last Parliament there was a row between the Government and Opposition over aspects of the Bill. They agreed to meet subsequently to resolve those issues, but those discussions were put on hold pending the October 16 General Election.
"I expect those discussions to take place during this month," the Prime Minister said.
On Local Government, the Prime Minister said reforms needed to be implemented to ensure more meaningful representation at the community level.
"I believe it is important to use this occasion to indicate that we, who have been called upon to represent and serve the people, are ready to work and are determined to work expeditiously to deal with matters of major concern," Mr. Patterson said.
As the country searched for national consensus on important national issues, the Prime Minister said such common ground should not be determined by partisan consideration but by the interest of the country.
He said he wanted to see a society in which all Jamaicans, regardless of race, social origin or political affiliation could feel at home.
"Today I repeat my commitment to the rebuilding of a national spirit," the Prime Minister said.