Sunday 9 August, 2020

Bunting accuses Gov't of hiding crime statistics

Peter Bunting

Peter Bunting

By Lynford Simpson

Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Manchester, the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Peter Bunting has accused the Government of hiding the crime statistics of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Bunting made the accusation on Tuesday as the House of Representatives debated and passed two resolutions that effectively extends by an additional 60 days, the Zones of Special Operation (ZOSOs) in Denham Town in west Kingston and Mount Salem, Montego Bay.

He spoke directly to the Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang, who piloted the resolutions.

“I’m disturbed Minister of National Security by the fact that the police have stopped publishing the weekly crime statistics,” Bunting stated.

Before Bunting could continue, the MP for Southern St Catherine, Fitz Jackson, who is also the Opposition spokesman on national security, corrected him by stating that “They not hiding it, they’re suppressing it”.

Continuing, Bunting, a former minister of national security in a previous PNP government said: “They’ve certainly stopped sending it to me”. He expressed the view that the crime figures should be sent routinely to all 63 MPs.

“Because we’re being asked regularly to participate in these debates and we have a right and a responsibility to come to our own conclusions about the effectiveness of these measures. And part of that must be informed by the data,” Bunting insisted.

He argued that suppressing the data was not the behaviour of a government in a liberal democracy. “It is the behaviour of  totalitarian regimes,” he added.

He pointed to Brazil where, following criticism, that country’s government moved to block the daily release of the COVID-19 figures but was overruled by the court.

Bunting told Chang that if he wanted cooperation, around the fight against crime, then he should ensure that the crime figures are not suppressed. He pointed out that previously, and for more than a decade, the JCF’s crime statistics were made widely available, including to the media. He argued that currently, even the weekly statistics provided to Jackson in his capacity of opposition spokesman on national security is limited.

“I think it is a backward step, it’s counter to transparency and good governance that we have moved to suppress the publishing of extensive statistics which can only help (in the fight against crime)".

At this stage, Chang rose on a point of order and insisted that the information was not being suppressed.

“If the member wishes to have them, he can have them,” Chang told Bunting.

The security minister explained that wide circulation of the daily morning reports was reduced because they are usually in draft form. He said they were still made available to the critical areas of the security forces. But, Jackson interjected again, arguing that Chang’s response was unacceptable.

“Even if it is in draft form, at no point thereafter for the day is it made available,” said Jackson.

Bunting then urged Chang to ensure that the crime statistics are made available at least once weekly to each MP “who is regularly required to vote on issues like ZOSOs and even more importantly on issues like extensions of states of emergency (SOEs)”.

He said MPs had a "right and duty to peruse the statistics”

“Without those statistics, the minister and the government can continue to gaslight the public with the frequent declarations about the serial and routine use of states of emergency as a crime fighting tool being this unmitigated success,” Bunting stated.

He charged that after three successive years of the extensive use of SOEs, the government’s policy has been a “colossal failure”. He said the annual number of murders has been much higher in each of these years of the states of emergency (2018-2020) than in any single year between 2011 and 2015 when there were no states of emergency.

“How on earth can that be described as a success. It cannot be,” Bunting remarked.

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