Holness, Phillips for anti-crime summit on Thursday
Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips (left), and Prime Minister Andrew Holness exchange pleasantries at a formal national event (file).
Following months of wrangling, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, are to take part in an anti-crime summit on Thursday, October 17, that is to include stakeholders representing more than 15 organisations nationally.
The summit follows preliminary talks between Phillips and Holness on October 3, which were attended by members of the private sector and trade union movement. The engagement followed the Vale Royal talks between Phillips and Holness in January, and comes after a frustrated Opposition staged its own crime summit in July.
Both Phillips and Holness indicated on Tuesday that the talks had commenced. They were speaking during the debate on a resolution in the House of Representatives that authorised the extension of the states of emergency (SOE) in Clarendon and St Catherine and the three western parishes of Westmoreland, St James and Hanover until early January 2020.
Looking ahead to Thursday, Holness said: “There should be a national attempt around a crime-fighting strategy… and I am pleased to report that there is progress in that regard.”
He said both he and Phillips had met, and the discussions had been facilitated by a civil society group.
“And on Thursday there should be a stakeholder meeting which will address concerns, deliberate seriously the issues we face, and seek to create an uncontested political space in which there can be a national consensus on the crime-fighting plan for Jamaica.
“I think that is a positive step and a step in the right direction,” Holness stated.
For his part, Phillips cited that the process has taken 10 months, but said: “We (the Opposition) are pleased that this venture is now under way.
“We hope that the result will be some measure of agreement, not just between those of us here in the Parliament, but indeed, a consensus that can embrace the wider community of stakeholders within the nation.”
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association (JMEA) has welcomed the development. The association said it was “pleased to have been invited as an observer when the discussions resumed in early October, as well as to have been a participant in the subsequent working committee that met to co-ordinate a stakeholder summit.”
The JMEA said the October 3 meeting “affirmed a collective view that the crime problem currently confronting the country is its single (most) major challenge, and is deserving of priority attention.”
Added the JMEA: “The discussions affirmed the need for a national resolve towards agreement on the short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies to respond to the crisis of violent crime, disorder and murders facing Jamaica.
“We were most particularly pleased that the initial meeting with the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition resulted in the reaffirmation of both parties’ commitment to work in accord, and resulted in agreement between both the Government and the Opposition on the way forward to establishing this national consensus on crime management.”
The JMEA said the deliberations of the working group resulted in the determination of a framework for guiding subsequent meetings to arrive at this consensus. It said a multi-sectoral and bipartisan collaboration on crime management is considered to be critical to attain complete alignment in this regard.