Friday 24 May, 2019

JLP, PNP engage in blame game over upsurge in murders

Government and Opposition members meet at Vale Royal last month. (PHOTOS: OPM)

Government and Opposition members meet at Vale Royal last month. (PHOTOS: OPM)

There is now a full scale war of words between the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) and the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) over which party should be blamed for the recent uptick in murders, particularly in St James.

On Monday, PNP spokesman on national security, Fitz Jackson blasted JLP general secretary and national security minister Dr Horace Chang for statements he had made a day earlier, beseeching him not to politicise crime.

But, according to Chang, the PNP, which pulled its support from three states of emergency (SOEs) last December, must be blamed for the rise in murders in sections of the island.

Chang, who was addressing a conference of the JLP’s youth arm, Young Jamaica, in Montego Bay on the weekend, took the PNP to task over its decision to pull its support for the SOEs. According to Chang, that decision signalled to criminals that they now have the greenlight to once again carry out their evil deeds with impunity.

He accused the PNP of spreading lies and innuendos to justify pulling its support for the SOEs.

 “The current wave of crime which dampens the country, we see solutions that the country could relate to but the People’s National Party has forced us to discontinue with this anti-crime measure because they used a narrative which was completely wrong, based on lies and innuendos, and the country needs to understand how it emerged," said Chang.

"They are using cheap politics in what is a national problem which is crime which affects people’s lives on a daily basis,” Chang added.

According to the security minister, police intelligence shows that the murders are being committed by some of the same young men who were detained under the SOE that was imposed in St James on January 18 last year.

“I find it(crime) a very personal thing. I am involved in the ministry where the crime information comes to my desk on a daily basis but apart from that, I am also in a constituency (North West St James) which has one of the highest crime rate and the people who are dying are people I know personally and those who are alleged to be doing the killings, I know them personally as well,” Chang stated.

“The narrative out there is that the government was sweeping up young black youths from off the streets and locking them up without charging them which was a big lie being propagated by the PNP,” Chang charged.

But the PNP is insisting that it will not accept blame for what it has described as the JLP’s failed crime plan.

Stung by the criticism, the party’s shadow spokesman described as “arrogant” the remarks made by Chang.

According to Jackson, “Dr Chang’s statement is contemptuous, reckless and inimical to the process of bipartisan talks, which both parties started a few weeks ago at Vale Royal.

The PNP spokesman added that the statement by Chang “is another indication of the government’s failure to arrest the murderous state of affairs in Western Jamaica, and elsewhere in the country.”

Jackson asserted that Dr Chang and the JLP government are well aware of the PNP’s position which he said is firmly rooted in principle and the Jamaican Constitution, as outlined by its team of lawyers at the Vale Royal Talks. 

“His statement, therefore, is a red herring which is aimed at distracting the nation from the core issue of the government’s policy failure on crime,” said Jackson.

He accused the national security minister of “seeking to scapegoat the PNP for the obvious failure of the government to bring a credible solution to the crime situation in the country.”

The shadow spokesman noted that the PNP and civil society have been asking the government for a crime plan and to date, the government’s response has been the promulgation of the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) and the declaration of states of emergencies in selected areas.  

“The statistics show that even while those measures were in effect, crimes and gruesome murders were still taking place. Since the start of the year, for example, 183 Jamaicans have been killed violently in various communities across the country. In Montego Bay and other areas where the special operations zones and/or states of emergency were enforced, more than 16 persons were killed, and other crimes continued unabated,” Jackson stated.

He said Dr Chang needs to use his time to convince Prime Minister Andrew Holness to schedule the long-awaited meeting with civil society stakeholders as agreed at the Vale Royal Talks.

“We eagerly await the resumption of those talks, to which the Office of the Prime Minister is yet to schedule so that the nation can come to a consensus on a set of crime fighting principles to break the continuous cycle of crimes affecting our citizens in every socioeconomic stratum,” Jackson said.

He added that: “The PNP will never accept blame for the upsurge in crime for defending the principle that fighting crime cannot be on the sole basis of the arbitrary detention of hundreds of our citizens without due process.  As a democratic party rooted in the principle of justice for all, we would not now or in the future, support the trampling of the basic human rights of the Jamaican people.  It is not in our DNA.

“We therefore urge Dr Chang to desist from politicizing the crime situation and seek by-partisanship to tackle the situation in the interest of nation building.”

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