THE Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has called on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to speak to the nation about the escalating crime situation when she addresses the public session of the People’s National Party’s (PNP) 77th Annual Conference in Kingston on Sunday.
“We haven’t heard from the prime minister [who] is the chairman of the security council and she, in her own right, ought to be speaking to the nation and giving the citizen some level of comfort. I heard the chairman of the PNP at a press conference recently, saying that at the PNP’s conference this coming Sunday [we will have] the prime minister speaking to a great extent on the economy. Well I’m demanding of her to speak to the crime situation in Jamaica, because if that is not corrected the economy will be going nowhere,” Opposition spokesperson on national security, Derrick Smith stated at a press conference at the JLP’s Belmont Road, Kingston headquarters yesterday.
Smith said the national security ministry must also give the country a status report on the effectiveness of the crime-fighting strategies that have been announced over the past few months. This, he said, should include information on the get-the-guns campaign and the use of CCTV in some town centres.
“We have not been hearing from the minister. Last year at this time he was gloating about the 16 per cent decrease over the previous years and speaking to smart policing. Well, I would like to hear what he has to say about the type of policing that we are experiencing now,” which he described as “horrendous”.
The Opposition spokesman also demanded an update on the results being reaped under the various pieces of legislation, such as the anti-gang laws, which were pushed through Parliament as a part of the conditionalities of the Government’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
At the same time, he blasted the Government for failing to reign in the escalating crime situation, accusing the Simpson Miller Administration of not being as committed to stemming crime as it is to the satisfying the demands of the IMF.
The PNP, said Smith, made up its minds that it was going to stick with the IMF programme and has been very disciplined and committed in pleasing its international partner, but doesn’t show that level of discipline and commitment to solving crime.
“We have to break the back of crime, because if we do not we will be where we are now in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.
Giving statistics, Smith pointed out that the figures year to date have seen 825 murders or 22 per cent more than for the corresponding period last year, equating to 169 more Jamaicans killed. He noted that 33 of those killings happened over the past week, and 63 since the month started. Smith noted also, that for each month since January (except August) more murders had occurred than the corresponding 2014 period, with at least eight police divisions recording significant increases in murders.
Westmoreland was the highest among them, at 112 per cent, followed by St Thomas at 89 per cent, St James at 53 per cent, Clarendon at 51 per cent, Manchester at 50 per cent, Hanover at 46 per cent, Portland at 33 per cent; St Andrew North, 68 per cent, and St Andrew central, 38 per cent. Smith emphasised that rural divisions had experienced an overall 49 per cent increase in murders since January.
Smith, meanwhile, attributed the decline in fatal shootings by the police to the presence of the Independent Commission of Investigations and more professional approach of security forces personnel.