Wednesday, April 24, 2024

New crime-fighting measures to be rolled out in Jamaica

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KINGSTON –  Prime Minister Andrew Holness has indicated that severe measures are to be rolled out to tackle violent crimes, especially in light of the disturbing murders which have dominated the headlines over the past few weeks prompting cries for the Government to act swiftly to stem the bloodletting.

“We have taken certain decisions which I can’t reveal here, but in the coming weeks you will see them unfold [and] which I guarantee you will have a profound impact on the current situation,” Holness told an audience of resident and non-resident ambassadors and high commissioners at a meeting hosted by the foreign affairs ministry at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, yesterday.

He was responding to questions from the diplomats on the Government’s plan to deal with violent crimes, and in particular the recent gruesome attacks on women and children.

“There are multiple levels of responses that will come from Government. There is an immediate response that has to come to reassure public safety, and we are discussing those measures that will be implemented with the security forces. But there is a much broader programme that requires partnership of the Jamaican society, citizens and, institutions to truly tackle this problem,” he explained.

And, in a statement last night from Jamaica House, the prime minister said a special meeting of Cabinet is scheduled for today at which, among other things, the recommendations of the National Security Council will be considered for approval.

The National Security Council, which met yesterday to address the national crime situation, did an assessment of the current trends, including crimes against women and children, and the emerging practice of circulating videos depicting the commission of crimes.

“After careful deliberation and assessment of options that can be immediately implemented, the National Security Council has made certain recommendations for the consideration and approval of Cabinet,” the Jamaica House statement said.

Holness, meanwhile, argued that violence is a cultural problem. “The Jamaican State has to confront this. The experts will tell you that, whilst we are now seeing more cases being brought to light, it has always been the case. Until we are prepared to address the cultural underpinnings of the acceptance and normalisation of the use of violence as a means of resolving conflict as the currency of social transactions, then we will continue to have these occurrences.”

At the same time, he said the Government is now paying “close attention” to the trafficking of small arms and light ammunition into the island by putting in place infrastructure to intercept these contraband. He noted the recent acquisition of two medium-range vessels which should help significantly with interception. “That will have a profound impact in the years to come in terms of bringing down the levels of crime in the country. We are making other investments as well,” he stated.

Diplomats also asked for an update on Jamaica’s pending ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which the Government signed in 2000.

Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, in responding, said Jamaica would be proceeding with ratification of the treaty but did not give a timeline. The ICC investigates and prosecutes those who commit war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity.

In order to ratify, the Jamaican Government would have to sign a bilateral agreement with the United States granting certain categories of US citizens exemption from the ICC. Provisions under Article 98 of the treaty prevents one country from surrendering people within its borders who were “sent” from another country (on government business, for example), without the consent of their country of origin. The bilateral agreement would, therefore, protect this category of US citizens from being surrendered to the ICC should such matters arise.

Johnson Smith also informed the diplomats that drafting instructions are to be given for domestic legislation related to the United Nations arms trade treaty which was ratified in 2014.

Cabinet, in 2014, authorised changes to existing legislation including the Firearms Act, the Explosives Act and the Gun Powder Act to include provisions for the implementation of the treaty which regulates international conventional arms trading. (Jamaica Observer)

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