Private sector groups start push for action on crime plan

PRIVATE sector groups and members of civil society, who have joined forces to seek to establish a national consensus for the sustainable reduction of crime and violence in Jamaica, are pushing to have a final policy document in weeks.

Addressing members of the media at the start of discussions with Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips and members of his team yesterday, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Lloyd Distant said the groups were conducting final talks with the political leaders before a major summit to sign off on the anti-crime agreement.

“After today’s meeting we will meet with the prime minister on Thursday, and I anticipate that by early next week we will have a date for the summit. I think from where we all sit as stakeholders it’s our expectation that we can call the summit in a matter of weeks,” said Distant, who had earlier expressed confidence that both Phillips and Prime Minister Andrew Holness seem committed to a national consensus on crime.

According to Distant, what is needed is an agreement on crime-fighting similar to the one on the economy which was forged under the People’s National Party Administration and continued by the present Jamaica Labour Party Government.

“What I have felt from the statements that you [Phillips] have made, both publicly and in one-and-one conversations, and similar statements from the prime minister, is that there is a commitment to the process.

“Unfortunately we have lost a bit of time, but we are at a point now where I believe, through this discourse, we can finalise any outstanding points and issues and hopefully in another [few] weeks we can close with a summit where we all sign off on this and get all of Jamaica, because this is not a bipartisan, or multi-stakeholders, it is an all-of-Jamaica effort,” said Distant.

“And certainly…from where the stakeholders sit, we are committed to driving this process through to the point of implementation, and we look forward to having that monitoring/oversight body in place monitoring the progress on this and holding all the signatures accountable to their commitments,” added Distant.

Earlier Phillips had declared his dedication to the process and reaffirmed his party’s plan to play its part in dealing with the crime monster.

“We are committed to, not only the process of engagement, but we are committed to having a frank, sincere, courageous commitment to the control of crime and violence and murders in particular, which have become absolutely untenable in the country, and is the source of perhaps the greatest crisis which the country now faces,” said Phillips.

“While governments obviously have a responsibility, we are, ourselves, of the view that national issues must depend on national mobilisation to find a solution,” added Phillips.

This week’s meetings involving the political leaders and the coalition seeking to achieve a national consensus on crime follows a letter last week in which the groups jointly voiced their frustration at the delay in finalising the country’s crime-fighting plan.

In the open letter to Holness and Phillips, the Jamaica Council of Churches, National Integrity Action, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, as well as other civil society representatives, said they were concerned about the lack of progress on a crime-fighting plan.

“Further to our fulsome agreement in October 2019, and your respective support and commitment to expediting a national consensus, we were pleased with the progress made in concluding the agreement on the fundamental decisions and tabling the specific recommendations embodied in the document: The National Consensus on Crime — an Imperative for Jamaica. We are also most appreciative of the inputs and affirmations of your respective representatives to the working group.

“Given the conclusion and submission of the report and recommendations in February, as well as your acknowledgement of the importance of this consensus in Jamaica’s fight against crime, we are perplexed at the apparent inability to confirm a time to meet with us and finalise the agreed actions and recommendations,” said the groups in the open letter published on the weekend in the Sunday Observer.

“While we acknowledge your stated support and intentions, we wish to emphasise that the words themselves are insufficient, and this is a time for action,” added the groups, as they underscored the importance of the meetings with Holness and Phillips this week.

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