Black Immigrant Daily News
Opposition Leader Mark Golding has expressed concerns over what he has described as the “increasing militarisation of law enforcement” in Jamaica.
“It is not a strategy that we (the People’s National Party) endorse. It is dangerous, and it has not proved to be effective,” said Golding on Tuesday as he made his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate at Gordon House.
His comments came on the same day the Government declared another round of states of emergency (SOEs) for the parishes of St James and Clarendon.
Golding said: “The ineffectiveness of the Government’s approach is underscored by the fact that in 2022, there were approximately 52.9 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in our nation, and Jamaica maintained the position of the highest homicide rate in Latin America and the Caribbean that year.”
He argued that “globally, militaries defend against external threats”. He questioned why the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) is being increasingly involved in policing work.
Golding said that two years ago, he observed that the size of the JDF was growing rapidly.
“I noted that on the trajectory it was on, it would exceed that of the police force within a few years. Similarly, the capital budget of the military has systematically and massively outstripped that of the police force.
Military expenditure, spending on the JDF, more than doubled to $36 billion over the seven years that the JLP has been in power. This represents an increase in real terms of over 40 per cent since 2017 – double the rate at which spending on the police force increased,” he pointed out.
He said, too, that the increased spending on the military is attached to the continued use of SOEs as routine crime-fighting tools.
“Under states of emergency, citizens can be detained without charge for indefinite periods. This is a threat to our democracy, and we have filed an action asking the Supreme Court to rule definitively that it is unconstitutional,” Golding stated.
He said the PNP’s position on crime, violence and the delivery of justice for Jamaicans remains consistent.
“We believe in a balanced approach, using both crime control as well as crime prevention measures. A balanced approach is essential to social harmony and crime reduction. It cannot be achieved through oppressive laws that trample on the rights of the people,” he said.
“We will vigorously tackle the major root causes of violent crime in a systematic way, while also properly equipping the security forces and the justice system with the legislation, tools, technology and human resources to carry out their work. It is not possible to be successful doing one without also doing the other,” he added.
The Opposition leader stated that Jamaicans are living with a heightened sense of insecurity, “and just about everyone feels compelled to sleep with their windows and doors locked tight”.
“The exceptionally high crime rate has been a burden on Jamaicans for decades, and Jamaica remains one of the most violent countries in the world. Crime and violence are conditions created by our whole society, and we cannot ignore the links between inequality and crime,” he said.
Said Golding: “We must think in terms of social responsibility, which is why we favour interventions for youth-at-risk to give up our fundamental constitutional rights. We believe that community intervention and targeted resources are essential to achieve sustained violence reduction.”
Golding said the PNP will prioritise and invest in effective forms of social investment for crime prevention, to accelerate the sustained reduction of violent crime. He said the Peace Management Initiative will be revamped, revitalised and made to work in the hot spots across the country.
“We will train and empower 500 violence interrupters across Jamaica to help to maintain calm and good order in areas prone to high levels of violence. This must be supported in our schools, with school-wide positive behavioural interventions through the Ministry of Education,” he outlined.
“From the enforcement perspective, what is required is spear-fishing that targets dangerous criminals — the violence producers; not casting a wide net that snares both the good and the bad.
“The Government must fashion legislation that allows known, vicious purveyors of criminal violence to be taken off the streets, so that an effective case for prosecution can be brought against them. They are taking innocent lives, destroying families and sapping our collective hope for the future. The procedure needs to have proper checks and balances to ensure that reliable intelligence, not suss and gossip, is the basis for their detention,” he said.