Many Jamaicans will recall that in October 2019, the two major political parties alongside approximately 20 groups from civil society came together in a summit to discuss an aligned approach to combatting the scourge of crime that had enveloped Jamaica. Out of this summit, the groups committed to pursuing a National Consensus on Crime and appointed a working group to take the lead in arriving at this accord.
In the initial meeting of the working group, Minister of National Security Horace Chang, reiterated the concern of the summit that, “in order for us to address the crime epidemic in a sustainable manner, we must build national, non-partisan consensus, around both the short term as well as long term crime fighting solutions. We must agree to pursue targeted and strategic measures that will increase the efficiency of the police, undermine the efforts of the criminals, restore hope, and give opportunity to our people. There must be consensus around continued public investment in the police, in order to strengthen their capacity to create a safer, more secure Jamaica. While crime remains at crisis levels, all Jamaica must come together and develop a singlemindedness in doing what is necessary in taking charge of our communities to ensure reduction in violent crimes”.
The working group embarked on a process that would ensure an interactive, inclusive and facilitative engagement to get buy-in and commitment of all. Of utmost importance, was the need for both Government and Opposition to commit to sustaining fixity of purpose in moving forward.
In the two months post-summit, an intense series of engagements have been facilitated in a consensus-building brainstorming process to develop a High Level National Strategic Transformation Plan.
Fitz Jackson, the Opposition spokesperson on National Security opined that, “while attending to the immediacy of the current escalations, it was equally important for this plan to have emphasis on prevention, towards delivering a sustainable and permanent reduction in the level of crime”. He further went on to state, “it is important that the agreed Initiatives are under-pinned by specific action plans, and are based on research and analysis of the problems with crime in Jamaica, with the aim to ensure that activities are data-driven, targeted and coordinated so that they would have the greatest impact on crime”.
Lloyd Distant, President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Working Group, affirmed that all members of the team are imbued with the urgency and immediacy required to present a plan that all Jamaica can rally around. “Agreement on the principles that would underpin a National plan was relatively seamless, however the ensuing consultations have been intense with passionate positions being expressed on broad-based issues. Notwithstanding, we are well-advanced in alignment on the fundamental strategic decisions with respect to approaches to be taken and the areas of priority”. Mr. Distant went on to state, “During late January we will be engaged in what we expect to be the penultimate set of consultations, and will thereafter submit a document that outlines the blueprint for sustainable reduction in crime on which there is National Consensus, as well as the oversight framework for Monitoring and Accountability”.
Minister Chang and Spokesperson Jackson, both active members of the working group, have reaffirmed the commitment of both the Government and Opposition to this process, and to providing bi-partisan support for speedy implementation of the recommendations.