As Jamaica's murder toll approaches 900, a call by our northern neighbour's prime minister, Andrew Holness, assumes greater significance. Following the 37th meeting of Caricom Heads of Governments in Grenada last month, Mr Holness stated that Caricom leaders will have to address regional crime and violence in a serious way. In so doing, he was echoing statements he delivered last year at the 37th Regular Meeting of Heads of Government in Guyana.
The Jamaican prime minister contributed the idea of a collective response to crime and violence and went further to add that crime rates in the region are not just a security consideration but that violence as a means of resolving conflict and as part of social transactions is becoming a feature of all our societies. He suggested a unified Caricom focus on crime from a macro-social perspective.
Mr Holness was speaking with deep knowledge of a runaway crime problem in his country, a feature that Jamaica shares with T&T. Consumption of the diet of daily crime reports has become so unsettling as to prompt ever-renewed interest in cures or solutions. The effects of crime have been cited for their economic side-effects as well as their psychological impact on public morale.
In the Business Express, economist Roger Hosein recently pointed to shrinkage in foreign direct investment reaching minus US$60 million, and warned that the murder rate “can lead to a lowering of domestic investment”. Sherene Kalloo, physician and Express columnist, expressed a widely shared view about the persistence of crime: “The entire island feels like a prison where innocents and criminals are forced to coexist.”
Reaching for solutions, the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce have been reportedly working with others in business toward an anti-crime plan, with help from a multi-lateral agency. The business groups, aiming to support the Government's anti-crime efforts, apparently committed support in writing last month to Prime Minister Keith Rowley, who heads the National Security Council.
Whatever is being tried by T&T law enforcers is evidently not working, or not working to public satisfaction. It is with this recognition that thoughts turn to such external collaboration as may be drawn upon. Eyes thus turn to Mr Holness who merits positive attention for positing that crime-fighting can be approached from a regional perspective. The Jamaica Observer reports that he plans to deliver a paper along those lines to fellow heads at the next Caricom meeting.
Some regional anti-crime co-operation ideas that have apparently found favour in Jamaica need not await next February to be explored and pursued by T&T. One of them is a regional witness protection programme; another is sharing police resources to expand opportunities in training and experience. Crime, Mr Holness said, is an internationally disgraceful regional scourge; here is a common Caribbean cause to be fought. Let's do it together.