Chang and Samuda- Anti-Crime’s Latest Double Act

The recent appointment of Senator Matthew Samuda to the Jamaican cabinet post of Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security (or is it Economic Growth?) is rather odd. This is not based on Samuda’s suitability but how Prime Minister Andrew Holness came to make such an appointment.

Holness now has an unprecedented 5-6 members of his cabinet that hold the grand title of Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister. Namely, J.C. Hutchinson, Pearnel Charles Jr, Mike Henry, Daryl Vaz, Karl Samuda and (no relation) Mathew Samuda.

Senator Samuda will be working closely with his colleague Horace Chang who is the substantive Minister of National Security. Having 2 cabinet ministers overseeing the very significant national security portfolio is not smart thinking.

Yes, the recently retired Ruddy Spencer was Chang’s junior minister at the department but did anyone ever see/hear Spencer speak publicly on crime?

When Chang was appointed Minister of National Security (2018) I began to wonder – despite all the bravado talk – if the government was taking the portfolio seriously; as Chang was allowed to keep his role as General Secretary of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Given the ongoing crisis in violent crime, corruption and organised crime that has engulfed Jamaica, appointing a somewhat part-time cabinet minister in Chang just sent the wrong message. General Secretary is without any doubt is the most important position within any major political party.

Holness has said his government – via the latest budget – will spend close to $JM78 billion on fighting crime. When the Holness government came to power in early 2016 the projected budget for national security was then $JM55 billion.

The government’s over reliance on States of Emergencies and Zones of Special Operations to reduce crime was a vacuous policy to pursue. Expecting the security forces to fix the problems with brute force and little planning was never going to work in a country that has become unruffled to senseless murders.

The underlining violent and organized crime problems in Jamaica run far deeper than the security forces rounding up people and asking questions later. Just look at the growing number of horrific domestic violence incidents where the alleged perpetrators have included children, senior citizens and even members of the security forces.

Given the pronounced investment gone into fighting crime by the Ministry of National Security (MoNS) I just feel that the ministerial set up at the department looks disjointed and not in tune with its growing priorities. The workload is too monumental politically for just 1.5 government ministers to grapple. Especially as with a general election looming for 2020, Gen Sec Chang will have more pressing priorities.

In my opinion, MoNS needs 1 full time cabinet minister supported up by 2 full time state ministers;

  • state minister 1 to focus on policing (incl. reform), immigration, defence and intelligence (including customs)
  • state minister 2to concentrate on crime reduction, crime prevention, community safety and rehabilitation of ex-offenders.

Policing, Defence, Immigration and Intelligence (incl. Customs)

  • Given how closely connected narcotics is to corruption, violent and organized crime, Jamaican Customs (especially its intel units) should sit under this ministry and not finance.
  • Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime (CTOC), Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and Financial Investigations Division (FID) should form one single body.  [FID currently sits under the Ministry of Finance] Streamlining these organisations into one unit avoids confusion, duplication of work and could improve efficiency and its effectiveness in tackling serious crimes.
  • The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) should sit under one ministry. The JDF is currently part of the prime minister’s remit.
    • Is the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) stacked with too many middle and high ranking officers?
    • Is the current JCF structure delivering effectively on current priorities?
    • Should there be more neighbourhood policing across communities?
    • Are the intelligence gathering techniques/practices used by officials up to international standards? Are undercover officials placed in the correct areas to gather quality intel?

Crime Reduction, Crime Prevention, Community Safety and Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders

  • Work with key stakeholders on preventive measures to dissuade young people from being attracted to crime. e.g.
    • Should HEART/NTA centres be opened at weekends for children?
    • Should local communities have designated lifestyle coaches and mentors to spot talent in kids that others may have missed? Should such expertise be embedded at the early childhood/primary school phase?
    • Will special education needs become a top priority for early childhood and primary school institutions?
  • Lead on policy to tackle violence against women and children.
    • Why is there only one official shelter for battered women?
    • Why are so few promotional events across the island on the issues of violence against women and children? Why has there been no information leaflets issued nationally – e.g. via the newspapers other platforms – to advise the public on what to do when they witness or experience such threatening behaviour?
  • Work closely with the health sector on issues such as mental health, drugs policy, nutrition and its impact on violent crime.
    • Has independent research been conducted on the growing consumption of energy drinks mixed with alcohol/Viagra or other concoctions and its impact on the mental health of some males?
  • Work with local state multi-agencies, civil society, media, private sector, youth groups, politicians etc on crime preventive issues in across all areas incl. education, social services, transport, communities, housing, sports, town planning, arts e.g.
    • Are new housing developments being built more than enough recreational space/facilities for young people? 
    • Should all forms of public transport (including taxis) be mandated to install dash cams?
    • Should all town centres be fitted with CCTVs as a top priority?
  • Does the authorities have a detailed crime map on the hot spots of where certain crimes occur regularly?  e.g. What are the sectors where alleged high-value white collar crime is trending upwards?
    • In the past 9 months we have seen members of the education sector (Ministry of Education, The Mico Uni & Caribbean Maritime Uni being charged for alleged serious white collar crimes. Have the authorities stepped up special audits of other high spending educational institutions?
  • Benchmark crime reduction/prevention programmes with other countries that have had positive outcomes from their own anti-crime initiatives.

Jamaica needs some honest answers from the ruling classes on their own decades of complicity but sadly that will never happen. This silent piece of history continues to be millstone.

[It tells you a lot about the local society that in the aftermath of the decriminalisation of ganja that the persons publicly flying the flag for its development do not resemble the ones that were regularly locked up by the state back in the day.

Today those at the forefront in the export of medicinal ganja include a former commissioner of police, ex-head of customs, politicians and local big business players such as Lascelles Chin. All above board of course but the parliamentarians should have given the formerly oppressed ganga farmers a head start in a business the latter kept afloat for decades.]

We all accept that there is no quick fix to the crisis of violent crime, corruption, organized crime and the never ending fatalities on Jamaica’s roads.

But the resourcefulness and long term strategies set by the current political leadership, does go a long way in shaping any sustainable positive outcomes to a set of crisis that is smothering the life out of Jamaica’s human development.

We wish Senator Samuda well in his new assignment.

Samuda – from plastics bags to a much bigger scandal

About africanherbsman1967

Getting digital?
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