Mon | Mar 19, 2018

Letter of the Day | Install ZOSO in Greater Montego Bay

Published:Tuesday | February 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM


The St James public state of emergency is a contrived public relations gimmick designed to assuage the fears of a traumatised public and to intimidate the criminal gunmen into submission.

The roll-out was like a damp squib, without shock or awe, uneventful in its execution and inconsequential in its outcome. Its major achievement is that it gives the parish some breathing space and the opportunity to assess where we are, what brought us here, and to plot a strategy to get us where we want to go. Unfortunately, this is a crisis that we have wasted.

Let me be clear on this matter. The state of emergency in St James was not well thought out. It was a knee-jerk reaction and it could not have come at a more inauspicious time - when the tenure of the commissioner of police was in question, charges were being levelled at the minister for interfering into operations, the rank and file were restive over salary negotiations, and charges of corruption in respect of the importation of motor vehicles for the Jamaica Constabulary Force were widespread.

In looking at the cost-benefit analysis, it would seem prudent not to have extended the state of emergency beyond the 14 days prescribed by law. Having successfully reduced the number of murders in the parish, the Government should declared Greater Montego Bay a zone of special operations (ZOSO) as a successor to the state of emergency. For in the final analysis, there is nothing within the state of emergency that cannot be carried out under ZOSO instead of this 'ginnalship' of "enhanced security measures".

A strategic retreat of the military to avoid extended exposure and fatigue may be necessary. This would also avoid diminishing returns and, consequently, risk to the lives of our security forces. Develop an intelligence-driven, anti-crime strategy, targeting specific areas for intensive cordon-and-search missions.

The 'samfie' national security minister, Robert Montague's, suggestion that the public state of emergency in St James be referred to as "enhanced security measures" is disingenuous. The change of name is superficial. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

What is required is a well-thought-out strategy that balances the economic interests of the critical tourist industry and that of the well-being, safety and security of the wider society.