Prime Minister Andrew Holness Wednesday expressed his distress at the country’s violent crimes, which he said has sidelined peace in communities and posed a challenge for him to sleep peacefully at nights.
Holness shared this at the National Day of Prayer, at Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, St Catherine, Wednesday, held under the theme: ‘Family: The Bedrock of Society’.
The prime minister referenced Wednesday’s Jamaica Observer front-page story, headlined ‘Tearful call for SOE’, which detailed the fatal shooting of two brothers in Westmoreland and left one of the dead men’s partners requesting a meeting with him. The woman also called for a return of the state of public emergency (SOE).
The bodies of the brothers, 43-year-old Dervin Jones and 41-year-old Sheldon Jones, were found in the parish early Tuesday morning.
“I read in the paper today of the two brothers who were murdered in Westmoreland, and I am so sorry about it. And the partner saying, ‘Prime Minister, I just want to talk to you.’ It’s an appeal [for her] to hear what our leaders are doing about this. She not quarrelling, she not blaming. She sounded angry, but obviously she was distraught. She was saying ‘Prime Minister, come talk to me. Help me to make sense of it,” a sentimental Holness said.
Lamenting further on the crime situation, Holness pointed to the recent killing of 10-year-old Jezariah Tyrell in her house in Central Kingston on December 30.
“Why unuh kill the 10-year-old? Why? I go to my bed with these things on my conscience every night. I know that I have tried. It’s a minefield because every turn you make there is someone trying to stop it and I am left wonder, are they in support of the criminals of the country? The 10-year-old didn’t have to die. We had an SOE down there,” he argued.
Holness pointed out that over 70 per cent of homicides committed in Jamaica are gang-related. He also said 20 per cent of crimes account for intimate partner violence and random killings which are as a result of the lack of peace.
“So the family is very important in building peace. We have to focus on how we are going to get the family to be the unit of peace and that will have an impact on the 20 per cent. The family is an important component of another important structure in society and that is the community, and our communities are not at peace. You have gangs in the communities that are conducting wars and those gangs conducting the warfare in their communities account for 70 per cent of the murders,” he said.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said Government has to develop stronger measures to eradicate the use of illegal guns.
“We have increased our capacity to have domain control of our territorial waters. People wonder why we spending all of this money. [That’s] because we have to stop the guns coming in…We must get tough on illegal guns. If you possess an illegal gun it is only for one purpose, and that is to kill someone. We are strong on this and our Administration is bringing this Bill to Parliament, and I expect the full support from the Parliament in passing the legislation,” he said.
At the same time, Assistant Commissioner of Police Gary Griffiths stressed that one of the major problems in Jamaica is that people do not speak out against wrongdoing.
“We are in a country that counts murders as statistics. Some time ago, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson led a campaign on values and attitudes, and some years later [then] Prime Minister Bruce Golding spoke about a consensus on right and wrong; we don’t seem to be willing to call a spade a spade,” said Griffiths.
“There are things done by persons who have social standing in society and the people who are of lesser standing don’t see the punishment being vetted out to them. So they follow suit, and in doing so security forces become the enemies because our activities are mostly centred around persons who are of lesser social standing,” he added.
Griffiths said the security forces need support from churches and decent law-abiding citizens who are willing to declare right from wrong.