Jamaica Observer / National Security Minister Robert Montague caught our attention last Friday when he appeared to have taken an about- turn in how he seeks to engage the Opposition in the fight against crime. He told Nationwide Radio that he had invited the Opposition to join his Security Programme Oversight Committee (SECURIPOC), which is charged with responsibility for monitoring the compliance and progress of the security ministry and its agencies in relation to implementation of their key performance indicators and make recommendations to the minister.
Mr Montague also promised in the radio interview to put partisan politics aside and seek national unity in the effort to prevail against the criminals.
At the same time, he disclosed that the prime minister had invited the Opposition to name a representative to sit on the Government’s National Security Committee and that he looked forward to their participation in the bipartisan Vale Royal talks soon to be restarted.
The minister had previously, in September last year, invited the Opposition to join SECURIPOC but the difference this time is that he did not do so by means of the media, which was clearly an insincere attempt at one-upmanship and political point scoring.
As we have said before, this newspaper gets excited by any move that signals the acceptance that national security should not be treated as a partisan political issue. It is a foolhardy and morally bankrupt party that believes that it gains political mileage when hundreds of Jamaicans are being slaughtered.
In Mr Montague’s own words, crime is estimated, to be costing the country five per cent of its gross domestic product.
“When you work that out in real numbers, you are looking at over $70 billion per year. With that money we could build at least 100 schools, an additional five or six hospitals…” he said last year.
And that $70 billion cannot adequately measure or quantify the untold grief, pain and loss suffered by countless Jamaicans who have seen fathers, brothers, mothers, children, uncles, aunts, breadwinners, and other loved ones cut down by merciless monsters.
We know we echo the hope of the nation in urging the Opposition, if it has not already done so, to name a representative for the SECURIPOC and the National Security Committee.
In any event, this is in keeping with the stated position of the Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips who has offered to work with the Government to help bring crime under control. Dr Phillips is a former security minister and “he who feels it knows it”.
We continue to maintain that the level of bipartisan co-operation which is necessary to combat crime effectively is not easily given by an Opposition party, whose job is to win elections by damaging the governing party.
But we are convinced that Jamaicans will not soon forget any party or leader who shows willingness to sacrifice political points to put the safety and security of the nation before party ambition.
Moreover, it will require putting serious distance between the party hierarchy and the political thugs who have operated at their behest.
But it can and must be done to save this beloved nation.