JIS News

In my most recent broadcast to the nation, I spoke of the government’s determination to reduce the deficit in the first instance and then to eliminate it altogether in the 2005 to 2006 budget year.
But even as we come together to get the economy working for the Jamaican people, I am deeply disturbed about our prospects as a nation to make any progress whatsoever if we cannot get our citizens to fully understand that all, and I mean all our efforts will be in vain if we do not deal in a realistic manner with crime and violence. It may be concentrated in a different community each time but it is a cancer that will kill all of us, in every community, uptown or downtown. Like it or not, we are all in this together and together we must find the solution.
It is not solely the responsibility of those of us who are in the forefront of the struggle – the Police, the Army, the hard working and dedicated members of the Peace Initiative, our Religious Leaders or Members of Parliament and Councillors.
It is a very sad fact that most of the Jamaican people who live in the communities that are being torn apart by violence know who the gunmen are and where they can be found. I am addressing this to you directly.
Understand that you are giving shelter to heartless monsters who are killing your children and stealing the hopes of the Jamaican people.
Understand that you have made a choice to condone criminality rather than support law and order.
Please go to the police or to anyone in the community who you trust. I know that it will require courage if you decide to turn in these gunmen. But you must be prepared to give your children and yourselves the gift of peace, the gift of life.
Understand that if you fail to do so, you have made a clear choice of death over life – your death and the death of your relatives, neighbours and friends, the death of innocent children including your own, and for what purpose?
The government will continue to do everything in its power to equip the police to deal with the situation as best they can.
The government will continue to develop the social and economic support to make life better for the innocent residents of the communities at greatest risk.
I wish to say something directly to our youths about their responsibility to themselves, their families and country. Most crimes are committed by young people, and young men in particular, who are below the age of 30, with many of the perpetrators in their early teens. There is no excuse for the vicious and barbaric acts of violence that are being committed against the Jamaican people everyday. Many say the crime situation is caused by poverty.
But many of us grew up in poor families but it was never an excuse to break the law. We have always understood that the best way out of poverty was through education. Today, educational opportunities are available to more Jamaicans than at any other time in our history. Many children from the poorest families are now gainfully employed; a great many are in tertiary institutions.
Again there are some of our young people who attended the best schools but did not take their education seriously. Now that you are a little older and possibly wiser you may regret the mistakes you made. In order to create more employment, we must see a drastic reduction in the levels of violent crime. Turning to crime will only blight your future, for if the law does not catch up with you immediately, the other gunmen will.
The government is sensitive to the special needs of our young people at this challenging time in our nation’s development. That is why the Social Development Commission is in several communities islandwide getting the youths to set their own priorities and helping them develop the tools to assess how well the Administration is addressing those priorities.
Not surprisingly, our young people have identified better parenting, better community relationships, more employment, education and police relationships as areas they feel should be given priority attention in our social policies.
Already, we are embarking on a fundamental review of the education system. A number of programmes involving the Peace Management Initiative and the Dispute Resolution Foundation are taking place in select communities to address the matter of community relations and the Jamaica Constabulary Force is placing greater emphasis on community policing.
As I do on every possible occasion, I appeal once again to parents, and by that I mean both mothers and fathers, to take their responsibility for their children seriously.
If you are having difficulty with discipline and need guidance, there are programmes specifically designed to help you cope. Do not resort to violence in the home. It is NOT the way. Violence begets more violence. If you think your child is involved in criminal activity get help for them before it is too late. Do not let your child become the next victim because of your reluctance as parents to face the truth. Do it for yourself. Do it for your child.
This is a difficult time for all of us. But it is at times like these that we must come together as one people – not fall apart.
I invite any grouping or individual who has new ideas to offer, who feel that there are areas in which government action will help to make the type of adjustment to their way of doing business in order to help us to achieve our goals to be in touch with the Minister of Development in the Cabinet Office so that we can make sure the systems work more effectively and speedily.
While all of this is taking place at the national level, there is also a very important sector of our society that is absolutely vital to the success of our efforts. I refer to the leaders in our communities all across Jamaica who have traditionally kept our social fabric together. I must commend these men and women who by their patriotism, dedication and compassion have shown the true Jamaican spirit.They are the backbone of our nation. Without thought of public recognition, armed with their belief in decency and charity they have provided the support and stability that Jamaica could never do without. It is their steadfast leadership and their strong, unwavering support of our people at the grass roots level that generation after generation have developed and nurtured in the best of our young people the current of self-confidence that makes Jamaicans so special.
These men and women serve with no other reward except the satisfaction of making a positive difference to our society, in our volunteer groups; in our parent-teachers’ associations, in 4H clubs; with our Girl Guides and Boy Scouts; Neighbourhood Watch; in conflict resolution efforts; citizens associations; in church outreach programmes; in youth clubs, sports clubs and service clubs.
Many now serve in a wide range of NGOs.
I want to appeal to you today to bring your own special wisdom to this national effort as we face our challenges together. I know that you are aware that social growth is not static and that new circumstances and new times call for bold new solutions.
While the work you are doing on the social side is invaluable, I would like to appeal to you to assist as well on the economic side, by first informing yourself and then communicating to your community members the many opportunities which are now available, or will shortly become available for small businesses and individual entrepreneurship.
All government agencies have been instructed to renew their efforts to reach out to each community. It will be of great assistance to us if you can identify for us the potential of the individuals and the facilities in your communities. If you have access to the Internet, there are a number of government websites which can provide you with the information. The JIS website has links that can take you to the information you need or you may wish to be in touch directly with the Ministry of Development.
I also wish to mention the special role that the media can play as the nation comes together to meet these new challenges. In a vibrant democracy such as ours, in which freedom of speech is a right which you exercise freely, you also have a legitimate role as watchdog. By living up to the highest standards of your profession, by shining a searchlight not only on the negative but on the positive aspects of national life, you too can become a potent contributor to this national effort.
It has always been my desire to have as wide a cross-section as possible of the Jamaican people involved in the governance of the country.
I have deliberately submitted every single policy initiative, every piece of legislation to the public for their scrutiny.
We have opened our parliamentary committees to the public; we have introduced the Access to Information Act; we have done everything to stimulate community participation in decision-making. The Local Government Reform process is intended to and will deepen public participation in governance.
The resolution of the challenges we now face will only be possible with the active participation of all of us who make up our community of confident, assertive and determined citizens. Let us come together as never before to face these challenges. Let us walk together in unity on the road to the progressive, prosperous and equitable society that we all desire to see.

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