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JIS News

The issue of crime, particularly as it relates to the witness protection programme, was the main focus of today’s Vale Royal talks between the Government and the Opposition.
Today’s meeting also focused on the need for legislative changes to deal with the granting of bail for gun crimes; the expediting of cases generally and specifically those related to gun crimes; improving the morale of the Jamaica Constabulary Force; the strengthening of existing systems to improve the process of intelligence gathering and the strengthening of the operational structures that will better enable the Police Force to more effectively contain and control the increasing incidence of crime and violence.
The Opposition gave its full commitment to support measures necessary to strengthen the Police Force and has agreed to engage in a process of ongoing discussions with the Government in order to assist in the provision of recommendations and monitoring of the process by which implementation takes place.
The meeting was unanimous in its support for the men and women of the Police Force who continue to be in the forefront of the fight against crime.
The meeting received a detailed situation report from Assistant Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington, who attended the meeting in the absence of Commissioner Hardley Lewin and Deputy Commissioner of Police Jevene Bent, both of whom were unable to attend due to previous commitments.
The meeting accepted the recommendations of ACP. Ellington which reinforced the urgent need for fundamental legislative and structural reform in order to better strengthen the efforts of the police.
Other matters
Other matters discussed at the Vale Royal Talks covered issues such as the acquisition of properties adjacent to the existing Parliament , the introduction of the Charter of Rights, the Constituency Development Fund, the Financing of Political Parties and Campaign financing and National Registration.
Construction of Parliament Building
On the construction of the new Parliament building, it was agreed that further discussions will be held between the Opposition’s Peter Phillips and the Minister of Industry Karl Samuda (in the absence of Minister of Mining, Derrick Smith) in order to examine the measures necessary to move the process forward. The use of the Jamaica Conference Centre during the construction period is to be explored.
Constitutional Issues
Discussions relating to the introduction of the Charter of Rights will be accelerated in an effort to bring the matter to Parliament for debate in July, 2008. A team of six (three from each side) led by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne and Senator A.J. Nicholson will proceed to convene early meetings to deal with the matter.
Constituency Development Fund
Further bipartisan discussions will be held between both sides to ensure that access to this important programme can proceed without delay but with transparency and accountability.
In this regard a special meeting will be held on Wednesday June 18, in Parliament to explore all aspects of the programme.
Financing of Political Parties and Campaign Financing
The proposals for the introduction of a comprehensive policy relating to the financing of political parties are in the process of being reviewed by the leadership of both parties. The Electoral Commission has been charged with the responsibility of preparing a policy document which is presently awaiting the outcome of these discussions by the parties.
National Registration
The issue of National Registration will be reported on at the next meeting. The sub committee assigned the responsibility of preparing the appropriate proposals consists of Ministers Derrick Smith, Karl Samuda and the Opposition’s General Secretary, Peter Bunting.
The Vale Royal talks will resume in two month’s time. In the meantime, both leaders have agreed to continue dialogue on matters as they arise before the next round of Vale Royal talks.