JIS News

The Government and Opposition, have sought to reach consensus on a number of major issues, particularly on measures to tackle the scourge of crime, through talks at Vale Royal.
Both parties have agreed to establish bipartisan Committees to review and report on critical matters, as they relate to specific issues raised at the meetings. The January meeting was described by both parties as cordial, frank and constructive. The discussions covered issues relating to crime, commodity prices, parliamentary and constitutional reform and the constituency development programme. The national energy policy, funding of political parties and the distribution of work and benefits in constituencies, were also discussed.
After a break the talks resumed on June 12, with the issue of crime, particularly as it relates to the witness protection programme, being the main focus. The meeting also explored 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 (JCF); 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.
A detailed situation report was provided by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington, who attended the meeting in the absence of Commissioner, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin and Deputy Commissioner of Police Jevene Bent.
Mr. Ellington’s recommendations were accepted. They reinforced the urgent need for fundamental legislative and structural reform, in order to better strengthen the efforts of the police.
Other matters discussed at the Vale Royal Talks included: 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.
The construction of a new Parliament building, was also topical and it was agreed that further discussions will be held between the Government and the Opposition to move the process forward. The use of the Jamaica Conference Centre during the construction period, is to be explored.
It was agreed that discussions relating to the introduction of the Charter of Rights would be accelerated, in an effort to bring the matter to Parliament early.
Further bipartisan discussions are to be held between both sides, to ensure that access to the Constituency Development Fund, can proceed without delay and with transparency and accountability.
Party Financing was one of the major issues on the table, leading to proposals for the introduction of a comprehensive policy, relating to the financing of political parties being reviewed by the leadership of both parties. The Electoral Commission, was charged with the responsibility of preparing a policy document, which is awaiting the outcome of discussions by the parties. Members of the public were also urged to make their input at public fora, which were held islandwide.
Both Prime Minister, Bruce Golding and Opposition Leader, Portia Simpson Miller, have agreed to continue dialogue on matters as they arise, before the next round of Vale Royal talks.