Seven-Member House Committee to Consider Crime Situation


The House of Representatives yesterday (June 1) approved the appointment of a seven-member committee to examine the country’s crime situation and make recommendations to alleviate the problem.
National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, who moved the motion for the establishment of the committee, said the effort was in recognition of the need for Parliament and Parliamentarians to become involved in the process to reduce crime, maintain public order and ensure an efficient justice system. He noted that the levels of violent crimes were at “an unacceptable rate” while making particular mention of the “concerted attacks directed at the security forces and members of the constabulary force over the past few weeks.”
The committee will be charged with, among other things, examining and making recommendations on all areas of defence and the justice system, and to keep under continuous review, the performance of the security forces, the department of correctional services and other official agencies relevant to national security.
Dr. Phillips said that following consultations between committee members and the public, the House would meet by the end of July to debate the matter.
Prime Minister P.J Patterson endorsed the motion, stating that achieving a sharp reduction in crime and violence, especially homicides, and restoring law and order everywhere, were the concern of all Jamaicans.
He said that the resolution was “timely and necessary” and Parliament had “a central role and obligation to play, which it cannot shirk.”
He further noted that the debates on the matter should serve to offer suggestions and arrive at a concrete framework for action, on which the Parliament could be united, “and could give the stamp of legislative authority to the actions to be taken afterwards”.
Meanwhile, he called for a revisiting of the Parliamentary Code of Conduct, “to see what adjustments could be made to make it a pattern of continuing requirement”. The Code, which governs the behaviour of the members of the House, was signed just before the last general elections.
The Prime Minister noted that while both parties had their own codes and disciplinary methods, it was his view that whenever there was a code of conduct to which members subscribed, there should be penalties imposed and sanctions by Parliament for breaches.
He also indicated, that it might be necessary to review the powers conferred on the Political Ombudsman, to give him legal authority to investigate complaints, which might be drawn to his attention, separate and apart from internal party action.
In his remarks, Opposition spokesman on Health and Environment, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, said the level of violent crimes had reached alarming proportions and if the situation were allowed to escalate further, the country would suffer the loss of valuable investments. He gave the Opposition’s support of the motion, noting that it was imperative that properly organized and collective action be taken to deal with the crime problem.
Dr. Baugh further urged, that the committee should not be used as a “political football” but was to work to develop effective strategies to deal with the crime situation.
The committee will have discretion to sit in private and with members of the Senate when deemed necessary, and to make periodic reports.
The members are Dr. Peter Phillips, Chairman: Dr. Paul Robertson, Dr. Karl Blythe, Derrick Smith, and Delroy Chuck. Two other members are to be appointed after consultations.

JIS Social