JIS NEWS UPDATE
Improved Judicial System Needed - Bunting
Thursday, 22 March 2012 09:59
National Security Minister, Hon. Peter Bunting, says an improved judicial system is needed in the country, in order to augment the crime fighting efforts of the nation’s police force.
Speaking at the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) Chairman’s Club Forum Breakfast, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on March 20,
Mr. Bunting lamented what he described as the “culture of adjournment” currently existing in the country’s judicial system, which sees cases being postponed for varying reasons when listed for court sittings.
“What we need to do is break (this) culture of adjournment…where cases go on interminably - they just go from one adjournment to another. What this does is expose your witnesses. It gives more time to organised criminals to find the witnesses, to intimidate them, and even to kill them. And even if they (witnesses) don’t get molested, with the passage of time, their memories of the incident (before the courts) become more vague, and they are more vulnerable to cross-examination,” the Minister argued.
Mr. Bunting also cited the low conviction rate for murders, which averaged approximately five per cent, based on figures the Ministry received. He informed that, based on the statistics, of the average 1,154 murders per year, committed between 2004 and 2010, the total number cleared up each year was approximately 602.
“But most of those cleared up, were either by death or acquittal. Death in the sense of these persons being killed by other gang members or the police. In fact, only 12 per cent of the 602 were cleared up by sentencing. That works out at an average of five per cent per year of the murders committed,” he outlined, while pointing to a backlog of cases, amounting to approximately 480,000.
“So, until we can move that five per cent to something like 60 or 70 per cent, we really won’t have a serious justice system,” Mr. Bunting contended.
Bunting Targets May Start-up of
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 09:58
National Security Minister, Hon. Peter Bunting, is eyeing a May timeline for the commencement of operations by the proposed multi-agency national anti-corruption taskforce.
The taskforce will, among other things, target for seizure, the proceeds generated from crime, as well as focus on apprehending drug kingpins and other facilitators of illicit activities.
Speaking at the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) Chairman’s Club Forum breakfast at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday (March 20), Mr. Bunting said there are a few details, relating to the body, which remained to be finalised, adding that these are expected to be completed in time for the May start.
The Minister explained that the taskforce will be dissimilar in composition and focus to the “typical” unit within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), pointing out that it will be “elite”.
“This is not a street level operation. This is a much more cerebral-type activity, analysts, people who are attorneys, forensic accountants, really tracing the money…doing a lot more work like what a banker or an accountant would do,” he explained.
Stressing that the rationale behind the taskforce’s establishment is to “strike” at the root of crime by targeting the illicit proceeds thereby “taking the profits” out of it,
Mr. Bunting assured that “we really believe that if we can attack crime at this level,…the fuel for a lot of the street-level crime, will be dried up”.
Government to Speed up Culture Change
Thursday, 22 March 2012 10:02
National Security Minister, Hon. Peter Bunting, says the Ministry is moving to accelerate the culture change currently taking place within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), to transform the organisation’s image into one providing public service.
Noting that “this is something that has been happening” over time, Mr. Bunting said the Ministry wants to shift the emphasis from state security to citizen security, “so that we start thinking about the security of the citizens in the community (and) get that mindset going in the JCF".
Mr. Bunting, who was addressing the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica Chairman’s Club Forum breakfast at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Tuesday (March 20), said the move is in keeping with the administration’s long term crime fighting initiatives.
He said the government also wants to advance recommendations for the merging of the JCF and Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF), pointing out that this “will…provide a lot of efficiencies”.
"You don’t need two parallel command structures, two parallel offices, (where, for example) the ISCF have their own Mandeville office versus the JCF, etcetera,” he said.
He noted that the merger has been on the cards for some time and “we want to push through with this”.
“We want to create a new police management authority, which will be a more conventional para-statal type organisation that will have a governance board, that will combine the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) functions, and really hold the Commissioner accountable for performance,” the Minister outlined.
Regarding other efforts at modernizing the police force, Mr. Bunting advised that there had been an increase in the use of technology to enhance policing.
He noted, for example, that the police was using Blackberry applications “to tell whether a licence is current, whether it’s fake, whether the registration of the vehicle is up-to-date, whether a licence plate of a vehicle they’re following as a suspicious vehicle, whether it’s stolen, etcetera."
Noting that the JCF is dealing with gangs whose members are “smart, adaptable, and constantly evolving,” Mr. Bunting argued that the lawmen needed similar capabilities to respond accordingly.
This, he contended, will require a change in the “very hierarchically structured organisation” of the force, to a flatter structure with devolved decision-making, which would see much of the authority being channelled down to the frontline where officers are positioned at the operational level.
Government not afraid of Public Scrutiny
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 17:21
Minister with responsibility for Information, Hon. Sandrea Falconer, addresses the Access to Information Essay Competition Awards Ceremony at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston.
Minister with responsibility for Information, Hon. Sandrea Falconer, said the government is unafraid of public scrutiny and is committed to the promotion and facilitation of increased access to state information.
“The government believes in the free flow of information, which is essential to a democratic society, and is not afraid to entrust the people with the information they need to foster public debate and the free exchange of ideas, information and opinion,” she stated.
Miss Falconer was addressing the 3rd Annual Access to Information National High School Essay Competition Awards Ceremony today (March 20) at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston.
She noted that the people of Jamaica have the right to be made aware of the plans and programmes that are being implemented for and on their behalf. “The people are our bosses and as good stewards of the public purse, we must ensure that they get value for money,” she declared.
She said that the Access to Information Act “is a key part of our efforts as a nation to improve transparency, accountability and increase public participation in the process of national decision-making” and to root out corruption.
“When we open up the process of governance, the trust factor will not be an issue,” she stated.
She noted that the legislation, which has bi-partisan support “is a tribute to our healthy democracy and serves to enhance the work of journalists, non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens”.
She stated that the media, in ensuring transparency and openness, must strive for fairness and balance, while communicating information in a clear and simple manner.
The Minister, in the meantime, commended the students, who participated in the essay competition, noting that they are the “future stewards of our democracy”.
“You represent the present and the future of this blessed nation. Celebrate and use the right to information that you possess and encourage your friends, your parents and community members to utilize their access to information rights so that they can be empowered,” she urged them.
The Access to Information National High School Essay Competition was undertaken as part of the public education initiative of the Access to Information Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister. Targeted at students from third to sixth form, the aim was to encourage critical thinking about the Access to Information Act, 2002.
A total of 25 students submitted entries for the coveted prizes, which included trophies and cash awards, as well as certificates of merit.
First place went to Kerri-Anne Mayne of Immaculate Conception High School; Khadijah Chin of Campion College placed second; while Sanja Bonnick of Manchester High School was third.
Cocoa Industry must focus on Value-Added
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 17:16
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, said that focus must be placed on value-added activities in the cocoa industry in order to move the sector forward.
He was speaking at the launch of the Re-engineering the Cocoa Rural Economy through Agro-processing Eco-Tourism and Entrepreneurship Project (RECREATE) on March 20 at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens headquarters in Kingston.
While expressing appreciation to the European Union (EU) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for helping to boost cocoa production over the past two years, Mr. Clarke stated that, “though we are excited about the increase in production…we ought not to be exporting cocoa beans and then importing expensive chocolate bars”.
He said the Government is therefore committed to the divestment of the commercial assets of the Cocoa Industry Board and the deregulation of the marketing of cocoa, in order to attract investment in the production of higher value products.
“The process has begun, and we are moving full speed ahead…we are however conscious that value-added activities must be based on a firm production foundation (therefore) throughput must be maintained and production at the primary level must be efficient if we are going to compete,” the Minister stated.
Meanwhile, he noted that over the past two years, through the EU and the USAID, nearly 2,000 acres of cocoa were rehabilitated, benefitting some 520 farmers, and providing substantial support to the Cocoa Growers Association.
“This has had the impact of moving production up substantially, with production in the first quarter of this crop up to December 2011, surpassing the total crop (for) the year before,” Mr. Clarke said.
He pointed out that although cocoa production has declined significantly from previous years, approximately 200 tonnes were produced last year. This is against the background of a guaranteed market of 14,000 tonnes, and the doubling of cocoa prices on the world market between 2005 and 2010.
RECREATE is a €350,000 EU-funded project, which will benefit the parishes of St. Thomas, St. Mary, St. James, St. Catherine, Clarendon, and Portland, up to 2013. Extra special varieties now at Orange River, St. Mary and Montpelier, St. James will be improved and expanded, while private entrepreneurs will be encouraged to operate nurseries.
A total of 60 persons are to be trained and employed in nursery-related activities, with the nurseries producing some 200,000 plants for the planting of 500 new acres, which could in five years, produce 600 metric tonnes of cocoa for export.
Mr. Clarke noted that in the planting phase of the project, some 50 persons are to be employed, and some 300 acres are to be rehabilitated in Clarendon and St. Catherine.
He further informed that, “as we try to assist in the development of the entrepreneurial spirit in the project areas, approximately 25 persons will be trained in business basics and entrepreneurship mainly in the cottage industry and in value-added areas”. Overall, close to 200 persons will be trained and employed in the various phases of the project.
Minister Clarke pointed out that Jamaica’s cocoa is among the best in the world, and is in fact, among only eight countries with the designation of “fine flavoured” cocoa.
The launch also featured the handing over ceremony for beneficiaries of a previous coco rehabilitation project, which was also funded by the EU.
Gov't. Looking to Create Single Anti-Corruption Body
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 09:45
Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, makes a point as he addresses an anti-corruption forum held on Monday (March 19) at the Webster Memorial United Church in Kingston.
Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, said that the Government is considering the creation of a single anti-corruption agency as part of measures to combat the scourge of corruption within the country.
Speaking at an anti-corruption forum held on Monday March 19 at the Webster Memorial United Church on Half-Way-Tree Road, Senator Golding explained that the agency will provide “a concentrated focus on the problem” and more optimal and synergistic use of the available anti-corruption resources.
The creation of this entity, he said, is in keeping with the government’s recently announced national security strategy, which focuses on going after the money and profits made from crime. This will be achieved by assembling an anti-corruption task force resourced with the required skills to effectively use the Proceeds of Crime Act and the proposed Anti-Gang legislation to combat organized crime and high level corruption.
“This is not going to be an agency like the many we have had in the past, which involves basically a paramilitary force used to tackle street level crime. This really is a more cerebral approach where we are trying to put together the necessary intellectual resources and experience that can really use these pieces of legislation effectively to dismantle the upper echelons of that type of crime in Jamaica,” Senator Golding stated.
The Justice Minister noted however, that the success of this initiative will be impacted by the efficiency and effectiveness with which cases can be prosecuted in the courts. To this end, he said, consideration is being given to the establishment of a court specialising in cases involving corruption and financial crimes.
“Jamaica’s track record in enforcing the law to bring corrupt public servants to justice is not impressive. Corruption is still rampant as evidenced in instances where apparent malfeasance in high places receive press coverage, but instances of effective corrective action have been few and far between,” he stated.
According to Senator Golding, corruption is the antithesis of a secure, cohesive and just society, said it will negate the country’s ability to attain its most desirable goals.
He said that tackling the problem will require courage and fixity of purpose on all sides. “We must all look into ourselves and commit to ensuring that we are not accomplices in the spread of this cancer in our society. We must rid ourselves of our national bad habits, which have led to this dire state of affairs. Let us commit that we will no longer “let off a money” to pass our driving tests, or to get our cars passed for fitness, or to have our building plans approved, or to avoid a traffic ticket,” the Justice Minister appealed.
He stated further that until the country commits to abiding by the proper rules and procedures in everyday activities, the accumulation of multiple small acts of corruption will result in a society that continues to score embarrassingly poorly on the international corruption indices.
“This is therefore truly a national effort, and the sooner we all get on board, the better our chances of building the brighter future that Jamaica wants and deserves,” Senator Golding stated.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2011 ranks Jamaica at number 86 out of 183 countries, with a score of 3.3 (on a scale of 0 to 10 where the lower the score, the more corrupt the country).
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2010/11 also ranked Jamaica at 95 out of a total of 139 countries, four places down when compared to the 2009/2010 Index when Jamaica was ranked at 91. This is well below the levels of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, which are ranked 43 and 84.
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