Washington, DC – With escalating crime which prime minister Bruce Golding says “is beyond the police force”, his year-old administration must find close to Ja$1-billion to buy 400 vehicles to add to the inadequate 1,500 Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) fleet.
In addition to this, the issues of free primary and secondary education and improved healths services which were cornerstones of his Jamaica Labour Party election campaign in 2007, were also addressed by Golding, speaking to his country’s nationals who came out to hear him on Monday, October 29, at the Organization of American States, Hall of the Americas in Washington DC.
Golding noted that his arrival in New York to address the United Nations was marked by the “cataclysmic events in the financial center” a reference to the unstable US financial markets, which he called “crisis of enormous proportions”.
Noting that countries such as Jamaica were attempting to “hold things together” and “trying to survive” due to the “depth and seriousness of the crisis we face,” Golding said the last year was hostile, in the face of the rapid increases in the price of oil and basic commodities.
Justifying his administration’s decision to abolish school fees and provide free health care, he was empathetic as he cited stories of the very personal struggles of people he had met. He spoke of parents making “tough choices” between siblings who should continue to attend school sharing the scarce resources and of senior citizens bringing him prescriptions weeks after issuance and not being able to afford the medication.
Alluding to the country’s class divisions, the prime minister articulated a laundry list of challenges in what he classified as two different Jamaicas: the outcasts he said, who only see the authorities when the police pick up a dead body from the street and the other Jamaica, which, according to Golding, enjoys weekly public services, such as trash pick up.
Part of the solution the Prime Minister touted was opportunities for young people, saying a transformation needs to take place.
Turning to crime, Golding said there was a breakdown of trust in the JCF and pointed to the more than 50 police officers arrested so far in 2008. Attempts he said, were being made to improve the force by accepting most of the recommendations of a recently completed strategic review by South African and Canadian security personnel.
In addition to an estimated cost of Ja$800 million dollars needed to improve the police fleet of vehicles, he said there would be improvements in such areas as ballistics, intelligence, identification system and strengthening of the police powers considered by some to be draconian.
Golding described the justice system as being in a crisis. Witnesses and their relatives he said were at risk and were being killed and he called for “tough hard policing.”
Golding said he left a meeting with the Inter-American Development Bank encouraged that they would be a strong partner and called for changes to the multilateral institutional framework for countries such as Jamaica regarded as middle income.
The event was hosted by Jamaican ambassador Anthony Johnson and attended by numerous local dignitaries including US Congressional Representative Yvette Clark (D-NY). The Prime Minister was accompanied by Minister of Health and Environment Rudy Spencer.