The following is the full text of a speech given by Jamaica’s National Security Minister Peter Bunting, at an awards ceremony on the Campuses of Northern Carribean University in Mandeville Manchester.
“This is, I think, perhaps the fifth time I have had the opportunity, firstly as opposition spokesman and last year as minister of national security, to participate in this service of thanksgiving for the security forces of Jamaica and, in particular, for the men and women who serve in Area Three. I want to commend NCU for this initiative in its 13th year, and I always say not just because the NCU main campus is in my constituency (Central Manchester) but the NCU does not only operate from the community but they are a part of the communuity.
“And this year’s service, of course, is especially poignant for me to participate, having lost my own mother this week and also having been at KPH as we waited hopefully while Sgt (Courtney Anthony) Simpson was operated on. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it. He, of course, as part of the Protective Services, worked very closely with us in the administration of government and, in fact, worked two years on the governor general’s, King’s House protective security detail. “For the last 15 months, I have been working closely with members of the security forces and one of the pleasant surprises that I have had is just how professional, how high a calibre of officers and men, rank and file, that we have in the main serving this country. I have been impressed by their tremendous courage, commitment and dedication.”However, I think that after 15 months I am convinced that the best efforts of the security forces, by itself, will not solve the crime problem in Jamaica. But it is going to take divine intervention, touching the hearts of a wide cross section of the society and using as the instruments of divine intervention the Ministers’ Fraternals, the academics, the business community, those persons who work in the NGO (non-governmental organisation) community, those of us who are in political service — all to try to make an impact, to touch the hearts and minds of our fellow Jamaicans.
“This week has not been a good week in terms of violence in Jamaica. And when I look at many of the reports, because I get the reports every morning, and I see how many of the fatalities are caused by persons known to each other and sometimes in the same family, when I read yesterday of the 17-year-old who hit his own father in the head, in Clarendon, fatally; when I learned of the prowler, the burglar who was caught and killed by a mob in St James; when I read of the two higglers — friends, associates — who got in a dispute, one stabbed the other, and I could go on and on — situations which it would be virtually impossible for the security forces, unless we had 100 times the numbers, to have prevented, I realise how critical it is going to be to get the entire society engaged.
“And…(pause) Am not embarrassed to say because right now as minister of national security, I am going through a kind of a dark night of the soul because we are trying very heard at the ministry, I see the men and women of the security forces trying very hard, working night and day, long hours. I see the leadership, capable, competent, professional, both of the police and the military. And so much effort is being made and yet so little headway, such slow headway is coming out in the statistics.
“And it really takes a lot of faith to keep working, keep going in the face of this. And of course, I am happy that I have so many persons of faith to encourage and support, not just myself, but all of the security forces at this time.
“So I would just, in closing, use this opportunity to once again appeal, to call on the Jamaican society to let us take back Jamaica from criminals and evil behaviour. We have a number of examples of this. We have seen the pastors in Spanish Town make a real effort to confront this problem We have seen the Rotary Club, I think of New Kingston, who have taken on mentorship of a lot of young men in the correctional services, in the juvenile correctional system. And we have a great example right here in Manchester where the Manchester Dispute Resolution and Violence Prevention Association was formed last year.
“I don’t want to necessarily give it all the credit because I know Cowboy Knight and Supt Nesbeth and their teams have been working very hard. But I do believe that the effort by Pastor Harvey, Dr Grace Kely, the Ministers’ Fraternal, the political representatives, the Custos, persons from the psychology and social work department, persons who have given their time freely to train I think almost 100 persons in our communities in Manchester to be first responders, to intervene where domestic disputes occur and have the potential to escalate to injury or death. And this initiative was formed last year because we recognised that unlike many other police divisions, in Manchester most of our murders came from domestic situations.
“When I say domestic I mean both the victim and the perpetrator were known to each other, either as family members, as man and woman relationship, as colleagues who work side by side and had some falling out, disputes over family land — a recurring theme. And we, in doing this training — and it’s short but quite a rigorous training — as first responders, so far this year we have seen the numbers of murders in the parish cut in more than half. We are about 60 odd per cent less up to the last set of statistics I saw, relative to the corresponding period last year.
“And I know that correlation is not necessarily causation. But I think we have no choice but to keep doing whatever we can as individuals. Even if we are not certain it is going to make a difference but at least let’s try something. And that is what I would call on all Jamaica to do here today and going forward if we want to take back Jamaica.
“In closing, let me thank NCU and all those who have come out to support the security forces today. And add my thanks to the brave men and women, especially those who have passed on in this last year, we acknowledge your service and contribution.”
We will respond to the Minister’s statement later.