The time has come for action

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Please, Mr Acting Editor, I do not mean to make light of the recent double murder and the outrage that has followed when I ask this question: how many times must we go around the political mulberry bush before we take action?

I am trying to make a point here. First, I am from the school that says that we should give the police all the tools they need to get the job done. The problem is that serious, and so am I. Secondly, I don’t believe we have to always be publicising in advance, and thus telegraphing to the wrong people, what tools the police do have and how they will be employing them . The element of surprise can be very helpful and effective. I remember ‘Operation Cleansweep’. I recognise too, that the police cannot do all of it on their own. They are going to need help from those who know more of what is going on than they let on. Let’s call them the enablers who, by their silence, aid and abet. Once they have had enough, and they find the strength and confidence in the criminal justice system, the tide will turn. There are signs that it is already happening. Our police are getting results.

However, even this will not be enough. There is a need to tackle as well the underlying causes and to arrest antisocial behaviour at the earliest possible time. But we need not reinvent the wheel here and cover old ground. I recall the work two years ago of the Joint Select Committee on Gangs and Crime, of which, I declare, I was a member. I recall too, the many submissions — heartfelt, sincere and telling. What struck us then was the absence of a national plan, a blueprint, from which Government and all the helping agencies were working to get at the root of the problem. Well meaning all, I am sure, and yet with our limited resources, people, time and money, inside and outside of Government, there was a very real sense efforts were disjointed, fractured and unnecessarily competitive, when all ought to be drawn together in a more focused and directed way, and our limitations maximised.

That was one of the recommendations. There were others too — and even if you didn’t agree with all of them or any of them, there was enough in the submissions to draw from and to develop a much-needed action plan.

Government could do no worse than dust off the report and get on with it. This was the product of a multi-partisan effect, and there was no dissent, no minority report, and from all accounts, was well received when debated on the Hill (I was gone by then, sir). One other significant thing, you might think, about the Committee: two of its members now sit in the new Cabinet, the Minister for National Security and Public Safety and the Attorney General. Ironic or fortuitous? Or both? We’ll soon see.

Move to Independence

From the mailbag this week, a couple of comments I should like to illuminate. An eagle-eyed friend of mine spotted that Government assigned responsibility for the Legislature to the Attorney General, also the Minister of Legal Affairs, when Ministerial appointments were announced a couple of weeks ago. The concern here is whether the Legislature should in fact continue to be the subject of Ministerial responsibility if a stronger, more independent Legislature is required. This person knows where I stand on the issue and where I have stood in the past under a PLP Government. The Legislature ought to be under the direct control of the Speaker both in fact and in form; and in the case of the Senate under the President.

It may be that the assignment will turn out to be temporary, a kind of holding position until the new Speaker is chosen and he or she (maybe? you never know) gets to grips with the job. Personally, and my position is well known from my days on the Hill, I have always maintained that for better governance to take hold we must start at the top.

Fat chance

Do away with the Westminster system and introduce proportional representation, one reader wrote recently, if you want to bring about a better consensual approach in politics. I appreciate the sentiment, but fat chance either of them will happen any time soon. But don’t despair, there is still plenty of room for improvements to make our model far more responsive and effective than has been the case to date. We haven’t even come close to exploring all that can be done to modify what we have — and a lot of it is readily doable, if there is a will. PR is a tougher road to hoe. The last time it was seriously proposed, by the UBP Government, back in the late seventies, its strongest advocates were pretty well laughed out of town. Proportional Representation by the Single Transferable Vote was written off back then as a mathematician’s dream but a voter’s nightmare. Times change, Mr Acting Editor, and if we think an Upper Chamber is worth keeping, I have always thought election to the Senate by way of proportional representation might be a good place to begin.

Ÿ Comments welcome. e-mail jbarritt@ibl.bm.

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Published Feb 1, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm)

The time has come for action

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