Speech by the Prime Minister

Grand Opening Ceremony – Denham Town Restorative Justice Centre



The Most Hon. Andrew Holness ON, MP

Prime Minister

at The

Grand Opening Ceremony – Denham Town Restorative Justice Centre

July 17, 2017


Thank you very much Minister Chuck.

Let me acknowledge the Most Honourable Edward Phillip George Seaga, one of the framers of our constitution, a father of the nation, a social engineer extraordinaire , a patriot, my personal hero, mentor and political father.

Standing here brings back so many memories because it was while I learnt at the feet of Edward Seaga who took me under his wings, who saw potential and gave me opportunity. He actually handed to me the drawings for this building. Do you remember that sir?

At that time the concept of social investment was just being implemented in Jamaica and I was assigned that task by “Mass Eddie” and the plans were drawn up obviously long before but they have sat there for a while and it was my job to resuscitate the plans and to work with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund to have this community center built.

It was during a period of time when there was significant conflict in the area and I recall coming down here at the time and there had to be a much heavier police detachment because there was shooting coming from that side and shooting from that side and shooting from that side and the air was very tense.

To see this building actually come to fruition – to see it well maintained and to see it providing a service to the community. For me it reaffirms that with social intervention we can make a change and make a difference in these communities.  Just being in the building and being in your presence not only brings back memories but it reaffirms that the government must continue to make investment in the physical and social infrastructure to address the problems facing the people who live in these communities.

I want to acknowledge His Excellency Sylvain Fabi, High Commissioner of Canada

Her Excellency Malgorzata Wasilewska, Head of the European Delegation

Other members of the Diplomatic Corps

Permanent secretaries and of course Senator Mark Golding, MP to be- We’re glad to have you sir

Councillor for this division Ms. Pauline Perez, President of the Denham Town Community Development Committee

Heads of agencies and departments

Members of staff of the Ministry of Justice and the Restorative Justice Unit

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

Members of the media,

Good morning.

I’m going to start where Minister Chuck left off.

This community and Tivoli Gardens, the West Kingston community in general has come a long way. There was a time when there was political warfare literally; now we’re being gripped by what can only be described as gang warfare and in a sense it is meaningless. What are you fighting for? To control turf? So you can collect taxes on the turf? So you can take the young girls from their mothers and do as you like?

Well let me make a statement that should be considered a signal. The country does not need dons or criminals to survive. If you were to ask the people who live in West Kingston or Denham Town or any other community, do you think the don or the young gangster purporting to be a don; do you think he’s necessary?

They would privately want to see the back of them. You are no Robin Hood. You are a pestilence on the people and that is why we have established the zones of special operations because there are criminal gangs whose intention are only criminal. They are not protecting the people of the country and when they pretend that they are sending people to school that’s just a cover. They are criminals and they must be described as that and all they do is terrorize the decent, law abiding, hardworking, struggling citizens of this country seeking to run a parallel state.

The establishment of the legislation, which at the end of it saw everyone coming to their good minds to pass the legislation is a signal that the government – and when I say the government, not just the executive and that part of the establishment that controls the resources of the country but the government in this statement also includes the opposition as well – is not prepared to cede one square inch of Jamaica to any criminal organization because there are areas in Jamaica where the criminal enterprise is operating as if it were a state power.

There is only one sovereign state in Jamaica and the government will act to protect the sovereign state. The establishment of the zone therefore is never about derogating, taking away or abrogating the rights of the citizens. It is about protecting, preserving and extending the rights of the law abiding citizens of this country.

Yes we have a security force that will have to implement this law whose one hundred and fifty years history has not necessarily inured confidence in the citizens but that is not an excuse or even a reason for the government not to make instrumental actions to reclaim and defend the Jamaican state.

What that says is that the government must put in place the laws, the regulations, the oversight and the matching resources to ensure that the agency charged with the implementation of the zones of special operations, the JCF, that they are held accountable, that they are given key performance indicators, that there is adequate oversight and if they breach the law, the rules, the guidelines and the policies, that action is taken and that is what the bill gives. It gives the scheme under which all of this can be done.

The scheme also does not rely wholly and solely on the security forces to be the only implementers. There is a parallel establishment of social intervention and as I said earlier social intervention is very powerful in the transformation of communities. This is a perfect example of how communities can be transformed. I am confident that the zones of special operations legislation will lead to a reduction in crime and violence particularly in areas where criminal enterprise has taken over and trying to create a parallel stage which breeds a breakdown in law and public order specifically and a threat to the rule of law.

In communities like Denham Town, like Tivoli Gardens – I know because I represent a similar community that 99% of the people there want law and order and peace. So the zone of special operations is not going against what the community wants. The people here want dignity, they want respect, they want freedom and opportunity; crime stands in their way.

I’ve had to think deeply Minister Chuck, Senator Golding about what are the priorities of the country. We campaigned on the mantra of economic growth and job creation but crime and violence threatens that because it threatens the long term investment decisions that need to be made by business people and by consumers about what you are going to invest in your future and in your community. Once people start to say I’m not going to invest in my future and I’m not going to invest in my community then pessimism takes over the country and that leads to a total breakdown so the priority of the country at this time must be restoring law, order, public safety and security for the citizens of the country and therefore my work is to direct the entire government of Jamaica in every dollar that is spent to direct it in such a way that it supports the achievement of this major goal right now; the security of our country.

This effort supports the security of our country (Restorative Justice) and efforts like these will be continued and expanded and I want to encourage the minister to set up as many of these restorative justice centers as are possible because we have to get our citizens to citizens, man to man to become just with each other. While a large part of crime is driven by an enterprise with criminal intention meaning that people join together with the intention of depriving people of their lives or treasure for their benefit, criminal enterprise. Some of it is driven by how we are socialized, how we conduct our social transactions. I am your neighbor, we live together, one day my garbage pan turn over and some of it go over your yard and the neighbor gets vex and take up the garbage then throw it on your veranda, big argument start, knife is drawn, somebody gets stabbed, somebody probably dies. That is not the genesis of a criminal enterprise, that is the genesis of poor socialization that is caused by the absence of a social infrastructure that intervenes early and so if you have an argument bring it here  and let us in a structured way reason it out, talk it out and get to point of resolution.

The truth is that violence has become the first resort to resolve conflict and we see this in how we discipline our children ” boy yuh no hear mi a talk to yuh” (slaps child).

In how we conduct our affairs of the heart “wait yuh gone leave me and yuh no tell me? Mi no understand” ( slaps partner)

In how we talk to each other, how we characterize ourselves ” me a di wickedest man”

And so violence is the currency of much of our social interaction and the state has to change that. The state has to help you the citizens to resort less to violence and more to reason and this is one such effort and I endorse it. I recommend it and the government will continue to support it as it was previously when we were the government and previously when Mark was the minister. Now Minister Chuck is the minister and governments going forward will support and endorse this measure.

I’m very happy to be here with you the good citizens of Denham Town. You would have heard my message and I want you to now in your small way, say to your son because the reports we are getting is not so much the older ones now, it’s the little fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year old who has no understanding, no concept or context that find themselves with a firearm that gives them so much power; power that they don’t understand and that they use indiscriminately and so there needs to be guidance.

All of you here probably have influence over someone even far removed but if the entire community starts to speak in one voice to say this is not good. It may not change everybody one time but when the community starts to take charge the process will happen overtime and when the government comes in and supports it the transformation will happen. It starts with one mother reaching out to her son and standing up to him and say you are my child who I love so dearly, I cannot have you taking anyone else’s life. That is where the transformation starts so I appeal to you the mothers and the fathers and the aunts and the sisters and the brothers.

Let us in our hearts commit to making a change for Jamaica.

God bless you.