Speech by the Prime Minister

St Andrew South District Consultative Committee Conference 2024

St Andrew South District Consultative Committee Conference 2024

Keynote Address


The Most Honourable Andrew Holness ON, PC, MP

Prime Minister of Jamaica

At the

St Andrew South District Consultative Committee Conference


June 29, 2024


Before I get into my presentation,  I have a public service announcement to make,  and I want you to pay keen attention to it. Tropical Storm Beryl has formed in the Atlantic about 800 miles east of Barbados and it is heading west quite rapidly.  Barbados and other eastern Caribbean islands have already put out tropical storm warnings and it is expected that by Monday morning tropical storm Beryl will probably have strengthened and would be in the region of Barbados.

Various models have projected that tropical storm Beryl will probably impact Jamaica. All the models have suggested that if it is not a direct impact, it will be in the vicinity of Jamaica. We expect that this will bring adverse weather conditions, and we expect that by Wednesday morning we will be experiencing such conditions. The relevant agencies will put out the necessary warnings as the system develops. I am merely giving you an advanced warning and this is for you to make some decisions about how you’re going to prepare if this tropical storm strengthens and becomes a hurricane and does impact  Jamaica.

So, you should be making your decisions now about getting your precautionary stocks of goods; food, water, batteries, candles, having your critical and essential documents properly secured. If you have trees that could be a threat to your house, your residence, take action to prevent that. It is always in your best interest to be prepared. If the weather event passes and there is no impact, you would have lost nothing but you would not want an impact to occur,  and you did not prepare for it so I’m encouraging all Jamaicans to get your precautionary stocks in place, your stocks of goods, food, your batteries and candles, a supply of water, just in case, ensure that your critical documents are secure, if there are any trees or other things that could be of danger to your property, please ensure that you take necessary actions to secure those items and to secure your property as well. It is better to be prepared than to be sorry that you didn’t prepare. So I encourage all Jamaicans to take the necessary steps.

We are now in the hurricane season and we should have already taken those steps but I’m giving. advance notice that there is the potential of serious adverse weather, possibly a tropical storm, possibly a hurricane so we should take the necessary precautionary steps now. We have already taken steps to be prepared as a government; ODPEM is on alert, the JDF is on alert so should the worst happen, the government is already mobilized and prepared so it is now for the citizens themselves, householders,  people who live alone, to be aware of the possibility and take the necessary actions.

Jamaica is a paradox.  In some sense,  Jamaica has achieved so many good things.  We are a great nation.  When I saw the race yesterday of young Kishane Thompson doing 9.77. I was watching a video before of an American commentator saying, “We’re coming for you, Jamaica”,  because obviously they were all hearing the news that our athletes were injured and possibly not running so they felt that they had a good chance.  Of course, one commentator was saying, “Hey, don’t do that because these Jamaicans, their talent pool is deep”.  And of course so said, so realized, our talent pool is deep and I want to encourage our athletes to continue to do well. Continue to make Jamaica proud. We are behind you and we know that you can do it.

We are the little island that could,  the little island that can, the little island that did, and the little island that will continue to do great things but sometimes,  we don’t live up to it.  to our true potential,  and that is the paradox. We can do so well, but then at some things, we don’t do so well at.  The question is why?  Is it a matter of resources? As my colleague member of parliament, I call her my sister MP, because she adjoins my constituent; her thesis is that we need more resources.

If you listen to Senior Superintendent Manderson, he never mentioned one word about resources.  What he spoke to was systems and policies and procedures.  He was speaking about how he was motivating his men and women under his command.  He spoke about the organization of the resources. There are many theses as to why we don’t do well.  All of them are true. We need better leadership. We need better leadership. We need better organization and we need more resources.  But that should not stop us from doing the best we can with the leadership we have,  with the organization and institutional capacity that we have, and with the financial and fiscal resources that we have.

What we as Jamaicans must realize is that whatever the stock of resources you have,  we can do more with it than we are currently doing. That is the essence of being more productive and that is the essence of being more productive.  So one of the key points I want to leave with you today is that your government, your administration is intent on increasing the productivity of Jamaica. Productivity is a critical element of any national security strategy.  So let’s talk about how productivity relates to national security.

The first element of any strategy  for a productive national security policy is to ensure that you have your leadership has a productivity mentality. What is a productivity mentality?  The first critical ingredient of a productivity mentality is to first of all take  what I consider to be  a transformational approach  to the use of resources. There are some people who believe that change will only happen  if there is a transaction of more resources, meaning that we’re only going to bring down murders if we put more police, buy more police cars, fix more police stations, and pay police more. So the only solution is to  get more money.

Now, let’s be clear you will always need to have more resources,  but it doesn’t mean that you can’t do more with the resources you currently have. And the way  to get more out of the resources that you have  is to, first of all have leadership  that is thinking in a transformational way because 90 percent of the time,  the way in which we are using our resources  is not the most efficient way  and who it is that is going to look at the deployment of resources and say, no,  you’re spending too much time here. You are targeting this person when you shouldn’t.  We need to do a different kind of operation. How do we get to that point?

It is not the sergeant, or the corporal, or the constable  that is going to say that.  It is good when they say that and it gets passed up the ranks,  but if the leadership  does not put themselves in a position  to take the suggestions from the constable, the corporal, and the sergeant, doesn’t put themselves in a position to collect data, doesn’t study the problem from a theoretical point of view and from a practical point of view to look at what other people are doing and what results they are getting and to take that and translate it into local operations, then we will continue to do the same thing over and over and over again and get the same poor results.

So we have invested as a government heavily in the leadership and management of the JCF.  The level of leadership that the JCF has today, it is not the same level of leadership that the JCF had 10 years ago. The level of resource management  that you see in the leadership of the JCF, it is a substantial  improvement, both in the quality of training that they get, how they lead their men and women under their command,  how they account and manage resources, how they interact with the public, how they use data, how they use intelligence; it is a  stark difference and a major improvement and  this is a deliberate strategy of the government.  It is not something that can happen overnight,  but we continue to invest in the leadership of the JCF.

When you hear SSP Manderson’s presentation, it is the equivalent of the CEO of any company presenting to its board. And it is not just SSP Mandison’s, this is right throughout, it is standardized through h the JCF. And I make the point because it is not just a strategic  decision about the top tier officer corps  of the JCF, no, What we decided to do, and the former commissioner must get the credit for this.  is to institutionalize  transformational leadership and management in the security forces.  Which other entity in government can claim to have a ISO 900 standard?

To get an ISO 900 standard means that you have to go through the most rigorous set  of review of your standards  of operations and procedures and that you have to maintain them over time and almost on a routine basis, almost yearly they are audited to make sure that you are meeting these standards.  There are not many entities that have that so I am confident  that we are making the right strategic decisions in our national security policy that will yield the results that will be irreversible because once the leadership  of the JCF  is holding themselves to the highest standards,  then they will hold the men and women under their command to the highest standards as well.

And it is the improvement  in the way in which the members of the JCF execute their function  that is going to improve the relationship  between the citizen  and the police.  So we have made  this decision about the productivity  of our JCF  in how they use their resources, how they deploy and how they  structure operations and how they interact with citizens. We are expecting  that we will see great results from that.  Now that leads me  to another point.

There has always been- well, it is not the case that it has always been that there has been a difference between the JCF and citizens that citizens have a grave distrust for the police. I recall some of my elders speaking about how they used to relate with the police in the 60s. It was a level of respect, even the district constables but as the society grew and developed, and violence took over and criminal organizations became stronger, and we weren’t investing in the police as much as we should; standards deteriorated, systems deteriorated, institutions deteriorated whilst criminal organizations grew. Criminals grew stronger and criminals decided to capture communities.

And in the capture of communities, they even took over community leaders. They took over community institutions. Criminals became part of football clubs, youth clubs. Criminals control organizations within communities. Obviously, that would lead to a difference and we have to admit it, that it has happened. And we have allowed it to but of course, this is reinforced when the police would have been involved in extrajudicial killings, when everyday citizens are up in arms that their rights are being abused and so we had this situation set up  for failure which is why we had to implement entities to regulate this, INDECOM.

We are  now at another phase in our national security policy and that phase,  another part of the efficient deployment of our resources,  is that we must now rebuild  in a very strong way the relationship between the police and the community. That relationship must be re-established. That connection must be re-established. And I know that the good citizens of the communities of St Andrew South,  they are not going to put their reputational capital at risk to work with any institution that will bring disrepute to their name.

Can you imagine  a pastor or  the head of a citizens association telling  the persons in their community, let us work with the police and then the police comes in and does something irresponsible, does something dangerous, abuse people’s rights, what would happen? Nobody wants that to happen and so what the government has to do is to make sure that we have leadership that is genuinely  committed so that when we start to ask for our justices of the peace, our pastors, our football coaches, our community leaders to come and work with the police; we know that they’re partnering with people who genuinely believe that if they work with the community, if they work with the police that a genuine partnership can be struck that will see the reduction of crime and violence in the community.

So we are at that phase now where we are confident that we have invested heavily in the leadership,  the command of the various divisions and now we can have engagements like these in meaningful and extensive ways and we are expecting that this will filter down  through all levels of the community. So, I’m here today,  not as a member of parliament, as my good friend, Angela would suggest. I’m here today as your prime minister. I’m here today as someone who has invested personally time and effort in ensuring that we have a solid national security strategy.

And I can stand here today and I can say that I visited St James yesterday and when I was by the commanding officer, he was able to say, “Prime Minister, I’m pleased to report that for three weeks there has been no murders in the parish of St James, that we are down in murders”.  And when I  came here today, I called up Senior Superintendent Manderson and I said, what are the statistics?  And he said to me,”Prime Minister, I have a PowerPoint presentation, but since you asked, let me provide you. Last year, this time we were 58 murders, today we are at 45. We are down and we continue to make the effort to bring the murders down even more”. And I was very pleased to hear a leader of the police force, a commander say, we can bring murders down to zero in our division.

Before, it was an unthinkable thing to say but the mere fact that he’s willing to put that out into the universe means that something in him  is seeing a pathway where if we continue to develop the leadership, to develop the community support, and to put the resources in, and to build this genuine partnership of community,  that Jamaica can realize it’s true fate and destiny as a peaceful country. Murders do not have to be a part of our reality. It is a part of our reality because we have not made the investments and the management and leadership decisions to stop it because we continue to be ambivalent about protecting and supporting criminals in our midst. And until there is an unequivocal voice that speaks out against disorder and criminality and doesn’t offer sucker to them, which we hear on many platforms, but as I stand here,  I’m wholly committed to ensuring that every Jamaican is safe and that no criminal is safe and we will achieve it. Steadily we will achieve it.

Jamaicans by nature are peaceful people and I know we can build a peaceful country.  And that is why  we have invested again heavily in programmes like restorative justice in the Ministry of Justice and that has been going very well.  We have child diversion policies, again, that has been going very well. And now we have put in place strategies such as zones of special operations. We have one zone in this division and we are trying to make the budgetary allocations to have more. This is a long-term peacebuilding strategy.

Now, an interesting study was done. It wasn’t exactly on zones of special operations,  but it was a study that was done on government’s crime intervention programmes. I believe it was a 10-year data set. It was done by Capri and it was looking at government’s social intervention strategies in crime-affected areas,  and it drew the conclusion that social intervention strategies were not as effective as they could be. Now, I know many persons listening to this would disagree. I can read Angela’s mind, and I can say that she disagrees with it and I know many in the audience would disagree with it but here’s the whole business I was speaking about.

Sometimes you need to step back from the problem and look at it in an analytical way.  Look at it from an academic way, but also from a practical way because what the study was saying that the root cause of criminality,  gangsterism, and organized crime is not the lack of social intervention. That is not the root cause of it. It’s debatable, I’m not giving you my opinion; I’m relating what the study essentially found. What the study concluded was the root cause was housing and land tenure. In other words, when communities are informally settled, or when we create social housing without the necessary fundamentals of ownership, then we create an environment in which organized crime and organized violence can flourish.

So essentially, again, this whole business of transformational leadership is important because if you are presented with data and you close your mind to it, there is no hope for transformation so the government has to look carefully on this.  We already suspected when we put in the zones of special operations that this probably was the issue.  And though the zones of special operations have a very strong component of social intervention, it was designed specifically to deal with communities where there were issues particularly urban communities, with land tenureship, land ownership, and urban community structures and therefore, we police these communities in a static way, but in a way that deprives the criminals from using the community as it is structured to commit crimes.  And that is why the zones of special operations have been so successful; they can’t commit crimes in the zones but that is not the long-term solution.

The long-term solution is to return the communities to the people who live there so that they become wardens of the peace.  I want you to appreciate that term, wardens of the peace, people who take charge of their communities, and usually people who take charge of their communities and want to see things run in an orderly fashion are those persons who have an ownership stake in the community. So as it is turning out, and people will say we had already known this, but we haven’t implemented it but we are directing policy towards this now,  is that land titling,  developing the residential housing stock ensuring that people who live in the houses, who occupy them take ownership for it. Getting a culture where people say, I want my house,  my gateway,  my sidewalk, and my roadway to be clean and look good. Collecting the garbage, ensuring the streetlights work, those are critical things in transforming communities and building the cooperation between the citizens and the police and the other state agencies to lock out the criminals.  And that is the next thrust that we will be doing as a government in terms of our policy towards securing communities and urban spaces.

And as we met in the National Security Council this week and we were discussing this issue,  the Director General of MOCA pointed out,  and it’s a very important point to raise here, that because our strategy of controlling spaces have worked very well,  the scammers and other criminals are no longer feeling safe in the communities in which they used to operate and I can make here a point that the country wouldn’t immediately see, but the strategies that we have put in place for Spanish Town, for example,  I hear the mayor of Spanish Town immediately trying to associate himself with the reduction in crime and violence and the return of business. He has no clue as to what we have done to make Spanish Town the resurging town that it is but what is happening is that several of the gangs  and the scammers are now trying to come into communities  like this, like Pembroke Hall.  They’re trying to  take on short-term rentals,  trying to get short-term rentals through Airbnb.  And you might wake up one morning and you see some strange people doing all kinds of strange things beside you and you’re wondering, where did these people come from?

If you don’t want your community to be taken over, just quietly, don’t let them see you, quietly call the police. Don’t allow them to feel comfortable in your community. The greatest power you have is to make them uncomfortable. This is the right place to say it because this is where the presidents of the Citizens Association and the community leaders and the influential people in the communities are. I’m making this point to you that the strategies that we’re putting in place, it’s working, it’s displacing some of the criminals and they are now trying to find places where they can’t be identified to go and create a new criminal ecosystem. Before that takes root,  break it up. It is in your interest. They will start by coming in and they say we are just renting for a month.  And after a month, you can’t get back your place.

They will do things like walk in front of your gate with gunbs exposed. By the time it reaches that point, you are so afraid you don’t even want to tell nobody and then your silence means that they invite their friends and when they were on your left side, they are now on your right side because they have got the house on the right side. And then very soon they will tell you that you have to pay them rent for the house you own and live in. Any strange people you see coming beside you,  watch them, notify the police.  It is better that the police come and knock them up and ask them, what is happening, we got a report.  Immediately, that puts them on notice. I just thought I would bring that point to you.

So in closing,  Jamaica is making progress in national security matters. All crimes are down,  and murders are down approximately 10%.  We are now in the phase of continuing the strengthening of the core leadership,  the corporate and divisional leadership of the JCF.  We are in the phase of expanding the force itself so that we have more policemen and women who we can deploy and that is working very well. We will continue to improve our training of the rank-and-file officers, particularly in areas of respect for human rights and the enforcement of public order rules.

We will continue with events like these which is bringing the community together in consultation with the police force, and we will continue to leverage the community leaders, whether it is the JPs, the pastors, the football and netball coaches in the community, the youth leaders. We will bring them together with the leadership of the force so we can work out a community safety plan. That safety plan could include you’re having football matches, netball matches; you can say to your divisional commander, we need patrols here. We are noticing strange people here, we needed to come and check. Once that kind of information on collaboration starts, the intelligence gathering of the force will improve and then the force will be able to act in a more preemptive manner.  And once a force is acting in a preemptive manner, then there is less confrontation.  Because when the criminals get entrenched, the only way to get them out is to confront them so let’s prevent them from becoming entrenched by using this collaborative mechanism. And of course, I ask the citizens to be vigilant. You now must become wardens of the peace. You have to supervise the peace in your community.

Ladies and gentlemen,  thank you so much for listening. God bless you.