The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP
Stellar Maris Church Annual Fundraising Benefit Banquet
June 30, 2017
In my capacity I do attend several fundraising events and I must say that this is the largest one that I’ve been to.
Excellent entertainment package; I was almost wandered off, warm and easy, and then what can I say about Samantha? I better say nothing.
I’m actually relieved because when I saw Michael as the MC. I said I know I’m going to be the butt of some jokes here but thank you Michael. Where are you? Thank you for sparing me sir, I appreciate it. I don’t know if it’s because his grace is here why you decided not to. Except for the big house but I can’t help that one; it’s just what it is but thank you for your song. I’ve actually asked my media people to capture it because I believe it should be put in our media much more than it is.
Reverend Father Howard Thompson, such a cool guy and of course Arch Bishop Kenneth Richards. We share the same alma mater. He attended when it was a girl school. (laughs)
Members of the Stella Morris Church family, sponsors, heads of government agencies and departments who may be here, members of the private sector who are in attendance, distinguished guests and permit me to specially acknowledge the Honourable Custos of St. Andrew, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen, good night. It’s a good night and very soon I will be bidding you. I should have actually said good evening but it’s pretty late.
I have two things to say to you. Firstly I’m very impressed with the work that the church does in the Grants Pen area for reasons that our Minister of Justice the Honourable Delroy Chuck would know. I had occasion to visit Grants Pen a few times and I’ve visited many inner-city communities. The poverty is the same, the infrastructure is the same, the housing is the same but the crime is different.
Yes, there was an intervention fifteen or so years ago that arrested the problem but after the police did what they had to do. What really secured the peace was the social intervention and the church played a critical role in the intervention but more importantly sustaining the intervention and I want to congratulate the church – Stellar Maris Church, for the work that it has done in maintaining the peace in the Grants Pen community.
So there are actually lessons that the government has learnt from that and you would have seen in the media the great debate about the new crime bill that we’ve put in parliament; a bill designed to give a legal framework for special intervention measures in communities.
Unfortunately the first half of the debate focused primarily on the police intervention, the use of force to intervene in communities but the bill itself does not rest entirely on the use of the police force. There’s actually another side to the bill which speaks to creating a framework for sustained social intervention in communities and that I believe will be the key to the successful intervention and transformation of communities that are gripped by crime and violence.
What we plan to do is to implement a strategy which is not new. It’s used all over the world; it’s called Clear, Build and Hold. For social intervention to work, there has to be peace so in the initial stages the security forces will have to go in and establish a period of peace but the security forces can’t sustain peace and that is a very important lesson.
We will be declaring certain high crime areas, zones of special operations where the security forces will go to establish the rule of law. This is not an incursion, it is not an invasion, it is merely an operation of presence to reassure the citizens that there is state order; there is access to law enforcement and justice if issues were to arise.
After that operation is done, then there comes the real problem. How do we keep the community peaceful? How do we prevent criminals who may have left from coming back and how do we prevent people who live in these places some of whom may engage in criminal activity not to seek to engage in criminal activity?
Presence will help but there would have to be a strategic interaction with the citizenry in this space. For that to happen it’s not just the police. The churches will have to play a critical role.
We will be moving into these spaces with the security forces and with the social intervention agencies but even if we were to be successful in let us say curbing extortion in an area or illegal parking on the road or illegal vending or issues to do with lottery scamming, there would still be the underlying problem. In other words we would have addressed the capacity to commit the crime, we would have addressed the opportunity to commit the crime but we still would not have addressed the intention to commit the crime, the propensity to commit the crime and states can’t exist by merely having an overwhelming security presence. States can’t afford that.
States exist because their citizens don’t have the overwhelming propensity to seek to commit crimes so the strategy of the government is we’re going in, we’re going to reduce the capacity, we’re going to cut off the opportunity but that is not sustainable. What is sustainable is when the citizens themselves choose to live peacefully and that is long term. That won’t happen overnight. That really comes down to what we believe, what is our faith, what is our doctrine of life, what do we believe as a country about each other as citizens? I’m almost trying to avoid saying it comes down to our spirituality, it comes down to our religious beliefs and how we live man to man but we can’t avoid that.
The strategy will involve a partnership with the church in the communities and I believe that the example of Stellar Maris in Grants Pen is one to be studied and replicated right across Jamaica so I will be using this platform to say that the government will be engaging faith-based initiatives in the fight against crime and we want to partner with the churches in meaningful ways to help with parenting, to help with early childhood education, to help with youth engagement, to help with family planning and help with dealing with the poor and dispossessed.
Government can’t do it alone and what we do find is that government while we may have the agencies to do, we don’t have the capacity within the agencies and so the actual service delivery could come via a real partnership between government resources and the capacity of foundation such as the Stellar Maris Foundation.
We will be looking at creative ways of delivering these kinds of social intervention services, counselling and like in the areas of special operations and I believe that the strategy that we’re putting in place will have an effect on the crime rate. It will bring down the murder rate in particular. It is not the only strategy we’re employing but it is one tool in the tool kit.
I’m confident about Jamaica. Everything is heading in the right direction. Crime is the only variable that is giving us a great difficulty and what we saw in parliament on Wednesday last, shows that there is a growing political consensus, I dare say maturity around the issue because the last time that we were at this juncture, we could not get consensus and the breakdown in consensus sent the signals to the criminals that well we can go away because the political class is divided on how to deal with crime.
I think this time around the political class came to its senses and united around passing a bill which will empower the government, not the political parties, empowers the government to use state resources in a positive way, in a way that is respectful of human rights; in a way that promotes life, in a way that promotes the dignity of the citizens who live in these crime prone areas and I think it is a good day for Jamaica. Jamaica is such a great country. We have the capacity and I know that we will overcome this problem.
God bless you.