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Mahfood demands action on tough anti-crime law

Published:Friday | January 21, 2022 | 12:07 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

Decrying the high levels of crime in Jamaica that has become a huge barrier to investments locally, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) John Mahfood is pressing the Government to fast-track promulgating legislation promised to tackle the long-standing problem.

He contended that a commitment to pass laws in order to strengthen crime-fighting efforts should be more than just a talk shop.

“Talk is cheap, and we are very liberal in Jamaica promising and saying we are serious about crime and violence and what we need to do; and here we are, a committee that involves the Government, Opposition and civil society ... . We have gone a year now, and the Government has failed to enact legislation and do what they need to do,” Mahfood asserted.

He warned that the country cannot achieve its potential with crime at the current levels, noting that foreign investors will shy away from making investments here, and Jamaicans desirous to retire in their country of birth, after working abroad for years, will be turned off by the wanton acts of violence and criminality.

While major crimes in Jamaica declined last year, murders continued to spike, with 1,463 Jamaicans dying. This represents a 10 per cent increase over homicides for the corresponding period in 2020.

Chairman of the Crime Consensus and Monitoring Committee, Lloyd Distant, said that it continues to be disappointed with the seeming lack of commitment by the Government to ensure that agreed legislative targets are met.

At a press briefing late last year, Distant said that at the current rate, four of the 10 priorities due for completion by December 2021 had missed their agreed deadlines. The proposed pieces of legislation include the New Enhanced Security Measures, amendments to the Firearms Act, the identification of a multidisciplinary team to perform a comprehensive review of all security-related legislation, and the Integrity of Security Forces Bill.

The JMEA boss also lamented alleged acts of corruption in public bodies that implicated board directors and chairpersons, whose mandate was to protect taxpayers’ money.

“If this happens so frequently, then it must send a message not only to foreigners that this is not the type of place that you want to put your money, but it sends a message to us in Jamaica, the small working man who is making $10,000 a week and struggling to survive, and seeing this high level of corruption and nothing is being done.”

For 2022, Mahfood said that his organisation will be very vocal about these issues.