Section 48(1) of the Constitution of Jamaica is as follows:
48.-(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, make laws. Parliament may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Jamaica.
It is as simple as that. The purpose of Parliament is to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Jamaica. The power of Parliament is circumscribed only by the scope of the Constitution and the remit of the courts of Jamaica (including the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council [JCPC] our final court of appeal.
Unfortunately, we have neither peace nor order in Jamaica. Parliament needs to act. It needs to awake from its slumber and answer the call. Jamaica needs peace and order. There will be no sustained economic growth and development without peace and order. The rampant murder and mayhem taking place across the length and breadth of the island is inimical to peace and order.
It is this columnist’s unscientific opinion that the murder and mayhem taking place in the country is of three types. There is terrorist activity, there is for- profit gang related activity and there is the common or garden variety that takes place in every society in the world. The focus of this article is on terrorist activity. A terrorist activity is one that is designed by its perpetrators to instil fear in either the public at large or a part or section of the public.
The traditional media over the last few months have had emblazoned across their pages reports of activities that in normal ordinary western civilised democracies are defined as terrorist activities.
Recently miscreants left the western end of the city of Kingston and travelled to the northern part of the city, shot, and murdered two men and then beheaded them. What could have been the purpose of this other than to cause fear amongst the public or a section of the public. Recently, armed thugs travelled again from the western part of the capital to an informal settlement across from the University Hospital of the West Indies and in broad daylight murdered two women. There is no public information that these two women were combatants. What then could have been the purpose of these heinous murders than to cause fear. Recently, one of the daily newspapers reported that citizens of Montego Bay have expressed that they are living in fear because of the almost daily open shootings and murders that take place in daylight in downtown Montego Bay. What could possibly be one of the causes of these acts but to cause fear. I fear that that these terrorists have succeeded in causing fear. The fear caused by these terrorists is greater than the fear of Covid-19. The epidemic of murder, mayhem and the resulting paralysing fear is greater than the pandemic! The G7 allies style these activities as domestic terrorism. We need to debunk ourselves of the current legislative blinkers that terrorist activity only arises from an “ …act or omission committed in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause with the intention of …intimidating the public or a segment of the public with regard to its security…” Section 3 (4) of the Terrorism Prevention Act. This is not the current reality of Jamaica. Our current domestic terrorists do not give a hoot about politics, religion, or ideology. The fact that they are not motivated by political, religious, or ideological motivations, ought not to make them any less terrorists. The G7 countries in general and the United Kingdom in particular, through The Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act(TPIM) has shown, how the law, working constitutionally though the Courts, may be made an effective measure to fight the scourge of terrorism. The government has a huge and decisive mandate. It can be confident that its citizens will back it on this one.
The Courts of Jamaica have demonstrated time and time again that they are independent and will zealously uphold the Constitution. This is one of the few positive certainties left in the country at this time. The Courts of Jamaica give its citizens the comfort of knowing that their backs are protected.
My prescription, get proper legal advice, settle the policy, draft the Bill, go to Parliament, and get to work. Peace and Order is what the government, any government is constitutionally mandated to ensure. Parliament needs to sit at least four days of the week. It can do so. It does not matter if the Prime Minister and a number of his Cabinet members cannot attend each sitting of the House of Representatives, there are enough other Members of Parliament to not only ensure a quorum, but to ensure a government majority at all times. Get to work! The country is impatient of delay. Delay will only result in more bloodletting and fear.