(Photo Caption: Former Prime Minister and Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas Making His Presentation During The Last Parliamentary Debate.)
Statement By: The Leader Of The Opposition, The Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas.
Over the last few hours, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect upon the frighteningly serious crime situation in our beautiful country and came to the conclusion that if the government truly has a Crime Fighting Strategic Plan, then clearly it’s not working.
The question that we must ask ourselves then is, why…….why is the Plan not working thus resulting in an increase of very serious crimes recently to give a picture of……..28 Murders in a population of 50,000, the latest 3 within the last 3 weeks….Kidnappings, the latest 2 involving children….Burglaries and Robberies, the latest 10 involving masked gunmen, hostage-taking, gun-butting and carjacking…….Drug Trafficking, the latest finds involving large quantities of Cocaine and Marijuana valued at millions of dollars, associated with 3 murders to date, with one murder victim allegedly shot in the back by police according to the family of the deceased Antiguan trafficker, and another by execution-style in a hale of 19 bullets.
Here are some possible answers that we can ponder upon, and which lead to further questions.
1. The government crime fighting strategic Plan is unrealistic, impractical and unimplementable.
Is this Plan a home grown plan, has it evolved after serious consultation with the stakeholders in our country and has the Ministry of Finance mobilized adequate resources…..manpower, financial and technical…. for the effective execution of the Plan?
2. The effective leaders and managers, tasked at the various levels in the Ministry and it’s Departments/Agencies are highly suspect.
The Minister of National Security, Dr Harris who is also the Prime Minister, has always considered himself incapable of leading the Ministry. Twice, as a senior Minister for 18 years of the former Labour Administration he had declined to lead the Ministry when he was offered by the Prime Minister, mainly because of laziness.
And now that he has been forced to take the Ministry because every single Minister of the PAM/CCM/PLP regime refused it, Harris has not devoted any serious time at home to understand his sacrificial responsibility as the Minister, and the underpinnings of the Ministry and how it functions.
3. Apart from Ministerial incompetence, Dr Harris has become an Absentee Minister.
The Minister is incapable of providing effective ministerial leadership because he is too often absent from the Federstion. There is no doubt that Harris, since in Office, has spent a considerable amount, if not most, of his time travelling, recovering from travelling and planning to travel again. In fact it has been confirmed that he has travelled every week since he took office some 36 weeks ago in February and sometimes as often as twice per week.
4. Also, his Cabinet colleagues are now whispering behind his back about his narcissistic behaviour and how much of a dictatorial control freak that he has turned out to be.
Senior members of the government and Ministry are complaining about his micro-managing of Departments/Agencies in the Ministry, attempting to put into leadership positions his own “button men”, and in the process has seriously undermined and marginalized the Commissioner of Police, the Commander of the Defence Force, the Superintendent of Prisons and the Fire Chief of the Fire and Rescue Services.
If this was not so, what’s the reason for having the most senior and longest serving Police Officer in the person of Deputy Commissioner Liburd still Acting as Commissioner some nine months after former Commissioner Walwyn was undermined and removed from Office by Harris?
Why not confirm him into his post for the full three year term?
And if he has no confidence in Liburd’s leadership, why not retire him and appoint Ag Deputy COP Queeley into the post?
Is it because his narcissism will bring him in serious conflict with a highly professionally trained COP whom he will not be able to direct, or is it because Queeley hails from Constituency #6?
Whatever the reason for Harris to continue to hesitate on the appointment of a COP, the effect is low morale and humiliation of the Police High Command and Middle Managers, a high level of uncertainty among the rank and file and expected underperformance of the Force.
And so, as law abiding concerned citizens, and residents, investors and developers, diplomats and visitors continue to be terrorised as victims of repeated criminal activity, we are now gripped by fear and paralysed after dark in our own homes.
It is quite clear that a fair share has not come for the majority, but the fairest share has come for the few who already had a fairer share.
This cannot continue.
And if we are to succeed in tackling this #1 challenge to our continued progress and prosperity, we must demand and agitate for the following:
1. Immediate grounding of Harris as PM and Minister of National Security and effective, competent ministerial leadership of the Ministry of National Security
2. Immediate full appointment of the COP through a transparent process, inclusive of an interview
3. Immediate national consultation on the Crime Fighting Strategic Plan to solidify buy-in from the public as the basis for a re-energized community policing plan.
4. In the current Cabinet Reshuffle being contemplated, apart from reassigning the portfolios of Education, Tourism and Health to new ministers, National Security should also be reassigned to a new and more competent Minister.