PPM: Mac ignoring crime

| 26/11/2010

(CNS): The opposition took aim at the premier in the wake of his Strategic Policy Statement presentation on Thursday when it said he had failed to address the crucial issue of crime. During the almost two hour speech in which McKeeva Bush had outlined government’s broad strategic policy goals for the next budget year Alden McLaughlin said he was “astounded” that the premier had not said one word about the growing problem of violent crime. The George Town opposition member told the House that he did not think there was an issue which was more important than the impact violent crime was having on the country.

He said all of the efforts government claimed it was making to try and attract new business would be thwarted unless this key issue was addressed.

While McLaughlin was at pains to say he was not blaming government for the increase in criminal activity he said that he believed it had responsibility to do something about it. He pointed out that the premier never lost a single opportunity to tell the previous administration when he was leader of the opposition that government had a responsibility to tackle crime even when at that time elected officials had a lot less influence than they did now in the wake of constitutional changes.

Under the constitution the government has three ministers on the national Security Council and is in a better position than any previous government to influence the police strategies for dealing with crime. McLaughlin stated that as the members squabbled with each other yesterday the Bank of Butterfield was robbed, shots fired and people terrified.

The PPM member also questioned why a private member’s motion he had spent considerable time preparing and filed with the Legislative Assembly calling for a full national strategy to deal with crime back in February, had still not even seen the light of day.

Given that the SPS is an important milestone in the political calendar McLaughlin said he found it unbelievable he was silent on the issue of crime. “For the premier to deliver the SPS and not say one word about crime is astounding,’ McLaughlin said. “I don’t believe there is an issue that is more serious.”

Not only was the crime problem going to impact the efforts to attract business and tourism, McLaughlin noted how it was also changing the culture and way of life of Caymanians. He said there were certain areas of George Town now where when he visited local teens would ask him for ten dollars to watch his car. “The sense of safety that was part of our lives, and our country is being lost,” he said. While he accepted that rime was complex and there would never be enough money to do the things needed to address the fundamental causes of crime the country had to find a way to stem the siege through a comprehensive strategy.

“I can’t say that government isn’t doing anything about crime, but we don’t know as it hasn’t said anything about it,” he said, adding that it was very worrying to see such an important issue omitted from the SPS. “Government appears not to be giving crime the attention it deserves. “Improving the fiscal position will all be for naught if we are all forced to walk around with a police guard as the premier does,” he said. “Government has a responsibility to do something…but the silence is deafening.”

In his response the premier criticised the opposition for what he said were “wild allegations” he said it was easy fodder for the opposition to criticise government over crime and it was merely political tactics that the opposition member knew would score points with the public. He said there was not a single member in the Legislative Assembly not concerned about crime but despite the National Security Council government still had no power over policing.

Bush also noted that revealing the country’s strategy for dealing with crime was a security risk before he said that his government was doing all it could to deal with the issue and the opposition member was misleading the public.

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