DR Bernard Nottage now wants to shift the country’s crime problem on the people’s lack of understanding of the critical issues this country faces — illegal drugs, illegal firearms, gang formations — which ”for us,” he said, “we have never seen the like of it before.”
Nor have we, but, unlike Dr Nottage, we saw its early beginnings —during the drug era of the first PLP regime — and watched a once peaceful, God-fearing people embrace the get-rich-quick doctrine, and abandon their principles.
“And if the people believe we can just wave a magic wand and solve the problems that we face, they have got a sad awakening,” Dr Nottage said this week in defending himself against accusations that his recent national address lacked innovative ideas.
No, it is Dr Nottage who has had the sad awakening, and it was the people who were fooled. And if all our schools can produce are D and E average students, they will continue to be fooled when they go to the polls.
It was Dr Nottage’s PLP government that promised the electorate in 2012 that if they were returned as the government, they – and only they – had the solution to crush the escalation of crime. They either fooled themselves because they did not realise the magnitude of the problem, or they deliberately lied to the people. Whatever the truth, we now know, to quote Dr Nottage, that crime is not the fault of the PLP government, “but of a trouble society.”
“The Christie administration is not guilty of anything. What we have is an unstable community at this present time,” he said.
Oh, yes, the Christie administration is guilty of much. It made the people believe that they were coming with a master plan. And the trusting people are equally at fault for believing them. Regardless of what Dr Nottage would now have us believe he too was critical of the Ingraham administration.
It seemed strange that having been in government only seven days during which time nine murders had already been committed, Dr Nottage, by then National Security Minister, did not see the irony of his announcement that his government intended to review the Ingraham administration’s anti-crime legislation. Its intention was to focus on the mandatory minimum sentencing laws with the view to reducing them.
On May 11, 2012, we wrote in this column that we were glad that Prime Minister Perry Christie had put crime at the top of his agenda. He and his party always blamed the rising crime on an inept Ingraham government, claiming that it was his PLP party that had all the answers. Now he was going to be put to the test.
And to the test they were put – firstly by the complaining criminals. On May 17, 2012 the defeated FNM were now accusing the National Security Minister of having gone soft on crime after admitting that he had been approach by the criminals to ease up on them. The offenders complained that the Ingraham laws were too draconian for their liking
“Everything is under review,” Dr Nottage explained. “A lot of the persons who have been – I can’t call them victims – who have been convicted have made certain approaches to us about the severity of some of the sentences.” He said the Court of Appeal had “given an opinion on that, so that is an area we will have to review”.
Obviously, the tough laws of the Ingraham regime were having their affect on the criminal element. But now we have a National Security Minister who has been asked to soften their sentences. And to the shock of many citizens he promised to consider their appeal.
“The PLP campaigned asking for stiffer sentences for criminals,” the FNM reminded them in a press release. “After a week which recorded a record nine murders, the Government, having consulted with convicts has now determined sentences enacted by the FNM are too tough.
“Even before Parliament convenes the Minister of National Security has shown that he intends to take a soft approach to various criminal elements.” said the FNM, adding that he “appears more concerned about criminals than the victims of crime”.
Under the Ingraham government, most of the plans that the Christie government had talked of putting into place were already there.
For example, magistrates could no longer grant bail in serious cases. Cases had started to move faster through the courts. (The FNM had inherited from the 2002-2007 Christie government an unmanageably large court calendar).
The ankle bracelet was in use to keep track of criminals already on the streets, many CCTV cameras were in place and were still being installed in strategic locations.
The police force’s fighting equipment had been upgraded. The Defence Force had also been strengthened to protect our borders.
In that editorial, we had commented that the Christie government would find that all it had to do was to continue to build on the Ingraham programme. “If Mr Christie’s government has any secrets of its own to add to the fighting machine then time was of the essence — bring them on now and let’s see how quickly this government can push back this evil tide,” we wrote at the time.
“The Progressive Liberal Party,” said the party’s manifesto, “is committed to introducing a sustainable national crime agenda to reduce and control crime throughout our country.”
“Let’s now see what they can do in their first 100 days to combat this deadly scourge” — we wrote in this column in May, 2012.
Today, more than three years later Dr Nottage now tells us:
“Crime is not the fault of the government but of a troubled society … The Christie administration is not guilty of anything. What we have is an unstable community at this present time the Christie administration didn’t cause that. We have to face what the facts are – the facts are that we as citizens and parents have been derelict in our duty with our children.”
Now we know. This government with all of its misguided promises has failed. It is now — as it was before many fell for the election bait — up to the community to regain its moral fibre.