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Transcript of chat session November 15, 2001 with Dr. Peter Phillips


Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:00:44 PM)

Mr. Minister the level of crime and criminal activities as it now stands is totally unacceptable. What machinery does the government have or will now implement to combat this?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:07:54 PM)
I agree that level of crime must be reduced we shall have to undertake an effective program of modernization for our security forces and we shall have to mount community programmes to provide opportunities for people who get drawn into criminal activities and change their attitudes and values.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:07:27 PM)
Dr. Phillips, congrats on your new posting, cab you tell us what you plan to do about our ports.

Min. Peter Philips (ID=6664) (Nov 15, 2001 7:09:23 PM)
We are going to implement more stringent controls of access to the ports and we are going to have to use new technology to inspect all the goods passing through the ports.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:08:11 PM)
I would like to know what exactly the Jamaican Government or Justice authorities are doing to stop criminal deportees from returning to Jamaica. I find it absolutely appalling that an individual can migrate as a child, become a criminal under a foreign regime and be returned to a country by virtue of birth. To migrate to a foreign country mainly the USA, UK, and Canada, an individual must be free of a criminal record and possess other qualities that would deemed them desirable citizens, don't you think the requirements to accept them back in Jamaica should be similar if not the same?

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:08:25 PM)
Your questions about deportees are valid and timely. These issues have been raised with the deporting countries. Obviously, circumstances differ widely from case to case. Nevertheless many of these people who are returned by the overseas authorities indeed have tenuous connection (if any at all) to Jamaica. Despite this, Jamaica has an obligation under international law to accept people who are citizens of the country. We will, however, continue our diplomatic efforts to ensure greater equity in relation to this issue.

Moderator) (Nov 15, 2001 7:10:23 PM)
What about the general indiscipline in the police force. We as Jamaicans also contribute to it. For example I have paid more money to the police for traffic violations than I have paid the Govt.

Minister Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:20:29 PM)

You are totally correct that each one of us have to stand up against such indiscipline. If any policeman approaches you should take step to report them to the police public complaint authority or to the office of professional responsibility. Equally I agree with your proposition that we need to make a compressive assualt on indiscipline in all aspect of our national life.

Question Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:10:56 PM)
My name is Dr George Shippey and my wife and I am from England and my parents are Jamaican. I would like to find out how you will make a difference to the level of crime and the perceptions of Jamaica? My wife visited Jamaica and was scared because of the level of crime in Jamaica.I would like to live and work in Jamaica but I am also concerned at the level of returnees which are targeted by criminals in Jamaica

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:11:06 PM)

We are undertaking an extensive modernization programme of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The effectiveness and quality of the Security Forces will determine ultimately the nature of the perception people have of crime in Jamaica. I would encourage you to come home. Most communities are quite safe.

Question (Nov 15, 2001 7:12:41 PM)
what are you going to do about the corrupt police force

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:12:41 PM)
I still believe that there is a majority of hard working and committed policemen and women in the JCF. At the same time we need to strengthen the powers of the Police Service Commission and the other disciplinary authorities so that they can investigate an act independently to weed out corrupt personnel.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:13:49 PM)
Why is it that when you are making political speaches, you show that HATE and ENVY for Mr Seaga.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:14:02 PM)

ANSWER I do not know which political speech you are speaking about and how it evinced hate or envy of anyone. Certainly I do not hate or envy Mr. Seaga, but I have tried to be true to the historical record of various political personalities. Thankfully, we live in a democracy where different views can be expressed freely.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:15:04 PM)
Dr. Phillips, what can be done to stop the shipping of guns in the island.

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:15:05 PM)
This is a major priority. We are going to have to more effective patrols of our coastline and we are going to have to put tighter controls around our ports. Equally we have to do more effective intelligence work to identify and apprehend to culprits. We recently saw some evidence of this in the capture of 40,000 rounds of ammunitions.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:17:48 PM)
Good Evening Dr Phillips .......There is a move to bring Jamaicans abroad into the greater Jamaica concept....Do you think after the banking debacle…do you think we can be off help

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:17:49 PM)
Absolutely yes. The overseas Jamaicans represents a tremendous resouce of skill, experience, and finances which in my view will be indispensible to Jamaica future progress.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:19:13 PM)
My name is ZENO as a citizen in the United States of America will they draft me? And if so is it legal? I am from Jamaica.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:19:20 PM)
ANSWER That is a matter of U.S. law, and I cannot say.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:20:28 PM)
What about the general indiscipline in the police force. We as Jamaicans also contribute to it. For example I have paid more money to the police for traffic violations than I have paid the Govt.

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:20:29 PM)
You are totally correct that each one of us have to stand up against such indiscipline. If any policeman approaches you you should take step to report them to the police public complaint authority or to the office of professional responsibilty. Equally I agree with your proposition that we need to make a compressive assualt on indiscipline in all aspect of our national life.

Questions Via Email (ID=6670) (Nov 15, 2001 7:21:05 PM)
If the government is serious about fighting crime, why not appoint a special prosecutor to investigate white-collar crime. Also are members of parliament above the law? If not then why is it no one to investigate those who are suspected in collaborating with the criminal elements that is destroying our great island nation? Is there a law that allows the court to confiscate assets acquired with money coming from drug, firearms and any other illegal means. If not, why not. Is the JDF incapable of protecting our shores? It appears all it takes is for anyone nation to walk in at anytime they want and impose a new gov their style. What has and is the government doing to protect the people of Jamaica. Please respond to these questions as I am here in New York and the picture we see here is that Jamaica is an island totally out of control.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:21:20 PM)
ANSWER No one in Jamaica is above the law. Members of Parliament and members of the private sector suspected of collaborating with criminal elements are subject to investigation and prosecution. Jamaica has anti-money laundering legislation in place, and like many other jurisdictions, has recently been paying especially careful attention to the application of these laws. The Jamaica Defense Force is not incapable of protecting our shores. However, they need equipment, and we are working to acquire the necessary tools to allow them to do the job effectively.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:23:04 PM)
It is so shocking to see the amount of weapons and ammunition that is entering the country, why are all these weapons bypassing the custom officers ?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:23:04 PM)
Some of the weapons at least have come directly on shore by way of the narco-trafficers who go between South America and Jamaica. Others come through our ports. For the most part, however, the trade in illegal guns is directly linked to illegal drug trade. We are going to have to deal with both centres of the organized crime.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:25:54 PM)
Minister, I would like to know, why is it that the Government is not yet, acquiring high powered weapons and armoured vehicles, to counteract the criminals and their activities?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:25:54 PM)
The security forces are in fact in position of high power weapons and armoured vehicles. But force alone will be able to defeat the threat which we face. We will also need to develop a clear national concensus and an understanding on the part of each and every citizen that we must isolate the criminals from among our midst in all our communities.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:26:57 PM)
I called for a conference with the DONS and Area Leaders, the Minister of National Security and the Police High command. We need to find a way to use some of these guys and the influence the have over the respective areas to control crime. We did this with computer Hackers, and some of them are basically writing the handbooks on how to secure your data. Will you look into this...Article was publish in the Gleaner on Nov 11 2001.

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:26:57 PM)
I will certainly look into the article.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:27:23 PM)
What are you doing about those guns that criminal gunmen use to attack members of the security forces recently. Are you going to tolerate member of the security forces been pin down for hours an not do something about it. They never fire so many rounds at my beloved B S O OFFICERS and get away with it. Its time to take back the streets from these terrorist gunmen.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:27:35 PM)
ANSWER If you are speaking about the recent incidents in the Western part of the city, there is an Enquiry that is currently underway that is listening to evidence about the confrontation between the Security Forces and gunmen. Of course, that such incidents should ever happen in our country is deplorable and the police must be adequately trained and equipped to protect citizens from the onslaught of the terrorists.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:31:34 PM)
What about the impact of political warfare on the 1000 plus people murder since the start of the year.

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:31:35 PM)
No doubt some of the criminals involved in the guns violence we have experienced have different and divergent political affiliations. And political motive may have been at the root of some confrontations but the accumulations of weaponry that we are seeing in the country in criminals hands is due largely to the trade in illegal narcotics. Some of the criminal groups in Jamaica and as they have elsewhere will try to manipulate the political institutions including the parties for their own benefits. It is absolutely important that political parties explicitly reject any association with these criminal elements.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:31:15 PM)
What are your plans to stop persons from importing guns and ammunitions into Jamaica? If we are really serious about stopping these people prison terms should be drastically increased for persons found guilty of being in possession of an illegal firearm.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:31:33 PM)
ANSWER There are very stiff penalties in place for persons found with an illegal firearm. In terms of the illegal importation of guns and ammunition into Jamaica, we intend to revisit the security arrangements at the ports with a view to dramatically increasing their safety.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:32:36 PM)
Why don't we have the guts to catch indiscipline demonstrators on tape and charge them in the court of law?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:32:36 PM)
You have proposed a useful suggestion. The police do in fact tape some demonstrations. We shall have to look into your suggestion further.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:34:09 PM)
What is the future of our country? Why the people and the government of our country allowing the country to be over run by gun men? As a Jamaican and a true patriot, I am ashamed of what the country as become. When will I return to my country and feel safe to walk the street? When will the country that I love be home? Because home is where I should be safe.

Minister Peter Phillips) (Nov 15, 2001 7:34:17 PM)
ANSWER The future of our country is in our hands. We have to decide as a people what values and attitudes we wish to support and uphold.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:34:09 PM)
What is the future of our country? Why the people and the government of our country allowing the country to be over run by gun men? As a Jamaican and a true patriot, I am ashamed of what the country as become. When will I return to my country and feel safe to walk the street? When will the country that I love be home? Because home is where I should be safe.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:34:17 PM)
ANSWER The future of our country is in our hands. We have to decide as a people what values and attitudes we wish to support and uphold.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:36:03 PM)
We know that crime is a rather serious problem for Jamaica. Do you see crime as a consequence of social ills, unemployment, poor education, poor housing, limited opportunities, or do you see it as the act of a criminal mind? If the former, what measures will you devise to ameliorate social conditions as a means of reducing crime?

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:36:24 PM)
ANSWER Social ills provide circumstances and conditions in which criminality flourishes more easily, but human beings, acting intentionally, either choose to commit crimes or choose not to. The trying social conditions that too many Jamaicans face is a matter of great concern to the government as a whole, and there are many projects and programs designed to solve these problems, the most important of which is a stable macro-economic environment that can promote economic growth.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:36:24 PM)
What about the deportees, just like the us, I think Jamaica should implement some sort of rehabilitation program for those who get deported, because when they come to Jamaica they are the ones who become area leaders and become area dons

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:36:24 PM)
We have many rehabilitations in our prisons and penal institutions. We would in fact like to expand these despite the limited resources which we have. Part of the problem we face is that many of the deportees have had very little association with Jamaica and yet inspite of this lack of association they have been sent to Jamaica from richer countries who can manage to finance the programme of which you speak. This is their strategy to transfer their crime problem.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:37:07 PM)
Min. Phillips there is speculation that the government may resort to calling "State of Emergency" how true is that?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:37:07 PM)
We have no intention to call a State of Emergency.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:38:40 PM)
Sr. Phillips, how about using the internet to collect money from Jamaicans abroad that will go into a specific fund formed for acquiring speed boats, helicopters and other tools to combat seafaring gun and drug smugglers?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:38:40 PM)
We are exploring with our international partners different ways to equip our security forces to deal with the problems of which you speak.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:40:17 PM)
Having taken up the responsibility for National Security, what steps will be taken to ensure that the police and the general public will have a better relationship?

Minister Peter Phillps (Nov 15, 2001 7:40:33 PM)
ANSWER a) The police and the general public need to have a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. The public must be encouraged to support the police in their good work and to use the proper channels when there is inadequate work done by them. Overall, public confidence will develop along with the perceived professionalism of the Force.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:41:35 PM)
Seeing what happened in America not so long ago, what steps will be taken by you to make Jamaica's air and seaports as safe as possible?

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:41:50 PM)
Security has been upgraded at Jamaica air and seaports to guard against any such eventuality as took place in America on September 11.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:42:07 PM)
Dr. Philips, will the death penalty be enforced any time soon?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:42:07 PM)
The problem has been with the disposition of the privy council in the UK who have taken an explicitly ideological position against the death penalty. I like you agree that the laws of the country should be upheld and that no court should contrive to defy the legitimate wishes of an electorate

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:42:59 PM)
What is it that you will do different from K.D. Knight to help the crime situation in Jamaica.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:43:09 PM)
ANSWER Minister Knight made important gains in modernizing the JCF with new and better equipment and by encouraging police professionalism and morale. He also made important strides in law reform, including such things as the Bail Act, establishing the Night Courts and Drug Courts, the Marriage Property Act, and other human rights legislation. I will build on that platform by working for greater modernization and professionalism in the Force. I have begun my efforts by attempting to encourage a debate and discussion geared towards establishing a national consensus about crime and violence. This will lead to a clear National Defense and Crime Control Plan that is accepted by all as in the interest of the country.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:43:35 PM)
Do you see crime going down in the next few years to come?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:43:35 PM)
Yes I think that it will be possible to reduce crimes through a combination of more effective policing and rebuilding of the positive values and attitudes in the crime prone communities.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:47:06 PM)
I know you just inherited the toughest job in Jamaica at the beginning of this month. With God's grace, I hope you will be as successful as you have done with Transport and Roads. I wrote a letter to the Editor of The Gleaner, (Published November 10, 2001) about you calling a conference with the inner-cities Dons ala kin the Conference of Computer Hackers and the Computer and Security Agencies in the USA. Would you be interested in taking that approach? And could you share some of your 'Realistic' Ideas about putting a significant dent in crime, knowing that the General Election is just one year away.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:47:16 PM)
Thank you for your expression of confidence and I thank you for your prayers. I will give this job my very best effort. There is indeed a tendency to underestimate the difficulties of this job. My approach is to invite all citizens of Jamaica to become a part of the consensus against crime and violence. Law-abiding community leaders anywhere in Jamaica can play a role in that regard.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:47:29 PM)
Hello Min. Philips. I try to read the internet newspapers every day. I must say it is frightening to see all that is happening. Do you think the results of the inquiry into the violence which took place in July will make any difference since the JLP lawyers walked out. I was really hoping this would have helped.

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:47:29 PM)
We will have to wait to see the conclusion of the commission after it has heard all the evidence that has been placed before it. I think it most unfortunate that anyone or any segment of our society should refuse to contribute to this every important process. I still hope that good sense will prevail and this will not prove to be yet one another source of division in a country that is already too divided.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:48:24 PM)
Do you think it is feasible to eliminate some seats in parliament. This would create larger constituencies incorporating some of the garrison communities. Maybe this would eliminate some of the tribalism perpetuated by politicians.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:48:49 PM)
That is an interest idea that needs further discussion and debate. But I see the basic challenge as really re-socializing people to know that violence is not he answer to disputes, political or otherwise. Also of critical importance is that there needs to be firm enforcement of the law regardless of political considerations.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:50:11 PM)
How does DR. Phillips plan to address the crimes caused by the Narco- Terrorists, Political Terrorists and Criminals in the Inner city communities, including the Political support and cover provided to them?

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:50:23 PM)
We must develop the capacity to gather clear intelligence and the capacity to enforce the law based on that intelligence.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:51:33 PM)
Do you approve of political leaders who go to the funerals of "Dons"

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:51:34 PM)
This issue has generated much debate in recent time. I belief every person sinner and righteous deserve a proper funeral. At the same time I have become increasing conscious of the symbolic importance attached the presence of political leadership. It places an obligation on them to be extra careful has to how they exercise their influence. My own experience has been very instructive to me in this regard.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:52:18 PM)
Dr. Phillips, what if anything is the most concerning situation to you as you enter this new portfolio?

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:52:34 PM)
We have to encourage a culture of peace and respect for non-violence. It is true that many killings are sparked by minor disputes which ought never to have escalated to the point of someone getting hurt

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:55:38 PM)
My name is Babet and I want to know what is happening in Jamaica right now because I would like to come visit this Christmas.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:55:47 PM)
ANSWER You are very welcome to come home at Christmas and enjoy the company of your family and friends. Despite our challenges, Jamaica is still a beautiful place with many, many good people. In terms of security most of the island is enviably safe, and we are working very hard to make that true of all of the island. Come and enjoy Jamaica.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:57:05 PM)
Will you in your new portfolio launch investigation into your fellow member of parliament as to their role in the escalating violence? And if any one is found will you prosecute? What is your government doing to protect the Jamaican shores? Is there an aggressive investigation to find corrupt cops and people in law enforcement who are involved in drug trafficking and gun dealing? Is your government really serious about solving crime if so why not declare a state of emergency and allow the soldiers to do the job that they are paid to do.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:57:18 PM)
Nobody is above the law.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 7:57:37 PM)
Minister Phillips, what do you make of the recent allegations by Mr. Derrick Smith regarding the JDF and the Drug find?

Minister Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 7:57:37 PM)
I have already made a statement on this matter and I would like to make just two points: First, there is no evidence whatsoever inplicating the JDF helicopter crew or any other member of the JDF in the incident. Second, Mr. Smith and others ought to be very careful about making unfounded inferences which might demoralize the servicing men and women of the JDF who are putting their lives on the line in protection of our country. Indeed the JDF officers that Mr. Smith is referring to were participating in a joint operation against drugist with the police force and had landed to refuel at the Sangster's International Airport. We need to be united as a country to stamp out the drug trade and not just hurl accusations veiled or otherwise at each other.

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 7:59:09 PM)
Is there an email address where the public can send suggestions to the minister?

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 7:59:26 PM)
Yes there is: minister@mnsj.gov.jm

Questions Via Email (Nov 15, 2001 8:00:46 PM)
What are you going to do about the crime in the Country? Why can't you go into all the so call bad area and wipe out all gunmen? Not just one area only.

Minister Peter Phillips (Nov 15, 2001 8:00:56 PM)
I am making every effort to build a national consensus against crime and violence. To that end I have convened a number of meetings with all the stakeholders in the process and with concerned groups and organizations. There must be a genuine effort by all to contribute to that consensus. It is the only basis on which crime can be effectively tackled and defeated. Additionally, we must continue to develop a modernized, well-equipped, effective police force, capable of enforcing the law impartially, without fear or favour. The police cannot simply go into an area and wipe out all gunmen. As a country of laws that respect human rights and human dignity, we have to enforce the law rigorously while we continue to respect people rights.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 8:01:44 PM)
I think there is a serious problem with our youth which will ultimately have adverse effects on crime eg. primary school children attacking a police station. There is need for concerted efforts between your ministry and the education ministry to deal with this problem

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 8:01:44 PM)
I absolutely agree with you. There is an urgent need to resocialize many of our children especially strife-torn communities. Many non-govenment oragnizations such as Pals are already addressing this task. We need to combined all our efforts to ensure that we are not creating an ailenated generation which will make things worse

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 8:02:38 PM)
Mr. Minister this is a statement,, but it is quite possible that the best way to tackle crime is not through head on activities. The art of war teaches us to fight it from within so that it withers and dies

Minister Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 8:02:38 PM)
An interesting thought and I totally agree.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 8:02:57 PM)
How are the wife and kids? I hope well.

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 8:02:57 PM)
Yes, thank you.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 8:05:19 PM)
Mr. Phillips Now that you have changed ministries what will happen to the promises you made to the Eastwood Park Gardens residents re commercialization of our community? Some businesses are definitely adding to our crime problem in the area. As we talk more businesses are poised to open their doors in our zoned as residential community. Please help us!

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 8:05:19 PM)

I made a commitment regarding a resolution in parliament which could possible could lead to some necessary amendments to the law I proposed to do this in next week or so. At the same time the citizen association along with myself could probably seized the opportunity to take the matter up with the New Minister of Land and Environment.

Moderator (Nov 15, 2001 8:06:47 PM)
Lofty goals, Minister, but what measures are put in place to monitor these myriad tasks are indeed, accomplishing their goals?

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 8:06:48 PM)

We shall need to ensure that we put an appropriate project implementation capacity within the ministry to oversea and monitor or our priority goals. I have already taken steps to put this in place.

Min. Peter Philips (Nov 15, 2001 8:08:00 PM)
Thanks to everyone for their questions and it was a pleasure chatting with you.
I would like to wish you all the best.

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