Deeply irresponsible

I should say, after my last post, that I don't see the need to cut the PLP any slack on the crime issue for a number of reasons.

Setting aside my belief that the lawlessness and culture of silence stems in part from an anything goes political culture with its own code of silence, primarily I have not forgotten the way the topic of crime was treated during the election by the PLP.

They chose to engage the UBP on this core issue in a deeply irresponsible way, vilifying their proposals to crack down on an obviously escalating crime problem as 'draconian'; likening the UBP to 'neo-fascists'; the 'they want to lock us all up' comment from now Senator Bean; last minute 'renovations' of the St. George's Police Stations, all wrapped up in the Premier's speech on the eve of the election.

It was the most extreme kind of short term electioneering at any cost.

It struck me at the time as shockingly shallow, opportunistic and dangerous. Today, I find that to be even more apparent, as evidenced by the post election amnesia of everything they'd argued with a sudden turn around with talk of curfews, 'drawing lines in the sand' and 'we have had enough' speeches; although you get the sense they really are just throwing anything at the problem to see what sticks.

That is because the Government is playing catch up, rather than getting in front of a problem and stopping things escalating (not unique to crime). That was what the UBP's proposals on preventative detention and three strikes laws were about: taking known individuals off the street in the short term to stop a cycle of revenge. We could use that ability now in the tit for tat gun war which is raging. It was about removing prolific repeat offenders from society, not permanently, but for an extended period to give some room to breathe and focus on rehabilitation and prevention.

These ideas were not ideal, but they demonstrated a realism, a recognition of where things were heading, and showed a seriousness of purpose that was glaringly absent on the PLP's side. They were legitimate proposals worthy of genuine debate, rather than ridicule, vitriol and scare-mongering. They weren't all or nothing ideas, but a starting point for reversing a worrying trend.

We're paying the price for this lack of seriousness now. It felt to me at the time, and still does today, that the PLP sent a message - intentionally or not - during the campaign that violent criminals didn't have to worry too much. It seems to me that the PLP was campaigning for that vote, and that of those who knew what was going on but were looking away, those who Ceola Wilson today describes as providing consent through silence.

I understand some will find that suggestion inflammatory, but what else was the message behind the "criminal offenders we are talking about with these laws are our children, our nieces, nephews, and cousins" comment on the eve of the polls opening?

The consequence of this is that we've lost two years of time to the gangs who ramped up while Cabinet fiddled. This was exacerbated by the Premier and Minister Burch's strategic choice to focus on crime as a wedge issue to manufacture a case for independence while the machetes were being exchanged for guns.

So I'll admit to not having much time for the PLP on the issue of crime (and the economy - another area they've ignored many warnings over many years), and am somewhat cranky every time I hear Minister Burch, or the outgoing Premier, give another speech about getting all draconian on criminals 2 years after they savaged the UBP for wanting to confront the problem head on.

Maybe my tone is a bit harsh, but that's where it comes from.

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