The first duty of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. Maintaining law and order, reducing crime, and ensuring the safety and security of the citizenry are critical priorities as a high crime rate impacts citizens’ lives and livelihoods, foreign and domestic investment, and economic development and undermines confidence. Last week it seemed that there was rain, murder, and violent crime everywhere and that the Government had no answer to the situation.
The very existence of the State rests on its ability to defend itself and fellow citizens from internal and external threats. The Government spends billions every year on national security and uniformed services, procuring surveillance craft and equipment, and weapons in discharging this duty. But the country needs a bigger bang from this expenditure. It needs more effective management. Ultimately, the task of securing the country and reducing crime falls on the executive. The Executive is both accountable and responsible.
The executive relies on the collaboration of several agencies which it coordinates through the National Security Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. This is appropriate as failure has political consequences. The security agencies derive their power from the Constitution and while each has its mandate, reporting structures, organisational priorities, and objectives, they do not stand alone. The National Security Council places the executive in a position to direct and coordinate the different branches of the state’s security apparatus.
We are in a crisis and the citizenry holds the Government accountable for solving the problem and reducing crime, as it should. But politicians of both sides are reluctant to accept this responsibility as it is a poisoned chalice. They recognise that failure to address rising crime has been the Achilles heel of many administrations and affected their electoral success. Consequently, a political rather than a responsible or pragmatic approach is usually adopted.
This political approach is to politicise the crime issue by presenting public relations exercises as solutions and quick fixes, or identifying an individual or organisational scapegoat(s) to blame. This approach is designed to deflect criticism by limiting ministerial responsibility to providing resources, bringing legislation to Parliament and matters of policy. It has become the norm for leaders to blame the Opposition, fellow politicians, religious leaders, parents, communities, gangs, failings of the DPP’s office or the Judiciary and prison service for increased crime and minimise their responsibility. Even USA gun manufacturers stand accused.
This approach does little to solve the issue or achieve the national priority of a safe, secure state and citizenry. It muddles the issues, creating confusion and division. Meanwhile, the criminal element is proceeding with business as usual unconcerned about a crime plan or perhaps secure in the knowledge that whatever action is taken, it will not be enough.
The Cabinet and the collection of agencies it directs which we collectively call “the Government” are ultimately responsible for achieving the national priorities of maintaining law and order, reducing crime, and defending the State. The various agency heads (CJ, DPP, COP, Head of Prisons, Comptroller of Customs) are responsible for the performance, efficacy, and effectiveness of their organisations and the achievement of their organiational objectives. In other words, the managers must ensure their respective organisations are functioning properly and they must be adequately resourced to do so.
This cannot happen by itself. The Cabinet’s task, its duty, therefore, is to harness the state security apparatus and ensure that it is aligned and working harmoniously for the achievement of the overall, big-picture objective of maintaining law and order. What is missing is political will.