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2019 – Concerns over murder and transparency in promotion

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THE YEAR 2019 is now almost two weeks old but even as we mull over the memories of 2018, not pleasant for the most part, developments on the international scene hardly give us optimism for better experiences this year.

In particular, given the openness of our economy, we are very vulnerable to the negative effects of global developments.

There are two such major areas of worry for us. One is the mounting uncertainty arising from the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and the massive confusion and economic disruption it is causing just 10 weeks from the scheduled date of departure. The other is occurring on the other side of the Atlantic where the forced shutdown of the US government services is having not just repercussions in that country but on global financial markets and the state of the international economy.

Of course, we have our own local issues as well.

In a couple weeks from now, the 2019 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and the national Budget, will be presented to parliament for debate and approval. It is always one of the highlights of the local political and economic situation, much anticipated and in turn, much followed.

However important these events are, some reflection on where 2018 has left us must be in order.

Available statistics from international and regional institutions remind us that all is not “bright and beautiful”, especially for most of us in the Caribbean and Latin America. There are many mountains to climb and rivers to cross for us in this hemisphere. It is easy to succumb to the weight of the formidable challenges before us to lapse into despondency.

Right at home here, as in the rest of the region as a whole, the continuing scourge of crime, violent crime and murder in particular, continues to haunt us and to spread gloom about our future.

Our Police Service has just released a number of statistics relevant to crime in SVG over the past year.

Some of these make very disturbing reading as they relate to violent crime and murder.

On the latter, it is reported that the Police Force “is pleased” with its rate of solving homicide matters in 2018. That rate is given as 11 0f 34 for the year.

While we should all share in and welcome success in crime-solving, the other 23 families, my own included, can hardly be expected to share in the pleasure.

We do not necessarily blame the police for the 23 unsolved murders, but a one-third pass rate cannot be comforting. We must all give the Police every support in trying to achieve a much higher pass-mark and not just sit back and criticize. Many are the grieving families still crying out for justice.

It is far from reassuring as well to note that repeat offenders, many of them young, make up nearly two-thirds of the prison population or that more than 20 percent of the prison population have been incarcerated because of murder charges. We can not play ostrich and bury our heads in the sand, we expect to hear clear policies from the Minister of national Security in the Budget debate to deal with these frightening developments.

GOVERNMENT/PUBLIC SECTOR DISCUSSIONS

As we approach the Budget debate, another prominent matter on the horizon

is that of relations between the government and the public sector unions. I am always encouraged when I see unions collaborating as in the efforts of the Teachers’ and Public Service Unions for a common approach to government on matters relevant to their members and which they share a common basis. It is an approach which I fervently hope will be broadened to the entire labour movement placing the interests of the workers above any personal or political ones.

However it is very worrying to note that the Public Service Commission has been found by the High Court to be guilty of not carrying out a fair and transparent policy of promotion in the public service. This followed a case brought by the Public Service Union and the Teachers Union is doing the same. Those familiar with the Public Service would know that for many years now, and not just under this administration, this charge has been repeatedly made but there is now legal confirmation of this.

It is not a matter which must be taken lightly and I would urge the Government to take the matter very seriously indeed.

There have been many puzzling cases which on the surface seem difficult to understand. It is causing disaffection in the ranks of public officers and must be addressed.

Hats off to the Unions for pursuing these matters and we must all hope that out of it, an agreed system of fair, impartial and objective assessments as the basis for promotion and related matters would emerge.

● Renwick Rose is a community activist and social comm entator.

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