The impending implementation of the highly touted Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) continues to pose more questions than answers, as the Andrew Holness administration seeks to unveil what it hopes will put a serious dent in the country’s over-riding crime situation. To begin with, the prolonged delay in its start-up has already generated much skepticism as to how effective it can be, even as more and more dead bodies pile up all over the island.
Of course, this plan of action comes against the background of the seeming inability on the part of the government to come up with a holistic and comprehensive crime plan. One major concern this newspaper has is the fact that the law gives the Prime Minister the power to declare an area Zone of Special Operations in order to tackle increased crime and volatility in a community. Although his decision is expected to be guided by consultation with the National Security Council, we fear that there may be the perception among some Jamaicans that the ZOSO can be influenced by narrow partisan politics one-upmanship.
It is in this vein that we feel there should be an impartial oversight body that examines and vets any such prime ministerial decision in the interest of fair play and transparency. We are heartened by the Prime Minister’s assurance that the special crime zones will not be used to infringe on the rights of citizens. With the attendant promises of oversight in this regard involving custodies and justices of the peace, we still remain wary about the ways in which members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) are likely to treat citizens, especially young men in the marginalized and depressed inner-city communities. The history is there to suggest that this will be a most challenging task for some members of the security forces who have a penchant for using brutality, intimidation and verbal assault during such operations.
We are also wanting to find out how decent, law-abiding citizens such as hotel workers and employees in the business processing and outsourcing sector who have to work at nights or return home at irregular times will be treated. There must also be ZOSO Hotline that concerned citizens can get answers or report problems relating to their well-being. There is also the matter of entertainment activities which may be seriously hampered.
While we agree that citizens may well have to put up with some amount of inconvenience in this latest bid to tackle the crime monster, it cannot be that this initiative ends up being a wet squib. In other words, as we say in Jamaican parlance, just so-so so.