Prime Minister Andrew Holness says Jamaica faces a wider problem of its young men being involved in violence, noting that approximately 50 per cent of them under the age of 24 are responsible for murders and shootings.
Holness made the comments while expressing sadness at the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Pembroke Hall High School student Rasheem Wilson during an operation by the security forces in 100 Lane off Red Hills Road in St Andrew on Wednesday.
According to a report from the police’s Corporate Communications Unit (CCU), Rasheem was fatally shot during a joint police military operation at about 1:45 pm.
A 9mm pistol fitted with a magazine containing 14 9mm rounds was reportedly seized by the security forces.
Residents have contended that Rasheem was killed in cold blood, as he was said to have been in a yard playing a video game on his phone.
The police have, however, rejected that assertion.
The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is probing the incident following protests by residents of the area in the aftermath of the teen’s death.
Holness, speaking to students at Manchester High School on Friday, said he could not comment on the circumstances of the fatal shooting.
“When I saw it, I immediately reached out to get an understanding of exactly what happened. How could a 14-year-old be killed in a shootout by the police? And I am very sad about it,” said Holness.
In addressing especially the 14-year-old boys in the audience, the prime minister said the issue of violence in the society urgently needs to be addressed.
“In Jamaica, more than 90 per cent of crimes committed, particularly serious crimes, (such as) murders and shootings, are by males,” he suggested.
Continuing, he said: “I don’t have the exact figure, but I would venture to say that more than 50 per cent of the shootings and murders are by males under (age) 24.
“The other side of the equation is also true, that young males are predominantly the victims of crimes,” Holness stated.
According to him, the issue of violence is now at a “crisis level”, which needs to be dealt with in a frontal way.
To that end, the prime minister said schools will have to be incorporated to “deliberately” teach in the curriculum, how to manage conflicts, dealing with violence, and building peace.
“It is going to have to be a curriculum subject,” declared Holness, adding that, “What is being taught in the schools must also be enforced in the homes.”
Through the National Parenting Commission, the Government also plans to deliver that message of conflict resolution and peace to parents, Holness announced.