Jamaica extends state of emergency for 90 days

Garth A. Rose

There is consensus among Jamaicans living in South Florida over the recent imposition of a new state of emergency (SOE)  in Jamaica.

Last week the Jamaican government enforced a state of emergency encompassing the western parishes of St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland for a 2-week period. However, on Tuesday, the Jamaican Parliament took further action by approving a 90-day extension of the SOE in the three parishes of Hanover, St James and Westmoreland as it continues to deal with the crime situation in the country.

Although earlier this year the opposition People’s National Party opposed extending SOEs in St. James and areas in St. Catherine and Kingston, on Tuesday night the House of Representative approved the extension by a 44 to one margin with former national security minister, and opposition spokesman, Peter Bunting voting against the measure. The other 18 members of parliament were absent when the vote was taken after a lengthy debate.

“We will not block this extension. The situation has to be put under control for the sake of law-abiding Jamaican people, but let me make it clear, there will be no repeat of last year,” Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips told Parliament.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness had contended that discontinuing the original SOE sent the wrong signal to criminals.

“The extraordinary level of violent crimes in Jamaica has been a feature of our society for far too long, and while it has impaired our development for decades, the greatest cost to our nation has been the many lives that have been lost,” said Holness.

Former Jamaican and Connecticut police officer and Miramar resident, James Clancy, believes “It would have been irresponsible not to apply the state of emergency at this time. As far as I can see the fight against crime is being lost in Jamaica. The firm action that a sate of emergency offers to kaw enforcement officers is needed immediately to stop the violence and criminal activities in Jamaica.”

Shirley Anderson of Margate, is of the strong opinion “The resurgence of crime in western Jamaica results from the lifting of the SOE in St. James in January. It was really bad politics by the PNP not to support the extension then.”

Holness said he had the highest regard for the judgment of the leaders of the security forces, whose advice he had sought before asking Jamaica’s Governor General Sir Patrick Allen to declare the new SOE on April 30. The prime minister said the extremely high rates of violent crime are so extensive its endangering public safety, and requires the imposition of the SOE.

“The citizens of western Jamaica have fully endorsed the granting of additional powers to the security forces to save their lives, and this, likewise, must compel us to endorse the request for an extension,” Holness said.

However, Opposition Leader is not totally convinced. In the debate preceding the approval of the extension of the SOE, he said, “The fact that after one year of last year’s  state of emergency, the rate of murders has reached this level again is not so much an indication of the need for a continuing state of emergency, as much as it is an indication that we effectively failed in the period when there was a state of emergency to put the necessary arrangement in place”.

The Opposition Leader has outlined demands to support  the crime fighting initiatives, including a 100 per cent increase in the seizure of guns and ammunitions seized, a the same opening hours for small businesses and big businesses during the SOE, and the passing of legislation for enhanced security measures, after consulting with the Opposition on the detailed proposals.

Last month, Police Commissioner Anthony Anderson indicated that since the start of 2019, Westmoreland recorded the most murders per 100,000 with 29 followed by St. James with 27 and Hanover with 18.

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