Jamaica Information Service – The House of Representatives has approved a further three-month extension of the State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North Police Division.
At the sitting on June 26, House members voted in favour of the Emergency Powers (Continuance) (No. 2) Resolution, 2018, which will extend the State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North Police Division until October 2, 2018.
Addressing the House, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, said the enhanced security measures in the St. Catherine North Police Division have, so far, experienced a 26 per cent reduction in incidents of murder and shooting.
“For the period covering the 18th of March to the 18th of July, the Division recorded 14 murders and 10 shootings. This, while still unacceptable, is a significant reduction when compared with the 93-day figure prior to the state of public emergency declaration when 53 murders and 38 shootings were committed,” he said.
Mr. Holness noted that traditional hotspots, such as Spanish Town and its environs, have experienced a significant reduction not only in murders and shootings but have also experienced reductions in illegal activities, such as extortion.
“The presence, activities and influence of the security forces have not only curtailed gang influence but have also acted as a further deterrent to the commission of crimes in public spaces. It has also brought back a sense of law and order in communities,” he said.
Mr. Holness said while the state of public emergency is not meant to be a permanent feature, additional time is needed to make further progress to ensure that the results will be lasting and positive in the lives of the Jamaican citizens, and to eradicate organised criminality.
“The next phase of our operations is not so much to go and detain the corner men; the next phase of the operation is to use the space created, the networks that we have uprooted to get to the mastermind and kingpins. We are in a different phase and you will start to see the impact in months to come,” the Prime Minister told the House.
“It is not just using the state of emergency for a lull. There is a strategic plan and the objective is to truly degrade, uproot, disrupt and destroy the criminal networks permanently, and I am enlisting the support of every single member of this House in this campaign,” he said.
For his part, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, said the Opposition is committed to eliminating organised crime and reducing violent crimes.
“We are supporting this extension in St. Catherine North. The objective of fighting crime is not in doubt, nor is there any doubt about the fact that the declaration of a State of Emergency can be a legitimate tool which the country uses to confront crime. We are of the view that it is a tool to be used only in the most extreme of circumstances and it is a tool that ought not to become routinised,” he said.
The Prime Minister, who piloted the resolution, agreed with a proposal from Dr. Phillips to separate the resolution extending the State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North Police Division and the one for St. James.
The parliamentarians agreed to return to the St. James resolution during a sitting of the House in July. The State of Emergency for St. James expires in August.
During the State of Public Emergency, the security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant. It also gives them the power to stop and question persons and the power to seize property.
On March 18, the Governor-General, by proclamation, declared that a State of Public Emergency exists in the St. Catherine North Police Division and further declared that the said proclamation shall, unless previously revoked, remain in force for 14 days or for such longer period, not exceeding three months, as both Houses of Parliament may determine by a Resolution supported by a two-thirds majority of all members of each House.
It was previously extended from May 3, 2018 to July 3.
The Constitution provides that a period of Public Emergency can be declared by proclamation if the Governor-General is satisfied that action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as likely to endanger public safety.