The parliamentary opposition headed by Dr Peter Phillips has voted against further extension of the three States Of Public Emergency (SOPE), paving the way for them to end in January 2019.
The government, in a bid to curb crime, had imposed the SOPEs in the St Catherine North Police Division, St James, and the area encompassing Kingston Western, Kingston Central and St Andrew South police divisions.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday led his administration’s effort to garner support from at least two-thirds of the 63 parliamentarians in order to facilitate the respective extensions.
Based on the current membership of the parliament, Opposition support was required in order for the resolution to succeed.
It failed because all Opposition members in attendance voted against the extension; Government members voted in support of it.
St Catherine North
In relation to the SOPE imposed in the St Catherine North Police Division, 33 Government parliamentarians voted to support an extension of it, 20 Opposition members voted against an extension, and 10 Opposition members were absent.
This means the SOPE declared in the Division on March 18 will end 2 January 2019.
Meanwhile, the SOPE declared for St James on January 18 will end on 31 January 2019, based on the parliamentary vote.
A total of 33 Government parliamentarians voted for it to be extended, 21 members of the Opposition voted against it, and nine members of the Opposition were absent at the time of voting.
Kingston and St Andrew
The state of emergency declared in sections of Kingston and St Andrew on September 23, will end on 7 January 2019. Thirty-three Government parliamentarians voted for it to be extended, 20 Opposition members voted against the extension, and 10 members of the Opposition were absent.
In arguing against continuation of the SOPEs, Leader of the Opposition, Dr Phillips, said the government can find other ways to curb crime as the SOPEs only facilitate the detention of people without charge for a protracted period of time.
He went on to lament the number of people locked up without charge under unsatisfactory conditions.
“Of all the persons detained, less than 4 percent of those detained have been charged,” Dr Phillips said. “In St James, for example, almost 3,687 persons up to October were detained [and] 139 charged.”
Dr Phillips continued: “There is a pattern which involves the indiscriminate detention without charge, without a hearing, where by virtue of the provisions of the state of emergency, there cannot even be a challenge to that detention in court…. Persons as young as 15 [years old] have been detained and as old as 70… Detention does not equal guilt; detention should not be equated with guilt.”
Dr Phillips said the Opposition’s vote against continuation of the SOPEs should not be seen as the People’s National Party (PNP) being complicit with criminals.
“We are tough on crime and criminal enterprises wherever they are located – in communities or in the state,” he declared.
Prime Minister Holness, in the meantime, downplayed the protracted detention of citizens without charge, adding that the SOPEs have been helping significantly to lower the crime rate.
Drawing on an example, he stated that, since the SOPE was imposed in St James in January, murders have declined by 72 percent and shootings by 63 percent in that parish.