Opposition votes against extending States of Emergency

The States of  Emergency which were declared in St. James, the St. Catherine North Police Division as well as sections of  the Corporate Area will not be extended when they expire next month.

The Parliamentary Opposition last night voted against resolutions for the security measures to continue.

However, the House of  Representatives voted to extend the zones of  special operations in Mount Salem, St. James and Denham Town in Kingston.

During a marathon sitting of  the House of  Representatives, which ended after 11pm, resolutions were voted on to extend the States of  Emergency for a further 90 days.

While the 33 Government members voted in favour, the resolutions did not get the required two thirds majority.

RJR News spoke with National Security Minister, Dr. Horace Chang following the sitting and he disclosed that Government will now have to look at other anti-crime measures to protect residents of  crime plagued communities which were placed under the States of  Emergency.

He described the decision to vote against the resolutions as unfortunate.

“The States of Emergency is a special kind of operation. We have to examine, how we can access and maintain public safety in these areas. It will be challenging, but we have a committment as a government and a responsibility which we intend to fulfill,” the National Security Minister said.  

PNP concerned about detentions 

The Parliamentary Opposition stated that it was against the States of  Emergency continuing due to among things the detention of  individuals.

“Just being detained, they are presumed to be guilty and treated as a guilty criminal. Over 3,500 young Jamaicans have been subjected to that experience - that is what we have created ! And I want to emphasize the point Mr. Speaker ….. the Prime Minister spoke about the many lives being lost , we all were calling for action to be taken. We took no comfort. We wanted action. There is a wrong and a right way to do the right thing,”said the opposition’s spokesman on National Security, Fitz Jackson.

Meanwhile, former National Security Minister Peter Bunting argued that there was no need to extend the States of  Emergency in St. James and St. Catherine North.

“In the months since the declaration of the SOEs in St. James and St. Catherine in particular, there has been a significant reduction in crime in both these geographic areas. So it is hard to see how the government could show that further extensions are demonstrably justified,” Bunting noted. 

SOE’s - not recurring anti-crime measures 

However, during his contribution to last night's debate on the resolutions Prime Minister Andrew Holness insisted that the States of  Emergency were never meant to be recurring anti-crime measures.

He said there was a plan to eventually end them but the Government had decided not to make the timetable public.

“The point that was made regarding when it would end, is a valid point. If it were an issue that the government was saying "we are not going to end, we are going to go on forever” I could understand the posture. We do have a plan not to continue the use of States of Public Emergency, but I have gone to great extents to say that I cannot give away the strategic intent of the government to say when. The moment you do that - you make the tool ineffective,” the Prime Minister said. 


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