According to Prime Minister Holness, “Crime and violence in particular murders have been escalating in the parish of St. James. I have been advised by the security forces in writing that the level of criminal activity experience continued and threatened, is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety.”
The proclamation which was signed into force by the Governor General last night, and gazarred, follows the record murder of some 335 citizens of the parish over last year, 66 more than the number of reported morders in 2016.
Since early this morning soldiers of the Jamaica Defence Force supported by the Jamaica Copnstabulary Force have been deployed in certain crime 'hot spots' throughout St James carrying out cordon and searches.
In making the declaration this afternoon, Prime Minister Holness outlined that under the state of emergency the security forces will have extraordinary powers and some rights will be suspended. He noted, however, “This does not mean that use of these extraordinary powers can be arbitrary or are beyond review. The security forces are expected and have been directed to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all”.
The security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, access to places and to detain persons without a warrant.
In addition, all persons using all roads leading in and out of St James will be subject to vehicle and personal search. In various areas of city and township, there will be joint static and mobile patrol. Persons may also be stopped at various checkpoints.
The constitution provides that a period of public emergency can be declared by a proclamation if the Governor-General is satisfied that action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of person in such a nature and on so extensive a scale as likely to endanger public safety.
Speaking in Mandeville Manchester at the 50th Anniversary of Fontana Pharmacy last evening Prime Minister Andrew Holness indicated that the crime fighting measures will be firm and resolute.
“We have reached the point where we are prepared to take these firm and resolute measures to ensure that the crime monster does not destabilise the promising future that is in store for Jamaica,” said Holness.
He said the fight against crime is not just the police or the government and observed that it will take everyone to reach the point of understanding that the government must act and act in a resolute fashion with respect for the rights and dignity of the people.
The Prime Minister went on to say that the government must now put in place the laws and the measures to deal with those who are destabilizing the country.
“The truth is that the people who are committing the crime is a minute percentage. 99% of Jamaican’s are decent law abiding upstanding people who want to see this country grow and prosper,” Holness declared.
Meanwhile, Security Minister, Robert Montaque made an appeal to the citizens of St. James for their full cooperation during the period. He acknowledged usual activities may be curtailed. However, he assured that the operations to be carried out by the security forces will be targeted at the criminal elements and their facilitators.
“Any information you have, we need it. We need your full cooperation in moving forward in restoring peace and order so that the good people can continue to contribute to the well-being of Jamaica”, said Minister Montaque.
If persons have any information to assist in the crime fighting effort, they may call crime stop, 311.
A special hotline has also been set up to be manned by the Jamaica Defence Force for persons to give information. The number is 830-8888.
- Countries: Jamaica