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JAMAICA | PNP Oppose States of Emergency as Crime Plan for the next seven years

Featured JAMAICA | PNP Oppose States of Emergency as Crime Plan for the next seven years
KINGSTON, Jamaica July 16, 2019 - Despite continued demands from the parliamentary opposition for a workable crime plan to tackle the mounting number of murders that continue to plague the island, prime minister Andrew Holness is maintaining that a state of emergency was the best tool at this time for achieving meaningful reductions in murders.

In light of this, Holness is intimating that Jamaicans could continue to see the use of states of emergency to curtail crime for up to seven years as the government targets reducing murders to approximately 500 per annum.

Prime minister Andrew Holness told the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon that the intervention has to be sustained and used in a selective way to reduce the murder rate by 16 per hundred thousand before the country can "be in a position to now use conventional measures to maintain that and reduce crime fully."

Speaking in the debate to extend the state of emergency in the St. Andrew South Police Division until October 5, Holness said it was important to break the psychological barrier of one thousand murders per year.

He urged the House to extend the state of emergency, arguing that without sustained police-military intervention, crime will spiral out of control.

"And the theory behind it is quite easy to understand, Mr. Speaker. One murder, just one murder will have a reprisal effect, and depending on the context, the reprisal effect can be more than one murder," he asserted.

However, Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips, continued to express reservation about the use of states of emergency as a normal policing tool, even as he supported extension of the measure in St. Andrew South.

He said he supported the extension because "the communities want some relief from the immediate terror that they are experiencing". However, he noted that the Opposition still did not "consider a state of emergency to be an ideal solution to this problem or even the best solution in the circumstances."

Phillips said that beyond that there were lessons to be learnt, including the need for intelligence-driven operations, which could lead to the take-down of the “kingpins” on the basis of collective intelligence, and the need to identify the targets and deal with them effectively.

He also recommended for the increased use of social intervention and the inclusion of institutions like the Peace Management Initiative in the efforts.
Dr Phillips also urged the Government to resume bipartisan discussions which have not been held carried out since the parties met in January.

He questioned whether the government was making the best use of the resources within the security forces by pursuing the current strategy.

"Deploying your resources to a few critical areas and where much of those resources...have to be taken from other areas, you're having the kind of balloon effect. You squeeze one part of the balloon and another part of it expands," he reasoned.

On the other hand, his parliamentary colleague Peter Bunting is insisting that the States of Emergency were unconstitutional, and should not be used as the principal tool of policing. He said the figures produced by the prime minister were evidence that they were not a “very effective tool”.

Holness posited that, nationally, between January 1 and July 15 this year, there were 726 murders and a similar number of shootings, across 19 police divisions. The figure for all of 2018 was 1,287.

Holness said the figures showed that, while the Administration was seeing results going in the right direction, it was obvious that in some other areas they were going in the wrong direction, and in light of that “it is instructive that we continue the national effort to reduce crime, and in particular continue to use the tool of the states of public emergency to do so,” he noted.

Bunting, himself a former national security minister, countered that the Government had marketed the states of emergency to the public as the solution to the crime. However he pointed out that they were not, although they fulfilled the citizens' need to feel safe, especially with the increased number of boots on the ground.

 Bunting disclosed that in two and a half months after an SOE was imposed in St James, Hanover and Westmoreland on April 30, a total of 288 murders were recorded nationally, compared to 237 for the similar period last year.

Further, the Central Manchester member of parliament said police statistics show that up to April 27, murders were down eight per cent over the first four months of this year, falling from 475 last year to 434.

“How can you say that is, without question, a very effective tool when murders for the comparative period last year compared with this year are up 21.5 per cent?” he questioned.

“In effect, our crime strategy should focus on hot spots and hot people [violence producers] wherever there are leaks,” Bunting insisted.

At the end of the debate on the motion, the House voted to extend the state of emergency in St. Andrew South until October 5. In the final count, 44 MPs voted in favour of extending the two-week old exercise by an additional three months. Peter Bunting and Mark Golding voted against, with 17 members absent.

The state of emergency was imposed in St. Andrew South on July 7.

Last modified onWednesday, 17 July 2019 08:10
  • Countries: Jamaica

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