Montego Bay Chamber Supports Zones of Special Operations

Photo: JIS Photographer Prime Minister, Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness (right), greets a young resident of Mount Salem, St. James during a tour of the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in that community on Sunday, September 3. Prime Minister Holness visited Mount Salem to get an update on activities in the ZOSO, which was declared on Friday, September 1. Looking on are Attorney-General and Member of Parliament for West Central St. James, Hon. Marlene Malahoo-Forte (centre); and National Security Minister, Hon. Robert Montague (right, partly hidden). (File)

Story Highlights

  • President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, T’Shura Gibbs, says the business community supports the establishment of the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in Mount Salem and would welcome its rollout to other communities once the objectives are clearly defined.
  • Ms. Gibbs, who was speaking in an interview with JIS News on September 15, noted that while there were initial concerns about how the operations, which started in Mount Salem over two weeks ago, would impact on business “we are now seeing a buy-in where persons have started to look at the bigger picture”.
  • Ms. Gibbs said it is important that the social-intervention programmes start to take effect, where young people can see that there are more meaningful and productive things to do than to turn to a life of crime.

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, T’Shura Gibbs, says the business community supports the establishment of the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in Mount Salem and would welcome its rollout to other communities once the objectives are clearly defined.

She noted that the Chamber and other entities have been asking the Government to take action to address the crime situation in the parish, and “the Prime Minister has responded”.

“I think we all can agree that something had to be done. We asked the Prime Minister for action, and not only did he act but he owned it. He is the authority on it,” she said.

“I would like to see it roll out to other communities not just in Montego Bay but across Jamaica in general, because the reality is that we have to stem crime,” she added.

Ms. Gibbs, who was speaking in an interview with JIS News on September 15, noted that while there were initial concerns about how the operations, which started in Mount Salem over two weeks ago, would impact on business “we are now seeing a buy-in where persons have started to look at the bigger picture”.

“On day one, there was obviously a disruption to business in Mount Salem, because of all the uncertainties. What we saw also was operators sending their staff home early from work and persons being somewhat apprehensive over the whole thing. By day two there was more clarity… better understanding, and where we had a fair idea of what was going on,” she pointed out.

Ms. Gibbs said the Chamber is pleased to see that persons in the community are embracing what is going on, noting that “apprehension was replaced by optimism”.

She said she is convinced that once the zones are properly managed and controlled as is the case in Mount Salem, the operations will not have any negative impacts on tourism or any other sector in the parish.

“I believe that it is a short-term sacrifice for long-term gains,” she noted.

Ms. Gibbs said it is important that the social-intervention programmes start to take effect, where young people can see that there are more meaningful and productive things to do than to turn to a life of crime.

“The social-intervention programmes are critical,” she stressed. “It is important that we engage the people in dialogue… find out exactly what it is that they want to do. Some of them have had dreams that died because there was nobody there to listen… nobody that believed in them,” she argued.

Meanwhile, Ms. Gibbs said the Chamber has been in dialogue with the Office of the Prime Minister as it relates to the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme, noting that the initiative can make some meaningful impact.

HOPE aims to provide educational and job opportunities for young people, aged 18 to 24, who are not employed or enrolled in a school or programme of training.

“We are cognisant that the private sector has a role to play in the success of this programme,” Ms. Gibbs said.

“If you look at Montego Bay, a lot of private-sector businesses are here, and when we get down with the training, then the hope is we can find gainful employment for these young people,” she told JIS News.

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