PM Says Mechanisms will be in Place to Protect Rights of Citizens

Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, fields questions from journalists during a post-Budget press conference held at the Office of the Prime Minister on Wednesday (March 22).

Story Highlights

  • As the Government prepares to implement new security measures, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that citizens’ rights are not violated during operations.
  • This is specifically in relation to plans for the designation of zones of special operations for security and community development in areas with high levels of crime.
  • Mr. Holness further informed that as soon as the joint command is established, a development committee will be set up that will look at all the areas of need within the targeted community.

As the Government prepares to implement new security measures, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that citizens’ rights are not violated during operations.

This is specifically in relation to plans for the designation of zones of special operations for security and community development in areas with high levels of crime.

Responding to questions posed by journalists during his post-Budget Debate presentation press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister on March 22, the Prime Minister noted that under the new measures, specific members from the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force will be selected to form a joint command to carry out operations in these communities.

They will be trained in human rights practices, use of force and community-building.

“So, the officers who will be in charge won’t be just randomly plucked from the various arms of the security forces. They will have to have training or be trained. This is not something that we intend to just apply in a knee-jerk way. We will actually have a cadre of officers who are specifically trained and understand what their command in such a situation means,” he said.

Mr. Holness added that security officers from the army and the police already have such training, “and they will have to be brought to the fore”.

The Prime Minister said it has to be ensured that the security forces understand that the powers they are being given “are not powers to go and arbitrarily deprive people of their human rights and dignity”.

“The powers that we are giving to them are to preserve life and secure their human rights and the security of the people,” he emphasised.

Mr. Holness further assured that the special powers that will be given to security personnel are not meant to be used without justifiable cause.

“When we designed this (security measure), we have actually written into the law an accountability framework and we have made it an offence for the officers not to follow the accountability framework,” he said.

Guidelines for how operations will be undertaken under this new security arrangement are set out in the Zones of Special Operations, Special Security and Community Development Measures Act, 2017, which the Prime Minister tabled during his Budget presentation in the House on March 21.

The Bill seeks to establish the legal framework in which the Prime Minister, acting on the advice of the National Security Council, may declare any high-crime area of Jamaica a zone for special security operations and community development measures.

The Prime Minister said this mechanism will only be put into use if he is advised by the Council that “a particular area is a grave threat to the security of the nation, the rule of law and public order, the safety and well-being of the public, the productivity and prosperity of the economy, and that people’s lives, liberty and independence are being threatened”.

He further noted that the declaration of zones will also be a data-driven process, supported by evidence.

“That work is being done and will be intensified. We know by geo-mapping where the crimes are being committed and where the areas of concentration are. We know the hotspots, but we also need more information; we need historical information,” the Prime Minister said.

He pointed out that the activities of the joint command in the area will be monitored at the highest level, and that the Council will undertake “almost a daily review” of the operations “so that if for any reason things were to go opposite to what we expect, we would immediately be able to rein in, call it off, shut it down, take corrective actions. So, this is not going to just be left up to a joint command”.

Mr. Holness further informed that as soon as the joint command is established, a development committee will be set up that will look at all the areas of need within the targeted community.

“Just using security measures to clear the area does not restore the rule of law; it does not restore public order. Some may make citizens safe, but will the citizens observe the law after you leave? We are taking a very comprehensive approach,” he said.

The Prime Minister stressed that the Government is not relying on security measures wholly and solely to normalise communities with elevated crime levels.

“The history of such interventions shows that they may bring short-term relief, but the communities, ultimately, go back to elevated crime levels, if we do not restore community leadership and organisations, provide basic needs, improve infrastructure and provide education and training and attachment for young people,” he said.

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