More Resources for Security Forces, Social Intervention

Photo: Rudranath Fraser Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, emphasises a point as he contributes to the debate on the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Bill in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (June 28). The Bill was passed with 18 amendments.

Story Highlights

  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says that additional resources will be provided to the security forces for implementation of social intervention programmes as part of efforts to address crime.
  • The Prime Minister was speaking in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (June 28) during the debate on the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Bill, which was passed with 18 amendments.
  • The Bill gives members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) certain powers that are required to address serious crimes, while at the same time upholding the rule of law and protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says that additional resources will be provided to the security forces for implementation of social intervention programmes as part of efforts to address crime.

“The Government will have to provide resources to the police, to the army and to the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA),” he said.

“More so, we will have to make some special allocation for social intervention. We are also going to insist that the force uses the resources that they get far more efficiently than they presently so,” he added.

The Prime Minister was speaking in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (June 28) during the debate on the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Bill, which was passed with 18 amendments.

The Bill gives members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) certain powers that are required to address serious crimes, while at the same time upholding the rule of law and protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.

It provides for the Prime Minister to declare any geographically defined area as a Zone of Special Operations, and empowers members of the joint security forces to search a person, vehicle, or place without a warrant, within a Zone, if they reasonably suspect that an offence has been, is being or is about to be committed.

It also provides that a joint command may establish a cordon and declare a curfew in a Zone; promote social and economic development in a Zone through the efforts of the various Government agencies and civil society; and provide for the establishment of a Social Intervention Committee to, among other things, develop a sustainable plan for the Zone.

The debate on the Bill followed the tabling of two separate reports from the Joint Select Committee, which was established to examine the legislation.

In opening the debate, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said the country is seeing not only an escalation of crime, but that there is no regard to gender, age or circumstances.

“We are in a situation where gunmen are rampaging through communities and the frightening thing is this culture of silence. Communities are under siege and the people across Jamaica are afraid,” Mr. Chuck said.

“These communities are crying out for the leadership of this country to do something. There is no doubt that our security forces must go into the belly of these communities, if necessary, and set up base for extended periods if necessary,” he added.

“We cannot allow these gunmen to be ruling and taking over Jamaica. We must put these gunmen and gangsters on the run,” he noted further.

Prime Minister Holness noted that the Bill provides a strategic intervention to address crime. He said it is not “meant to be the total solution (but) a tool in fighting crime.”

He stressed that the Government has to move with urgency to tackle the increased crime rate “and we have to do it now.”

He said the debate on the Bill will send a signal that the leaders of the country do not consider the crime situation as normal.

“The murder situation that we face is not normal, but we are becoming insensitive to it. So what is happening is we are accepting it as the norm and we are normalising a situation that should never be normal,” he lamented.

Mr. Holness assured that the legislation is not seeking to replicate a state of emergency. “I believe that the state of emergency powers must remain just that, your last resort,” he said.

He also addressed the Opposition’s concerns that the Prime Minister would be solely responsible to declare Zones of Special Operations.

Opposition Leader, Dr. Peter Phillips, in his contribution, reiterated the Opposition’s position in the minority report on the Bill that the Prime Minister should have no role in the decision as to whether and where to create these Zones.

Mr. Holness explained, however, that “it is not left up to the Prime Minister’s whims and fancies. In the law there are parameters, but more than that, it is the Prime Minister acting (under) the counsel of the National Security Council. So it is not just of the members of the Cabinet, but it is also of the advice of the security forces.”

During the committee stage, the legislation was amended to state that the Prime Minister could only declare Zones of Special Operations if such a request was made in writing by the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Defence Staff.

The Bill will be sent to the Senate for its approval.

JIS Social