Senate Passes Special Zones Bill at Marathon Sitting

Photo: Rudranath Fraser

Story Highlights

  • At a marathon sitting lasting 12 hours, the Senate on Friday (July 7), passed the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Bill, 2017, giving the Government a critical arsenal in the fight against crime.
  • The Bill was approved with 13 amendments following vigorous debate and rigorous deliberations by the members of the Upper House, which concluded just after 10’o clock.
  • The legislation, which was passed with 18 amendments in the House of Representatives on June 28, will give members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) certain essential powers required to address serious crimes while upholding the rule of law and protecting citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

At a  marathon sitting lasting 12 hours, the Senate on Friday (July 7) passed the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Bill, 2017,  giving the Government  a critical arsenal in the fight against crime.

The Bill was approved with 13 amendments, following vigorous debate and rigorous deliberations by the members of the Upper House, which concluded just after 10 o’clock.

The legislation, which was passed with 18 amendments in the House of Representatives on June 28, will give members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) certain essential powers required to address serious crimes, while upholding the rule of law and protecting citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

Senior members of the JCF and JDF were at Gordon House for the debate on the Bill, which was piloted by State Minister for National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr.

The State Minister noted that the legislation is part of Government’s undertaking to safeguard Jamaica by, among other things, equipping the security forces to combat rampant and gruesome crime and violence, particularly murders, which he argued “have become the norm in far too many communities.”

He said it also reflects the Administration’s commitment to undertaking medium and long-term social interventions, particularly in areas plagued by crime, that would positively impact the society.

He emphasised that the Bill is not an isolated or knee-jerk response to crime and violence, but resulted from extensive discussions and deliberations.

This, he pointed out, incorporated the report of Parliament’s Joint Select Committee,  as well as proposals contained in the  Parliamentary Opposition’s Minority Report.

Additionally, Senator Charles said there were recommendations from the Office of the National Security Advisor, scholars, legal counsels, advocacy groups, citizens and other local and international stakeholders.

This, he contended, reflected the Government’s consultative approach to addressing Jamaica’s challenges with crime and violence “and its willingness to listen to the public’s concerns.”

Senator Charles, who emphasised the need for stakeholder collaboration to achieve the desired outcomes, said that the Government and Opposition must stand united in order to “send a message to Jamaica that we are serious (about curbing crime), and that we need Jamaica and all community members to be on board.”

“Our nation is at a critical juncture (and) …through this Bill, we seek to target criminals and build up communities,” he added.

Leader of Opposition Business, Senator Mark Golding, who described the Bill as “an extraordinary (piece of) legislation”, assured that the Opposition is committed to doing everything possible to assist the security forces maintain the rule of law.

This, he said, included supporting the legislation as was done by Opposition Members in the House of Representatives.

“The situation on the ground has gotten out of control. The volume of murders on a daily basis is totally untenable (and) the country wants to see action taken. We want to see Jamaica move forward to a better place in the same way that all well-thinking Jamaicans feel,” Senator Golding said.

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