Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says interventions undertaken in Mount Salem, St. James, since the community was declared a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in 2017, have significantly transformed the area.
“We have removed zinc fences…we have repaired roadways, we have cleared drains, we have regular waste collection in the area, we have given the citizenry access to critical services and amenities,” he noted.
“The mindset in Mount Salem is changing… they see that the Government is investing in transforming not just their community but transforming their lives. The citizen of Mount Salem today is not the same person five years ago, and that is the ultimate level of transformation,” he added.
He noted that at some point in time, the Government will have to formally bring the security arrangement in the area to an end “and citizens will become the wardens of peace in the community; that is the objective [of the ZOSO]”.
The Prime Minister was addressing the recent ground-breaking ceremony for the new Mount Salem police station.
As it relates to the future of the ZOSOs, Mr. Holness indicated that “there will be some changes coming to the legislation, hopefully very soon, so that it is more functional and easily deployed”.
He said that the Government will be conducting a technical and academic study on the security strategy to have it become a template to be used not just in Jamaica but in other countries that face similar social issues.
“We are looking to have a professor from the University of the West Indies (UWI) take a very serious study of how it (ZOSO) has worked over the past three years, and with the support of the European Union (EU), plus the budgetary support of the Government of Jamaica, we will look to expand the number of communities that are under the ZOSO,” Mr. Holness said.
“I do not [want] to say where these communities would be, but I think areas in Westmoreland, areas in St. Ann, areas in St. Catherine, would recommend themselves highly for ZOSOs,” he indicated.
For his part, Managing Director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), Omar Sweeney, who also serves as deputy chairman of the ZOSO social intervention committee, noted that JSIF, as the lead agency for the coordination and implementation of the intervention programme, has completed several initiatives in Mount Salem over the last three years.
Some of the programmes, he said, included improvement in basic utilities, such as regularisation of water supply for more than 500 residents, in partnership with the National Water Commission (NWC); construction of over 4,000 metres of roadway; and the installation of more than 1,300 metres of fencing, eliminating over 90 per cent of zinc fencing in the community.
In addition, more than 200 youth benefited from skills training and livelihood programmes, while solid waste management, vector control and community sanitisation activities are ongoing.
Mr. Sweeney further noted that community enterprises benefited from grant support to carry out training and procure equipment; the Community Development Committee (CDC) received training in community safety and governance; and parenting support was provided with a Parent Place established in the community.
More than 200 care packages were delivered to residents, in partnership with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the St James Police Station and the CDC.
Mr. Sweeney noted that other initiatives are currently under way in the community.
These include the rehabilitation of the Mount Salem Primary and Infant School, which will be done under the JSIF-Basic Needs Trust Fund, a sub-project funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB); and the rehabilitation of the community centre through EU support.
The new Mount Salem police station is being constructed by JSIF through $45 million in funding by the EU.
The facility will benefit some 9,050 residents in Mount Salem as well as persons in surrounding communities.