JIS News

The Government will not seek an extension of the State of Public Emergency (SOE) in St. Catherine, which comes to an end on Friday (July 1).

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, made the announcement in the House of Representatives on June 28.

The enhanced security measure was announced by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness on June 17, to address the high level of crime in St. Catherine, particularly murders.

Dr. Chang told the House that the crime situation in St. Catherine, which necessitated the SOE, has improved significantly, but assured that the security forces will continue to maintain a presence in the parish.

“They will naturally make changes in the strategy and the deployment, and we expect to maintain the status quo, which is the stability gained over the last 14 days,” he noted.

Dr. Chang said the declaration of the SOE in St. Catherine has allowed the security forces to bring the area under some level of control but noted that if there is any change in the situation “we will advise the nation as to what further steps can be taken and if, in fact, it [the parish] needs to be returned to a SOE”.

“But at this point, we will not ask for an extension. We will allow the current 14 days to expire, and the security forces have pledged to use whatever current tools they have and to make strategic deployment to maintain the status quo,” he said.

Dr. Chang said the Government has taken note of the ruling of the Court in Roshaine Clarke v the Attorney General of Jamaica, and welcomed the finding that the aim of the SOE and by extension, the Regulations, were to prevent and curtail the increased crime rate in the parish in question.

“There was and still is no greater concern of the Jamaican public than that of the escalating crime rate. It’s the conclusion of the court that the aim was, in fact, a legitimate aim, and the Government welcomes that. At the same time, the court also found that some of the regulations were cast too widely and therefore not found to be reasonably justified for the aim, and consequently declared them not to be constitutional,” he said.

Dr. Chang informed that the Government has consulted with the Opposition and thanked the Leader of Opposition for his written comments to the Attorney General.

“We have so far responded informally, both orally and in writing. The Government is of the considered view that although both sides of the aisle have practically agreed on changes to be made, more time is required to do a thorough review of the Emergency Powers Regulations to ensure that they are, in fact, in keeping with the Constitution,” he said.

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