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Story Highlights

  • The Emergency Powers (No. 2) Regulations (Continuance) Resolution, 2018, which will govern the operations of the State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North police division, was approved in the House of Representatives on April 3.
  • In his remarks, Mr. Holness addressed a recommendation from the Opposition that the competent authority, as provided in the regulations, should act as a composite body, as well as concerns regarding the power of the Security Minister to have someone placed under house arrest.
  • “To deal with the matter of the detention orders, the Act requires that the Minister must satisfy himself, which means that the Minister would have to consult with a competent authority, in this case the Commissioner of Police or Chief of Defence Staff. So it is not a power that the Minister could exercise in an arbitrary of indiscriminate way,” he pointed out.

The Emergency Powers (No. 2) Regulations (Continuance) Resolution, 2018, which will govern the operations of the State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North police division, was approved in the House of Representatives on April 3.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, declared the State of Public Emergency on March 18.

In his remarks, Mr. Holness addressed a recommendation from the Opposition that the competent authority, as provided in the regulations, should act as a composite body, as well as concerns regarding the power of the Security Minister to have someone placed under house arrest.

“To deal with the matter of the detention orders, the Act requires that the Minister must satisfy himself, which means that the Minister would have to consult with a competent authority, in this case the Commissioner of Police or Chief of Defence Staff. So it is not a power that the Minister could exercise in an arbitrary of indiscriminate way,” he pointed out.

Regarding the issue of a competent authority acting as a composite body, Mr Holness said that this would not be practical.

Under the regulations, the competent authority includes the Governor-General (GG), Minister of National Security, Chief of Defence Staff, Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police or the senior police officer in each parish, and the members are appointed by the GG.

“From a practical standpoint, if action is needed to be taken and the law were to treat the idea of competent authority as a composite, it could significantly restrict the authority vested in the individuals by law. In fact, you could run up into a conflict,” Prime Minister Holness argued.

“You could have a situation where the Commissioner of Police, who sees a clear and present danger, who is empowered by law to do something, for example, have a curfew declared or do some operational things to move the forces around, would be obliged by virtue of having this composite competent authority to, instead of acting immediately, would have to now wait on and consult.

That would not be practical given how a state of emergency operates,” he noted further.

Prime Minister Holness further added that “whilst we understand what it is that the Leader of the Opposition wants to achieve, which is to have greater consultation before action is taken, that consultation could in fact limit or at the worst case, result in a conflict of responsibilities”.

The Constitution provides that a period of Public Emergency can be declared by Proclamation if the GG is satisfied that action has been taken by any person or persons that has threatened or is deemed as a threat to citizen security and public safety.

The Emergency Powers Act refers to the existence of a State of Public Emergency and empowers the GG to make regulations during a period of Public Emergency.

The State of Public Emergency in St. Catherine North is the second such following a similar declaration in St. James in January.