House Approves Extension of State of Public Emergency in St. Catherine North Police Division

Photo: Adrian Walker Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, speaks today (March 27), in the House of Representatives. During the sitting, the Emergency Powers (No. 2) (Continuance) Resolution, 2018, which will extend the State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North Police Division until July 3, 2018, was approved.

Story Highlights

  • The House of Representatives, today (March 27), approved the Emergency Powers (No. 2) (Continuance) Resolution, 2018, which will extend the State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North Police Division until July 3, 2018.
  • Addressing the House prior to the passage of the Resolution, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, explained that the extension is necessary, as the security forces must be given the latitude to maintain and continue further operations in the area.
  • “They must disrupt and degrade the capacity of these criminal gangs and provide a safe environment for the residents, business owners and persons going about their legitimate business. There will be some inconvenience within the designated area, and we are asking for continued understanding and cooperation of all Jamaicans, particularly those most affected,” he said.

The House of Representatives, today (March 27), approved the Emergency Powers (No. 2) (Continuance) Resolution, 2018, which will extend the State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North Police Division until July 3, 2018.

All 49 Members of the House who were present voted in favour of the Motion. Fourteen members were absent.

Addressing the House prior to the passage of the Resolution, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, explained that the extension is necessary, as the security forces must be given the latitude to maintain and continue further operations in the area.

“They must disrupt and degrade the capacity of these criminal gangs and provide a safe environment for the residents, business owners and persons going about their legitimate business. There will be some inconvenience within the designated area, and we are asking for continued understanding and cooperation of all Jamaicans, particularly those most affected,” he said.

Mr. Holness reported that the enhanced security measures in the St. Catherine North Police Division have, so far, yielded unquestionable results, adding that the impact cannot be overstated.

“There has been no report of murders in that space; there has been no report of serious crimes, and there has been no report of abuse by the security forces,” he noted.

The Prime Minister said the State of Public Emergency gives the security forces extraordinary powers to protect the citizens through a suite of operations to bring the high levels of violence under control.

He added that the security forces that have been given extraordinary powers have been carrying out their duties in an appropriate way.

Mr. Holness informed that police statistics have shown that the St. Catherine North Division has recorded the highest number of homicides this year, with 48 persons being murdered between January 1 and March 18. He said a total of 136 persons were murdered in the division last year.

“On request of the security forces, the St. Catherine North Police Division was selected for a State of Public Emergency in response to increasing criminal activities, including inter-gang conflicts and murders. This deliberate and strategic measure is therefore a necessary requirement at this time for upholding and preserving the rule of law and maintaining public order,” he said.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, said his side is supportive of the extension for the stipulated period.

“We will support the extension of the State of (Public) Emergency for the period set out in the Order,” he said.

During the State of Public Emergency, the security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant. It also gives them power to stop and question persons and power to seize property.

On March 18, the Governor-General, by proclamation, declared that a State of Public Emergency exists in the St. Catherine North Police Division and further declared that the said proclamation shall, unless previously revoked, remain in force for 14 days or for such longer period, not exceeding three months, as both Houses of Parliament may determine by a Resolution, supported by a two thirds majority of all members of each House.

The Constitution provides that a period of Public Emergency can be declared by proclamation if the Governor-General is satisfied that action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as likely to endanger public safety.

The Emergency Powers Act refers to the existence of a State of Public Emergency and empowers the Governor-General to make regulations during a period of public emergency. The Resolution will now be sent to the Senate for approval.

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

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