Speech

Mr. Speaker:

By virtue of the votes taken on December 11, 2018, where the Opposition voted against extension of the States of Public Emergency, these enhanced security measures will lapse:

·St. Catherine North – January 2, 2019
·Specified areas of Kingston – January 7, 2019
·St. James – January 31, 2019

Mr. Speaker in terms of statistics for the record, for 2018:

·Murder: 1,287 persons (21.9 percent less than that recorded in 2017 and 4.9% less than that recorded in 2016)
·Shootings: 1,154 persons (22.3 percent less recorded than 2017 and 5.9% less than that recorded in 2016)

In effect, Jamaica currently has a murder rate of approximately 47 per hundred thousand. This is almost 3 times higher than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean which has the highest homicide rate globally of 16 / 100,000 of the population. We are at approximately 8 times higher than the global average of 6 / 100,000. Bear in mind, that New York, a metropolis of more than 8 million people had a murder rate of 3.3 / 100,000 or 289 murders in total.

On average approximately 18,000 deaths are registered in Jamaica yearly. By 2014 data, 67% of deaths in the population 5 years and older were due to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

However, in the age group, 15 to 35 violence is the main cause of death accounting for a 1/3 of all deaths in this age group. Violence is the second leading cause of death in the age group 35 to 45.

These are the most productive years of our citizens. If this were a disease, epidemiology would classify this has a health emergency.

As of January 7, 2019; Twenty (20) murders have been recorded; compared to forty-five (45) in the previous year.

In St. Catherine North, for 2018, murders decreased by 28.5% and shootings by 40.9% respectively compared to 2017.

In St. James, for 2018, murders decreased by 70% and shootings by 58.6% respectively compared to 2017.

Though we have made significant gains in the reduction of violent crimes, we are not out of the woods. The criminal elements still retain the capacity, capability and the intent. Through the employment of the States of Public Emergency and Zones of Special Operations, we have been able to reduce the opportunities to commit crimes and reduce the capability of some criminals.

However, the threat they pose still exists and are above the capacity of regular law enforcement.

Mr. Speaker, the statistics highlight that there are some areas of a specific cause for concern. We note that both Kingston and St. Andrew accounted for eleven (11) out of the Twenty (20) murders.

Mr Speaker, with the resources at our disposal; we will continue to focus on containing the gangs; maintaining a presence as best as possible in order to reassure the public using all the powers available under the JCF Act to ensure the maximum level of security possible for our citizens.

We have been doing so by using curfews and other methods at our disposal.

The Government continues to allocate an increasing amount of resources to enhance the capacity of the criminal justice system and law enforcement to be able to respond effectively to the growing and multiple threats to our national security and our community peace and safety.

Mr. Speaker, the Government is well advanced in executing Plan Secure Jamaica, which will see the reduction of murders to below the regional average of 16 / 100,000 (under 500) within the next decade. This will take time and the development of the unity of purpose within the Parliament, the whole of the Government and the entire country around crime management strategies and methods.

To this end, I have continued outreach and dialogue to the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition and myself had a one on one meeting on January 2, 2019. Last night (January 7, 2019), we had follow-up discussions with a team of persons from both sides; a joint Communique has been prepared as follows:

JOINT STATEMENT

GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION TEAMS AGREE ON COOPERATION
Kingston, Jamaica. January 8, 2019:

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips and their respective teams met late into last night to discuss issues of national security and crime management; and the desire to have a national consensus on these issues.

Although each side had differing views on the constitutionality of extending the States of Public Emergency, both teams engaged in a full, frank and wide-ranging discussion and explored issues, including human rights, possible legislative amendments that could enhance crime management capabilities of the security forces and additional resources: financial, technical and human to improve the capacity of the security forces.

It was agreed that the respective legal teams would meet to discuss and agree, where possible, on the crime control powers to be utilized in the existing legislative framework or new legislation.

Both the Government and Opposition agreed to continue discussions on points of agreement while they seek wider consensus in the interest of Jamaica’s national security.

It was agreed that there will be further meetings beginning with a meeting with other stakeholders, including the private sector, the churches, human rights and civil society groups will be convened on Wednesday January 16, 2019 to advance national consensus.