STATEMENT FROM PRIME MINISTER, THE MOST HON. PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER


A number of comments have been made in the media, including Page One editorials in the press today (Tuesday, August 20) with respect to the Proclamation of the State of Emergency in the wake of the passage of Hurricane Dean on Sunday. These are either incorrect or based on a misunderstanding of what the Proclamation is intended to achieve and how it actually operates.
First, it is incorrect to say that I did not consult with the Leader of the Opposition in respect of the recommendation I eventually made to the Governor-General. The fact is I spoke to the Opposition Leader on Saturday and again on Sunday, on this matter. Members of the Government and senior members of the Opposition are fully aware of these discussions.
I took note of the Opposition Leader’s comments. However, the Constitutional responsibility and authority to make a decision in this matter is vested in the Prime Minister and I have no hesitation in accepting full and personal responsibility for that recommendation.
Second, it is quite mistaken to suggest, as one newspaper has done, that the Proclamation was issued “as an after thought.” My decision was taken after the most careful and extensive consultations and discussions with the Heads of the Security Forces and other agencies. It followed reports received of looting and attempted looting in both rural and urban areas, exchanges of gunfire between criminal gangs and further reports of sizeable groupings of armed criminals sighted in sections of the Corporate Area.
In considering my recommendations, uppermost in my mind was the need to maintain public order and the safety of our citizens especially given that the country would be under the cover of darkness with the passage of Hurricane Dean.
It is also important that there be a clear understanding of what the Proclamation of a State of Emergency in the face of a natural disaster such as a hurricane is intended to achieve. The Emergency Powers Act explicitly states that under such conditions the powers granted are “for the preservation of peace, for securing and regulating the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light and other necessities, for maintaining the means of transit or locomotion, and for any purpose essential to the public safety and the life of the community.”
I wish to make clear, this State of Public Emergency is not an action intended to violate or take away the rights of anyone. Rather, it is to protect the human rights of Jamaicans including the right to life, the protection of property and the maintenance of public order in light of a national emergency occasioned by the passage of Hurricane Dean.
All Jamaicans can be assured that I have no intention of maintaining a State of Emergency any longer than is absolutely necessary and in particular, there is no intention to hold the general election during the life of any State of Emergency.

JIS Social