Statement to Parliament on the State of Public Emergency in St James – PM Holness

Photo: JIS Photographer Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness.

Story Highlights

  • Mr. Speaker, the increasing violence in the Parish of St. James saw the murder rate at 335 in 2017.
  • An extension of the period must be approved by both Houses of Parliament by resolution supported by a two thirds (2/3) majority of all the members of each House.
  • Mr. Speaker, it is in this context that I am bringing the Emergency Powers (Continuation) Resolution to this Honourable House to have the State of Public Emergency and the Emergency Powers Regulations remain in force until May 2, 2018.

Mr. Speaker, the increasing violence in the Parish of St. James saw the murder rate at 335 in 2017.

Seeing the consequences of this on the citizens of the Parish and the fear in which some persons live, His Excellency the Governor General was requested to proclaim a State of Public Emergency, effective 18 January 2018.

Mr. Speaker, the provision in law is that the Governor General may declare a State of Public Emergency for a period not exceeding 14 days.

An extension of the period must be approved by both Houses of Parliament by resolution supported by a two thirds (2/3) majority of all the members of each House.

The extension can allow for the continuation of the State of Public Emergency for a period not exceeding three (3) months.

rampant criminality, in particular violent crimes; as well as the lotto scamming, trafficking and other illicit businesses are
evidence of an ecosystem of crime which is well resourced and interconnected, with broad reach in the St. James society, through a network of facilitators both public officials and private persons who are benefiting from the status quo.

Mr. Speaker, the State of Emergency gives the Security Forces:
• powers to detain,
• powers to search premises, vehicles and persons without a warrant,
• powers to stop and question persons and,
• powers to seize property.
• It allows them to control public gatherings and control movement.

These additional powers allow the Security Forces through a suite of operations, to bring the high levels of violence under control and also to prevent the movement of weapons.

The overall Government response to the criminal ecosystems has to be more sophisticated than solely direct action on criminal gangs. It must extend beyond the JCF and JDF to our other enforcement arms in Government, whose efforts address unexplained wealth, public order in the towns, illegal construction, illicit businesses and any other matter that affects the rule of law.

The Security Forces have shown through the conduct of the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) and through the operations under the State of Emergency thus far, that they understand the context and extent of the additional powers. They have executed their duties in a commendable way and are being meticulous and accountable in how they operate.

Confidence is being built between the public and security forces. We need to support the security forces within the context that they will enforce the law, within the provisions of the law as we ensure a better future for our citizens.

While we acknowledge that there will be some disruption and fallout; we must take back control of our country. We must dismantle the networks of organized crime.

Extension of State of Public Emergency in the Parish of St. James 

Mr. Speaker, it was not anticipated that all that is required would be accomplished in fourteen (14) days. It is reasonable to expect that even with extraordinary powers, it will take some time to affect the situation in St. James, as the intelligence picture is built and not only perpetrators but also facilitators targeted.

Mr. Speaker, it is in this context that I am bringing the Emergency Powers (Continuation) Resolution to this Honourable House to have the State of Public Emergency and the Emergency Powers Regulations remain in force until May 2, 2018.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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