Statement to Parliament by Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding, on the Declaration of a State of Public Emergency, Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The Cabinet took the decision on Sunday to advise the Governor-General to issue a proclamation declaring a state of public emergency for the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew effective 6:00 p.m. that day. This decision was taken on the advice of the security forces that action had been taken and further action was likely to be taken to endanger public safety.
Over the few days leading up to Sunday, several roads in West Kingston had been barricaded impeding the movement of pedestrians and vehicular traffic and normal police law enforcement operations. Intelligence gathered by the security forces indicated that in anticipation of the execution of a warrant for the arrest of Christopher Coke, heavily armed men were preparing to attack members of the security forces. Intelligence further suggested that criminal elements in other communities intended to launch attacks on the security forces in order to divert attention and resources from the focused operations that the situation in West Kingston required.
On Sunday night, a police patrol car was attacked by gunmen along Mountain View Avenue. Two policemen were killed and eight others injured. In the course of the night and yesterday morning, several police stations in and outside the Corporate Area were attacked by armed men using guns and Molotov cocktails. These included those in West Kingston and as far as Rockfort and Spanish Town. The Hannah Town and Darling Street Police Stations were set on fire and extensively damaged.
The security forces have moved to bring an end to this spate of lawlessness and to restore order and calm to the affected areas.
A joint police/military operation was launched yesterday in Tivoli Gardens and surrounding areas. The security forces encountered sustained and sporadic gunfire. In the exchanges that ensued, several persons have been confirmed dead including one member of the Jamaica Defence Force and several others including twelve (12) Jamaica Defence Force soldiers have been injured. The Police report that 26 persons are confirmed dead but it is likely that the number is higher.
It is not yet possible to determine the precise circumstances in which these persons were killed. More detailed investigations including eyewitness statements will be required and the most thorough investigations will be carried out.
This morning I met with the Public Defender, Mr. Earl Witter and Political Ombudsman, Dr. Herro Blair, and requested them to visit Tivoli Gardens today to conduct an independent assessment of the operations being carried out by the Security Forces. They will also seek to verify the precise number of persons who have been killed or injured. I directed the Security Forces to make the necessary arrangements to facilitate this visit and to provide appropriate security for the Public Defender, the Political Ombudsman and those who accompany them. They are still in the area as I speak and will brief me on the completion of their visit.
I also requested the Red Cross to provide support including ambulances to transport those who have been injured or are otherwise in need of medical attention.
The government deeply regrets the loss of lives especially those of members of the security forces and innocent, law-abiding citizens caught in the crossfire. The security forces were directed to take all practical steps to avoid casualties as much as possible and to uphold the rights of citizens innocently caught in the area of conflict.
The operations in Tivoli Gardens are being maintained to allow for detailed search for illegal guns and persons who may be wanted by the Police for criminal charges. Several persons have been detained and are being processed.
During this period of public emergency, a concerted effort will be made to go after the criminal gunmen in whatever community they may be ensconced.
The violence that has been unleashed on the society by armed, criminal elements must be repelled. The operations being carried out under emergency powers are an extraordinary response to an extraordinary challenge to the safety and security of our citizens. Other measures will have to be employed. I have asked the Leader of the House to make arrangements for early debate on the anti-crime Bills. We will present to the House proposed amendments to the Bail (Amendment) Act and the Bill to amend the Constabulary Force Act to address as far as possible the concerns raised by the Opposition and civil society groups. Cabinet yesterday issued drafting instructions for anti-gang legislation which will be brought to the House as soon as the draft is completed.
The government is aware that the imposition of a State of Emergency, limited though it is to the Corporate Area, has negative implications in terms of international media coverage and its effect on tourism marketing. It is, however, a necessary measure to address our present challenge and every effort is being made to minimize those negative effects.
The Regulations to govern the application of emergency powers were approved by Cabinet today and have been promulgated. These Regulations will be tabled in the House next week Tuesday in accordance with section 3 (4) of the Emergency Powers Act and the House will be asked to approve these Regulations within the stipulated seven day period.
The Regulations require the establishment of an Emergency Powers Review Tribunal to review cases of detention or restoration. The Tribunal shall be appointed by the Chief Justice and two other members appointed by the Governor-General. It is expected that the membership of the Tribunal will be announced tomorrow.
The Leader of the Opposition, in a letter to me dated May 23rd, suggested the appointment of an oversight body to monitor the appointment of the emergency powers. I have considered the suggestion and agree that it is necessary to maintain independent oversight of these emergency operations.
It is the view of the government that the Public Defender with the statutory powers vested in him is the appropriate Authority to exercise this oversight function. The Political Ombudsman has also offered his services to assist in performing this monitoring role.
In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the State of Emergency will remain in force for a period of one month unless extended by a Resolution of this House or earlier revoked. The advice of the security forces will inform our consideration as to how long these measures will be required.

JIS Social