JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The States of Public Emergency (SOEs) in St. Catherine North, St. James and sections of the Kingston Central, Kington Western, and St. Andrew South Police Divisions will not be extended.
  • Following a lengthy debate during the sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday (December 11), the Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) voted to end the enhanced security measures introduced by the Government since January, 2018, in response to increased criminal activities in several communities.
  • All 33 Government MPs voted in favour of extending the measures. The extension of emergency powers has to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Lower House.

The States of Public Emergency (SOEs) in St. Catherine North, St. James and sections of the Kingston Central, Kington Western, and St. Andrew South Police Divisions will not be extended.

Following a lengthy debate during the sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday (December 11), the Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) voted to end the enhanced security measures introduced by the Government since January, 2018, in response to increased criminal activities in several communities.

All 33 Government MPs voted in favour of extending the measures. The extension of emergency powers has to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Lower House.

With the Opposition voting against the extension, it means that the St. James SOE will terminate on January 31, 2019, while the emergency powers will cease to apply for St. Catherine North on January 2 and sections of the Corporate Area on January 7.

In his opening remarks on the motions, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, said the security forces have reported a reduction in serious and violent crimes islandwide between January 1 and December 9, 2018.

“Murders are down 21.7 per cent, shootings are down 21.4 per cent, rape down 12.2 per cent, aggravated assault down 11 per cent. Additionally, there have been significant reductions in the year-to-date reports of murders across several police divisions, the most notable being St. James, where there has been more than a 70 per cent reduction in murders,” he said.

The Prime Minister noted that while these gains have had a positive impact, there is a tremendous amount of work that still needs to be done.

For his part, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, argued that a State of Public Emergency was never considered to be used as a “routine crime measure”.

“We don’t need a state of emergency to continue the reductions that have been achieved,” he argued.

Mr. Holness, in response, pointed out that the Government has been very clear that using the tool of an SOE “is not a sustainable long-term measure to fight crime”.

“If it were an issue that the Government is saying ‘we are not going to end and we are going to go on forever’ I could understand the posture. We do have a plan not to continue the use of the States of Public Emergency, but I have gone to great lengths here to say that I cannot give away the strategic intent of the Government by saying when,” he said.

He told the House that the request for the continuation of the SOEs was made by the security forces.

“I didn’t come here on my own volition and understanding. There is a team of well-qualified Jamaicans in the security field who have advised, and ultimately, on the recommendation of the Commissioner of Police and Chief of Defence Staff, they signed letters saying…’in light of the foregoing we request the extension of the State of Public Emergency in St. James for a further 90 days’. I don’t come here on my own,” Mr. Holness argued.

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 to be likely to endanger public safety.