On Friday 1 March 2019, Prime Minister Andrew Holness chaired the monthly sitting of the National Security Council (NSC).
The Prime Minister, while noting that the overall crime rate is comparatively lower than the same period in 2018, expressed his concerns regarding the unacceptable levels of murders and shootings across the country. Arising out of the context of the discontinuation of the States of Public Emergency (SOE), the Prime Minister proposed a new legislative framework, giving intermediate and specific powers to the Security Forces.
To that end, the Council advanced discussions regarding the Enhanced Security Measures law, which is being designed to empower the Security Forces with the tools deemed necessary to disrupt criminal networks, reduce violence and increase public order. The main elements of the framework for the draft Enhanced Security Measures legislation were agreed. These included:
1. Conditions that must exist to trigger and sustain the measures.
2. System of accountability and judicial recourse to protect the rights of citizens.
3. Specific powers provided, such as – search and detention.
4. Persons designated with responsibility for use of such powers.
This, the Government considers to be an important piece of legislation and is moving towards its completion. Notwithstanding the proposed new legislation, the Prime Minister emphasized that the use of the State of Public Emergency is still a viable option to be implemented for the safety and protection of the people.
Additionally, the Council reviewed the progress that has been made with other legislation which will contribute to improvements in national security. These included inter alia: Amendments to the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act, Amendments to the Firearms Act, Amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act, and Amendments to the Bail Act.
The Council also received a presentation from the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), to examine measures to improve border security and reduce Jamaica’s vulnerability to transnational crime. This included a review of current operations, security arrangements and capacity gaps, and concluded with recommendations to further build the capacity of PICA and enhance the security of the country’s ports.