Senate Gives Green Light to Extension of States of Emergency in Six Parishes in Jamaica

Leader of Government Business in the Upper House, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, addresses members of the Senate during a special sitting at which the SOEs were extended. (Photo: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday February 3, 2020 – The Senate has approved the continuation of States of Public Emergency (SOEs) in six parishes for an additional 90 days.

Three Emergency Powers Resolutions, which give effect to the extension of the SOEs in St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, Clarendon, St Catherine and St Andrew, received the support of both Government and Opposition Senators.

Following extensive debate, all members present voted, which resulted in 15 Senators agreeing to the Resolutions; one voting against; and one abstaining. Four Senators were absent.

Piloting the Resolutions, Leader of Government Business in the Upper House, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith argued that continuation of the SOEs is necessary “to secure the peace, safety and protection of the people of Jamaica”.

She noted that while some success had been achieved in reducing the overall murder rate for 2019, this has been overshadowed by “ad hoc periods of ruthlessness perpetrated by organised gangs engaged in reprisal behaviour”.

“We have also been impacted by horrendous examples of domestic violence and intimate partner violence,” Senator Johnson Smith said.

She emphasized that given the work that still remains to be done, the emergency levels of violent crime and criminal activity, and organised gang activities in those areas, “we are seeking the extension of the SOEs”.

The Resolutions are the Emergency Powers, 2019 (Continuance) Resolution, 2020 pertaining to St James, Hanover and Westmoreland; the Emergency Powers (No. 2), 2019 (Continuance) Resolution, 2020 in relation to St Andrew South; and the Emergency Powers (No. 3), 2019 (Continuance) Resolution, 2020 regarding Clarendon and St Catherine North.

The SOEs for St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, which were declared on April 30, 2019 and were scheduled to end on February 27, 2020, have been extended to May, 28, 2020.

The Clarendon and St Catherine North SOEs, declared on September 5, 2019, which were slated to end on February 18, 2020, will continue until May 19, 2020.

Also, the SOE for St Andrew South, which was declared on July 7, 2019, and was to have ended tomorrow, will run until May 5, 2020.

An SOE, declared on January 26 is also in effect for the Eastern Kingston Police Division.

During the SOE, the security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant.

It also gives them the power to stop and question persons, seize property, and control public gatherings and movements.

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