KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday March 29, 2018 – The House of Representatives in Jamaica has approved the extension of the State of Public Emergency in part of the parish of St Catherine until July 3.
But Senators must now vote on the measure, which was supported by all 49 Members of the House who were present to vote on the resolution brought by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday. Fourteen members were absent.
Making a case for the extension of the State of Public Emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division, Prime Minister Holness said the security forces must be given the latitude to maintain and continue further operations in the area.
“They must disrupt and degrade the capacity of these criminal gangs and provide a safe environment for the residents, business owners and persons going about their legitimate business. There will be some inconvenience within the designated area, and we are asking for continued understanding and cooperation of all Jamaicans, particularly those most affected,” he told the House.
Holness reported that the enhanced security measures have, so far, yielded unquestionable results, adding that the impact cannot be overstated.
“There has been no report of murders in that space; there has been no report of serious crimes, and there has been no report of abuse by the security forces,” he noted.
The State of Public Emergency gives the security forces extraordinary powers to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant. It also gives them power to stop and question persons and power to seize property. And Holness said the security forces have been carrying out their duties in an appropriate way.
Police statistics show that the St Catherine North Division has recorded the highest number of homicides this year, with 48 persons being murdered between January 1 and March 18. A total of 136 persons were murdered in the division last year.
“On request of the security forces, the St Catherine North Police Division was selected for a State of Public Emergency in response to increasing criminal activities, including inter-gang conflicts and murders. This deliberate and strategic measure is therefore a necessary requirement at this time for upholding and preserving the rule of law and maintaining public order,” Holness said.
The State of Emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division went into effect on March 18.
It is the second one to go into effect, following a similar declaration in January for the parish of St James, which is home to Jamaica’s tourist capital, Montego Bay.