Authorities justify state of emergency for St James
An ongoing security checkpoint in St James under the state of emergency now in place in the parish.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has officially announced that a state of public emergency is in effect for the parish of St James.
Speaking at a press briefing at Jamaica House a short while ago, Holness said the number of murders in the parish, and a state of wanton disregard by criminals in there, led to the decision.
The police recorded a total of 335 murders in St James for 2017, twice the number for the next most murderous parishes, Clarendon and Westmoreland, with 168 and 147 homicides, respectively, last year.
The prime minister said, acting upon his request, “The Governor General has signed a proclamation dated and effective 18th of January, 2018. The proclamation has been gazetted. A state of public emergency is now in effect for the parish of St James.”
Holness said under the state of public emergency, “the security forces will have extraordinary powers, and some rights are suspended.”
Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) armoured personnel carriers on deployment on the streets. (file photo)
However, he said that “does not mean that the powers can be used arbitrarily, or are beyond review. The declaration of a state of public emergency does not mean the suspension of the rule of law.”
He added that the security forces, including the military, “have been directed to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all.”
Holness said the emergency powers are directed at criminals and their facilitators, but the actions will mean some levels of dislocation and discomfort for citizens in general, which he asked members of the public to be tolerant of.
Both Police Commissioner George Quallo, and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Rocky Meade, said the security forces will be respectful of the rights of citizens in general, but urged members of the public not to resist the forces in the lawful execution of their duties and responsibilities.
Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck, told the press briefing that the security forces’ power to detain persons or curtail business activities without warrants under the state of public emergency, “will not be done randomly”.
He cited that the state of emergency is the ultimate tool that the Government can use to bring back law and order to the country, which justifies the implementation of the extreme initiative in response to the crippling crime situation in St James