Monday 18 November, 2019

Phillips questions value of St James state of emergency

File photo of members of the security forces at a check point in the St Catherine North police division, where a state of emergence was imposed earlier this year.

File photo of members of the security forces at a check point in the St Catherine North police division, where a state of emergence was imposed earlier this year.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips is questioning whether the $30.6 million per month state of emergency that was imposed in St James on January 18 in the face of an escalating crime wave is worth it.

At least 600 police personnel are needed each week to keep it going.

Also, the People’s National Party President (PNP) president, like he did in the House of Representatives last Tuesday, noted that only 20 alleged gang leaders have been apprehended in the seven months since the emergency measure was imposed.

This out of a total of 2,672 persons who have been detained since January. Of that number, some 138 or five per cent have been charged.

Phillips made the observations while addressing Comrades at the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the University of the West Indies over the weekend.

“All we are saying is, given that it's only 20 gang members that have been charged, given that there is the anti-gang legislation in place, and given that we are using 600 police a week in the operations who are not available to go elsewhere, are we getting the best value for the country's anti-crime efforts from the state of emergency?" Phillips argued.

Last Tuesday, the Opposition voted with the Government to extend the state of emergency for another three months until November. But, like he has done on several occasions in relation to the two states of emergency and two Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) imposed in crime hotspots, Phillips warned that the opposition will not support these emergency measures indefinitely.

"There may come some time when we decide that it can't go on, but so far, what we have been saying to the Government is, 'Don't use a state of emergency like a weapon and simply make the issue are you supporting it or you are not supporting it,"  Phillips said Sunday.

He said it was not intended by the Constitution for a state of emergency to be a long-term solution.

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