Saturday 15 June, 2019

PM blasts opposition for pulling support from SOEs

Loop file photo of a security checkpoint at St Catherine North during the State of Emergency last year.

Loop file photo of a security checkpoint at St Catherine North during the State of Emergency last year.

The blame game for the country’s crime problem and the approach to be taken to solve it continued on Tuesday with Prime Minister Andrew Holness slamming the parliamentary opposition for its decision to pull its support from three states of public emergency (SOEs).

He said that decision last December has put the lives of Jamaicans at risk.

Holness, who is making his contribution to the 2019-2020 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, was responding to a suggestion made last Thursday by Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips for a new social consensus to crime fighting.

But Holness cited longstanding social partnerships which he said had served the country well and dismissed the need for any new partnership to tackle the country’s crime problem.

“I’m always willing to meet and to discuss but I’m not going to give any cover to obfuscation, any cover to escape the responsibility for the decision that that side took, that has put the lives of many Jamaicans at risk,” Holness declared in the opening minutes of his presentation.

He continued: “I reflected on that position declared by the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke (in the Budget Debate last Thursday) asking us to go and meet with all groups.

“Mr Speaker, the recognized formal process for building social consensus that has been practised by both governments is the social partnership.

“I don’t know Mr Speaker, that there is any dissonance in this country around uniting against crime and violence. The only dissonance is on that side.”

The prime minister’s statement, while greeted with applause from government Members of Parliament, suggests that both sides are far apart on the approach to be taken to deal with the crime problem, notwithstanding talks held at Vale Royal in January.

The opposition pulled its support from the SOEs in December, saying they were a breach of the constitutional rights of citizens. But the government has insisted that the emergency measure was working to reduce crime, in particular, murders.

The security forces have credited the SOEs with a 21 per cent across the board reduction in murders last year. The reduction was even more impressive in St James which had recorded a record 336 murders in 2017, when more than 1,600 people were killed across the country. The parish recorded a 70 per cent decline in murders in 2018.

Public opinion polls show that more than 80 per cent of Jamaicans are in favour of the SOEs, even when they admit that it should not be a long term crime-fighting strategy.

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