Monday 11 November, 2019

SOE business operating hours to be relaxed ahead of Xmas - Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Parliament (file photo).

Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Parliament (file photo).

There will be a relaxation of opening hours for businesses operating in the parishes where states of emergency (SOEs) have been imposed, in the lead-up to and during the Christmas season, the Government has indicated.

The commitment was given on Tuesday by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during the debate on a resolution in the House of Representatives that authorised the extension of the SOEs in Clarendon and St Catherine and the western parishes of Westmoreland, St James and Hanover until January, 2020.

The SOE in the St Andrew South police division was previously extended and businesses operating in that space are now allowed to open until 11pm, similar to the other areas where SOEs are active.

Holness agreed to normalise opening hours for Christmas after the parliamentary Opposition signalled that it would not have been supporting any extension beyond November 30, at which time it would assess the impact of the emergency measure on businesses in the lead-up to the Yuletide season.

“The end of November – or even before that – we will put in place the special provision to ensure that the SOEs operate throughout December without affecting what people have grown accustomed to in the enjoyment of the season,” Holness told the House.

“It is the intention of the Government to ensure that by the Christmas period, by the first week in December, the closing times are adjusted accordingly to allow for people to enjoy the season. It is not the intention of the Government to take away the enjoyment from the people,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, the prime minister gave an update on the progress being made under the SOEs.

He said under the western SOE that has been in place since April 30, some 1,894 persons were detained, with 148 of them being arrested. Of the number, 74 persons remain in custody.

During the period there was a total of 901 arrests and charges within the overall space, for varying offences. These include breaches of the Firearms Act – 138; breaches of the Dangerous Drugs Act – 86; murder – 45; shooting – 42; and robbery – 34.

Holness also said 60 firearms and 4,133 rounds of ammunition were seized.

“Mr Speaker, notwithstanding these gains, the tri-parish region continues to raise significant security concerns nationally,” he said.

“Cumulatively, the three parishes still accounted for 20 per cent of murders and 19 per cent of shootings committed throughout the country over the period January 1, 2019 to October 9, 2019,” he added.

“The threat of guns, gangs and dons in the area under the SOE remains prevalent."

In relation to St Catherine and Clarendon, Holness said murders and shootings have been reduced by 62 per cent and 70 per cent respectively, when compared to the equivalent period in 2018.

He said 1,145 persons were detained, with 207 being arrested, 86 of whom are still in custody. There were 302 arrests and charges within the space for varying offences, including 35 for breaching the Firearms Act; 32 for breaching the Dangerous Drugs Act; 10 for murder; nine for shootings; 10 for robbery; and 20 for sexual offences.

At the same time, 11 firearms and 106 rounds of ammunition were seized.

Despite the gains, the St Catherine North Police Division recorded 70 murders since January 1. When combined, Clarendon and St Catherine accounted for 27 per cent of all murders nationally since the start of the year.

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