SOE extended for East Kingston while ZOSOs remain for another 60 days
The state of emergency (SOE) that was declared for the East Kingston police division on January 26 has been extended for three months until April 25.
The extension was approved during Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, during which 45 of the 63 Members of Parliament voted in the affirmative to keep the emergency measure in force. It will proceed to the Senate later where a two-thirds majority is also needed to ensure it remains in force.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who piloted the motion for the extension of the SOE, told the House that there has been no serious crime in the division since January 26.
SOEs are now in force in sections of seven parishes or half the country.
While supporting the extension, Member of Parliament for East Kingston and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell, asked that the government and the security forces consider exempting Port Royal from the SOE as it is “the most peaceful place in Jamaica”.
According to Paulwell, he has received calls from his constituents who he said have asked him “why are soldiers at their door and why are they being told to come off the streets?”.
Paulwell argued that the security forces have the flexibility of apportioning borders around areas that are declared as areas within a SOE. "Why not leave Port Royal out of it?" he asked.
"I am making a strong recommendation that you exclude Port Royal," he added.
Paulwell also called for the Rockfort and McIntyre Villa communities, which he said were previously part of the Citizen, Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), to be also exempted from the SOE and instead be declared zones of special operations (ZOSOs).
Meanwhile, the House also voted to extend the ZOSOs in Mount Salem, St James and Denham Town in West Kingston for an additional 60 days.
The first ZOSO in the country was declared in Mount Salem in September, 2017, followed by the Denham Town ZOSO the following month. They have been extended for two-month intervals since then and have been credited with a significant reduction in crime in the two communities.
There have been no murders in Mount Salem in the area under the ZOSO since the declaration of the ZOSO while Denham Town and surrounding communities have seen a significant fall in murders since October 2017.
Opposition MPs have increased their calls for ZOSOs to be declared in areas which they represent, citing that the two ZOSOs which have been in force for 27 and 28 months respectively, are in areas controlled by the governing Jamaica Labour Party.