Sunday 21 October, 2018

St Catherine north state of emergency extended until January

All 47 members of the House of Representatives who were present at Wednesday’s sitting of the House, voted to extend the state of emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division for another 90 days, until January 2019.

Sixteen Members of Parliament (MP) were absent from the sitting.

The emergency measure was first imposed in the police division to curtail an upsurge in violence, in particular murders and extortion. It was initiated on March 18 and has since been extended several times.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in making the case for the extension, pointed to a near 70 per cent reduction in murders and shootings since the introduction of the security measures.

“... Over the period 18th of March to the 2nd of September 2018, the division has recorded 27 murders and 22 shootings. This amounts to a 68 per cent reduction in the collective number of murders and shootings over the period of the intervention, when compared to the equivalent period of time prior to the state of emergency and the start of the year,” Holness told the House.

He noted that 82 murders and 72 shootings were recorded over a period of 168 days prior to the state of emergency, and stressed that the extension was being sought in the public interest.

The prime minister argued that “there is no question, Mr Speaker, that the measure has been effective”.

He listed communities like Ellerslie Pen, Jones Avenue, Spanish Town centre, Dela Vega City, March Pen, Brooklyn, Thompson Pen and Victoria district as being “very grateful for the state of emergency. All these communities have benefited”.

Holness said he has a “particularly empathetic view on the matter because I was born in Spanish Town, in the heart of Spanish Town.”

He added: “I know all these communities, and I know all the problems there, and Spanish Town is a gem for us. If we were able to reclaim Spanish Town from the criminal gangs, and we were able to make the investment to restore the historical buildings and the cultural sites that are there, and really restore Spanish Town, we would have a treasure.”

He stressed that the Government is not relying on the state of emergency as a long-term solution.

However, Opposition Spokesman on National Security, Fitz Jackson, noted that come January 2019, a state of emergency will have been in place for one year. He was referring to the emergency measure that has been imposed in the parish of St James since January 18, and which remains in force after several extensions.

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