Thursday 5 December, 2019

What is a state of emergency?

A truck load of soldiers in Montego Bay, St James on Thursday, the same day the parish was declared a state of emergency.

A truck load of soldiers in Montego Bay, St James on Thursday, the same day the parish was declared a state of emergency.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday declared a state of emergency for St James, giving law enforcement officials special powers to deal with the outbreak of violence in the western Jamaica parish.

Government has long resisted calls for the implementation of a state of emergency to curb crime in St James.

But with bloodletting in the parish continuing this year, after closing 2017 with a record 335 murders, the Andrew Holness administration finally caved in to those demands.


Citizen’s rights under State of Emergency

According to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, under the state of emergency, members of the security forces will have “extraordinary powers and some rights are suspended

“The declaration of a state of emergency does not mean the suspension of the rule of law. The security forces are expected and have been instructed to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all,” Holness said at a press conference at Jamaica House in St Andrew on Thursday.

The state of emergency allows local law enforcement officials to search homes and individuals, curtail operation hours of businesses and detain suspects without warrant.

“These actions will not be done randomly,” Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said. “Effective communications will occur by order and in accordance with the emergence powers regulations.”


When is a state of emergency issued?

A state of emergency is issued by the Governor General on advice from the security forces, pursuant to Section 26 of the Constitution, which states in subsection 4 that a "period of public emergency" means any period during which Jamaica is:

- engaged in any war;

- there is in force a Proclamation by the Governor-General declaring that a state of public emergency exists;

- or there is in force a resolution of each House supported by the votes of a majority of all the members of that House declaring that democratic institutions in Jamaica are threatened by subversion.

Related Article

According to subsection 5, a Proclamation made by the Governor-General shall not be effective for the purposes of subsection 4 unless it is declared that the Governor-General is satisfied that:

- that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the imminence of a state of war between Jamaica and a foreign State or as a result of the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, outbreak of pestilence, outbreak of infectious disease or other calamity whether similar to the foregoing or not; or

- that action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be likely to endanger the public safety or to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of supplies or services essential to life.

Subsection 6 states that the proclamation shall remain in force for a period of one month, unless revoked earlier or extended by the House of Representatives via votes of a majority of all the members of the House.


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