Thursday 12 December, 2019

Senate votes to extend western Jamaica SOE

Pearnel Charles Jr

Pearnel Charles Jr

The state of emergency (SOE) that was first imposed in April this year in the three western Jamaica parishes of Hanover, St James and Westmoreland, will remain in effect for at least another three months.

This follows a vote in the Senate on Friday to extend the emergency crime-fighting measure until October 28. The move was preceded by a similar vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Acting Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Pearnel Charles Jr, who moved the resolution that was debated on Friday, said: “Undoubtedly, these measures of which we seek support, may very well create some hindrances, but more importantly, they have been proven in this judicious balance, to exceptionally save lives…”

At the end of the debate, 14 Senators voted to approve the resolution granting the extension, one abstained, while six were absent.

In seeking to justify the requested extension, Charles Jr cited a 70 per cent reduction in murders in St James between January 18, 2018 and January 31, 2019, during the year-long initial SOE in that parish.

The minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation argued that there was an upsurge in criminal activities during the three months after that SOE was discontinued.

Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers on deployment in Westmoreland (file photo).

He told the Upper House of Parliament that between April 30 and July 21, murders and shootings in St James fell by 40 per cent and 27 per cent respectively, compared to the period February 5 to April 29, prior to the reintroduction of the emergency measure in the parish.

Charles Jr also noted that murders and shootings in Westmoreland declined by 74 per cent and 70 per cent respectively during the SOE, when compared to the previous period between February 5 and April 29.

And in relation to Hanover, he said murders and shootings had fallen by 33 per cent and 80 per cent respectively.

“Notwithstanding these gains, (activities in) the tri-parish region continue to raise significant security concerns nationally. Despite the reductions in murders and shootings which have been achieved since the start of the states of public emergency, the aggregate number of murders in the specified areas has remained way too high,” he said.

Like Prime Minister Andrew Holness did in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Charles Jr said the three western parishes cumulatively accounted for 20 per cent of the murders that were committed across the country between January 1 and July 21 this year.

“So long as emergency situations exist, extraordinary solutions will be relevant and required. Our bold efforts to protect this country require a firm resolve, and for all of us to remain persistent and true to the task of ensuring a society that is safe, secure, cohesive and just,” Charles Jr said.

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