House says yes ...

Despite Bunting and Golding voting against extension of SOE

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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THE House of Representatives voted yesterday to extend the state of public emergency (SOE) in the St Andrew South Police Division by another 90 days, despite a passionate appeal from Opposition MP and People's National Party leadership aspirant Peter Bunting to end it.

The final vote of 44 MPs in favour of extending the two-week old exercise by an additional three months, and only two against (Bunting and Mark Golding), and with 17 members absent, suggested that at least 10 of the 29 Opposition MPs favoured Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillip position that, while the SOE was not the best answer to the crime situation, it has at least created a climate for bipartisan cooperation on tackling the problem.

After Prime Minister Andrew Holness started the debate, admitting that despite reductions in murders and shootings in vulnerable areas like the Kingston Western and St Catherine North police divisions, as well as across several rural parishes, such as Westmoreland, Hanover, St Mary, Portland, Clarendon and St Thomas, the Government was concerned about increases in areas like Kingston Central, Kingston Eastern, St Catherine South and St Andrew South, as well as the parishes of St James and Manchester.

He noted that, nationally, between January 1 and July 15 this year, there were 726 murders and a similar number of shootings, across 19 police divisions.

Holness said the figures showed that, while the Administration was seeing results going in the right direction, it was obvious that in some other areas they were going in the wrong direction.

“It is instructive that we continue the national effort to reduce crime, and in particular continue to use the tool of the states of public emergency to do so,” he noted.

However, Bunting would have none of that, as he insisted that the SOEs were unconstitutional, and that the figures produced by the prime minister were evidence that they were not a “very effective tool”, as Holness was suggesting.

He claimed that the Government had marketed the SOEs to the public as the solution to the crime, but that they were not although they fulfilled the citizens' need to feel safe, especially with the increased number of boots on the ground.

“In effect, our crime strategy should focus on hot spots and hot people [violence producers] wherever there are leaks,” Bunting insisted.

Dr Phillips agreed that the increased presence of the security forces offered relief to the residents of the crime-torn areas. However, he said that it produced a “balloon” effect, wherein while the air was expanding in some areas it was being squeezed in others.

However, Phillips said that beyond that there were lessons to be learnt, including the need for intelligence-driven operations, which could lead to the take-down of the “kingpins” on the basis of collective intelligence, and the need to identify the targets and deal with them effectively.

He also recommended for the increased use of social intervention and the inclusion of institutions like the Peace Management Initiative in the efforts.

Dr Phillips also urged the Government to resume bipartisan discussions which have not been held carried out since the parties met in January.


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