House to debate North St Catherine SOE extension today

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The House of Representatives yesterday delayed voting on a resolution to extend the state of emergency (SOE) in St Catherine North, after the Opposition refused to take part.

Both Leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips, and Leader of Opposition Business, Phillip Paulwell, expressed resentment of the late advice given to their side to prepare for the debate.

Dr Phillips urged the House of Representatives to delay the debate on two resolutions — one seeking to extend the current state of emergency in St Catherine North, and the other to extend the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in Denham Town -- until next week.

The Government was hoping to have the SOE Bill passed on Monday as the timeline for its current extension expires on October 2, and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who normally leads the debate for the extensions, will be away as of next week on Government business.

Eventually, both sides agreed to go ahead with the debate, but while the resolution extending the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) (The Denham Town Community Zone) Extension of Period of Operation Order, 2018 was passed, the second bill, the Emergency Powers (Continuance) Resolution, 2018, seeking to extend the state of emergency in North St Catherine Police Division beyond October 2 had to be postponed to today.

Holness insisted on a vote for yesterday on the ZOSO resolution, which was obviously agreed after the two leaders met behind the Speaker's Chair to discuss the issue just prior to the adjournment.

During the debate, Opposition speakers insisted that, while the social intervention aspects of the security operations were benefiting the communities in which they were imposed, neighbouring communities were suffering increasing levels of crime and violence because of lack of resources.

However, Holness responded that what the ZOSOs and SOEs have done is to direct resources into the areas that have the greatest impact on the crime rate in the country.

The House of Representatives will sit at 2:00 pm today to continue with the second resolution.

Balford Henry

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