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Opposition questions why the 20 'dangerous criminals' in St James SOE haven't been charged

Monday, December 17, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — People's National Party (PNP) President, Dr Peter Phillips, says Prime Minister Andrew Holness should explain why the “20 dangerous criminals” who are said to be detained in the St James state of emergency (SOE) have not yet been charged.

Phillips was responding to the prime minister comments in the article Dangerous Decision, which was published in yesterday's Sunday Observer.

In his statement repudiating what he labelled as a threat by Holness that the 20 criminals would be unleashed in the parish at the end of the SOE on January 31, 2019, the Opposition leader argued that there are adequate laws to deal with dangerous criminals who have either committed or are about to commit criminal offences.

He urged the prime minister to seek legal guidance rather than threaten that criminal elements will be unleashed, “with the clear intent of fearmongering among citizens”.

Phillips argued that all detainees under the SOE should have been held on “reasonable cause” and the country expects that in the period of the SOE “reasonable cause” should have been converted into evidence, so charges could be brought.

He said “the prime minister must explain what is causing the delay, particularly when he can speak so specifically about past and future criminal activities of these '20 criminals' and the existence of witnesses, yet there is an apparent inability to bring charges”.

He further noted that there has been little effort to mobilise public support as there has been no publication of photographs and information on wanted men.

The Opposition leader also questioned how long the prime minister has been in possession the information and asked whether or not members of the joint forces are yet in possession of it to allow for appropriate action.

Phillips said the prime minister's comments were “alarmist, highly irresponsible and smacks of petulance because the Opposition responsibly exercised its constitutional duty to ensure that all actions of the Government conform to the rule of law”.

He expressed that the Opposition has always been and will remain firmly committed to the fight against criminals, but in that pursuit the innocent must be protected.

The Opposition Leader said the right to life is uppermost in his party's focus and the framers of the Jamaican Constitution understood that such an objective is not incompatible with fairness for all.

“We must therefore resolutely punish only the guilty and protect the innocent from abuse” he continued.

The Opposition leader also noted that neither the prime minister nor any other member of the government has put forward any argument to successfully refute the opinion and advice of various legal luminaries accepted by the Opposition that an extension of the SOEs in current circumstances could be ruled unconstitutional.

“It is, therefore, apparent that the government recognises that it cannot do so.”

Phillips called on the prime minister to urgently allow the security forces and prosecutors to act on the information he has and retract his alarmist statement.

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