You are wrong on SOEs, Prime Minister!

Letters to the Editor

You are wrong on SOEs, Prime Minister!

Monday, January 18, 2021

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Dear Editor,

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that “the ending of the states of emergency has contributed to the crimes across the country as he expressed concern about the savagery of some of the criminal acts that have been committed” ( Jamaica Observer, January 7, 2021). Where is the data used by the prime minister to make such an assumption?

States of emergency (SOEs) began in the parish of St James as early as January 2018, ending on January 31, 2019. We also had another state of emergency declared in the St Catherine North Police Division (Spanish Town, Linstead, and Bog Walk) on March 18. The national homicide statistics for 2018 shows that a total of 1,287 people were murdered that year.

SOEs were declared from April 30, 2019 for the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover, and St James; they lasted until May 28, 2020. While SOEs in Clarendon and St Catherine North, which were declared on September 5, 2019, and should have ended on February 18, 2020, were extended until May 19, 2020.

An SOE for the South St Andrew Police Division, which was declared on July 7, 2019 and was slated to end on February 4, 2020, was extended until May 5, 2020.

Reported homicide figures for 2019 and 2020 are 1,339 and 1,303, respectively. Clearly, not much of a difference exists between 2019 and 2020.

One of the outcomes of the SOEs was the scattering of gang members from their home communities to the rest of the island, and we only had a few token arrests and convictions.

Horace Levy is on record, as far back as 2016, raising objections on the use of SOEs as a crime solution. He said, “There are better solutions to curb crime than to declare the state of emergency, one of which is to flood the affected areas with police personnel and to institute curfews on the necessary communities.” ( The Gleaner, July 5, 2016)

Our history shows that, as far back as Prince Tacky's rebellion in 1760, that sent shock waves through the imperial system, the response of the Jamaica Assembly, in passing harsh laws designed to reinforce control, failed to have the desired effect of suppressing future uprisings.

The Government, including the Opposition and the security forces, ought to exhibit greater patience in exploring alternative solutions, rather than denying people their rights, freedom of movement, or scattering them like red ants across the island.

One of the problems of governance in Jamaica is the weakness of always having committee meetings to discuss issues while ignoring research presented by members of The University of the West Indies community. One such work is that of Professor Anthony Harriott, 'Controlling Violent Crime: Models and Policy Options', the GraceKennedy Foundation Lecture for 2009.

Let us stop reinventing old habits.

Dudley C McLean II

Mandeville, Manchester

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