Illegal & dangerous

St Elizabeth police chief lashes out at roadblock protests

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth – Head of the St Elizabeth police, Superintendent Lanford Salmon, has come out swinging following politically motivated roadblock protests in St Elizabeth North Eastern on Monday which caused extreme public inconvenience and led to at least one motor vehicle crash.

"People need to realise that this practice of blocking roads is illegal and highly dangerous," Salmon told the Jamaica Observer.

"It inconveniences the public, it prevents adults from going to work and about their lawful business, it prevents children from going to school.

If somebody falls seriously ill, it can prevent that person from getting to hospital, and it causes damage to infrastructure, including road surfaces. In this case, it could have easily caused a motorist to lose his life. As it is, we hear he has serious damage to his car," Salmon said.

"As a country, and as a people, we need to stop this kind of selfish, antisocial behaviour. It is holding us back, it is not getting us anywhere," he said. Motorist Fitzgerald Lewis told the Observer via phone yesterday that he was driving easterly towards Union, Balaclava, from the direction of Siloah, early Monday when on rounding a bend he was forced to swerve violently to avoid a head-on collision with a large boulder.

The right side of his car still made contact with the rock, causing considerable damage.

The impact sent the car on to a curb wall, causing further extensive front-end and under- carriage damage. "It is disheartening to know that people can do things like that to other people," Lewis told the Observer.

Salmon said the unmanned roadblocks on Monday morning involving the use of large rocks and other debris, fallen trees and in at least one case burning tyres, were especially shameful since people have a right to demonstrate publicly and peacefully. "People who feel the need to protest can demonstrate peacefully and legally without hindering anyone.

They don’t have to indulge in criminal behaviour and then run and hide," he said. The police had to work overtime Monday to clear the unmanned roadblocks said to have been set hours before daylight in a number of communities in and around Braes River, Balalclava, Siloah, and Pepper.

Signs left at the roadblocks with messages such as ‘No Redman’ led to the conclusion that the seemingly co-ordinated protest actions were related to the ongoing feud in St Elizabeth North Eastern involving supporters of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP).

Supporters of Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce remain vehemently opposed to the decision of the PNP executive to approve his replacement by businessman Evon Redman as the party’s standard-bearer ahead of parliamentary elections which are due this year.

Last year, a contentious internal campaign to decide between the two men took a dramatic turn when Pryce supporters took the PNP to court over the selection process. Subsequently, the PNP issued a release, said to have been circulated on behalf of Pryce, announcing his withdrawal from the internal contest. The court action also ended.

The party then organised a ratification poll for PNP delegates in St Elizabeth North Eastern. Asked to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as to whether they wanted Redman to be their standard- bearer for parliamentary elections, 339 of 467 delegates who turned out said ‘yes’, 127 voted ‘no’, and one vote was spoilt.

Subsequently, the PNP’s National Executive Council confirmed Redman as its candidate for St Elizabeth North Eastern and he has been introduced as such on political platforms, including by party President and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

However, Pryce supporters have continued to voice their opposition to Redman. On Monday, Pryce issued a release insisting he had nothing to do with the unmanned roadblocks. Yesterday, Salmon urged that the long-running feud among Comrades in St Elizabeth North Eastern be brought to an end in the public interest. "This is a law and order issue now, and those who are able to, need to bring an end to it," he said.

Monday’s roadblocks are said to have caused widespread inconvenience, especially for children going to school. Principal of St Elizabeth Technical High School Keith Wellington told the Observer that several teachers and a large number of students from Balaclava and other north-eastern St Elizabeth communities were late for school because of the blockages.

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