THE Government yesterday placed Jamaica's capital city under a limited State of Public Emergency in response to acts of anarchy by gunmen determined to prevent Tivoli Gardens don, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke from being arrested for possible extradition to the United States.
The State of Emergency -- which took effect at six o'clock yesterday evening -- is tentatively scheduled to last for a month.
The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of the Cabinet on a day when gunmen attacked four police stations -- Fletcher's Land, Darling Street, Denham Town and Hannah Town -- and fired on police removing barricades erected on major roads in West Kingston.
Police report that two cops were injured by gunmen's bullets and a section of the Hannah Town Police Station was set ablaze by the thugs.
Last night, in an address to the nation, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who represents West Kingston in the Parliament, said the actions of the gunmen were "a calculated assault on the authority of the State that cannot be tolerated, and will not be allowed to continue".
"The threats that have emerged to the safety and security of our people will be repelled with strong and decisive action," Golding said, adding that the security forces will be moving swiftly to bring the current situation under control.
"Criminal elements bent on violence and mayhem will be detained, and processed," said Golding. "The criminal element who have placed the society under siege will not be allowed to triumph."
He explained that the decision to call the state of public emergency was based on updates and advice from the security forces.
"The Cabinet took the decision to advise the governor general to issue a Proclamation pursuant to Section 26 of the Constitution declaring that a state of public emergency exists in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew," the prime minister said.
Speaking to the issue last evening, National Security Minister Dwight Nelson said that people will not be prevented from going about their legitimate business.
"I know that there are people who work abnormal hours, and so we cannot stop them from carrying out their work responsibility or obligation, which means that you can't limit them as to the time they will have to be on the road," Nelson told the Observer.
That point was emphasised by Prime Minister Golding who said that the security forces have been instructed to observe and respect the right of citizens to go about their lawful business.
"The city is not being shut down," he insisted. "People are assured that they are free to move about and go to work as usual. Schools will be in full session on Tuesday."
Golding explained that under the state of public emergency, the security forces are given extraordinary powers necessary to deal with this extraordinary situation.
"These include the power to restrict the freedom of movement, search premises and detain persons suspected of involvement in unlawful activities without warrant," he said. "These are necessary measures to restore order to a community that is now threatened."
Added Golding: "This will be a turning point for us as a nation to confront the powers of evil that have penalised the society and earned us the unenviable label as one of the murder capitals of the world. We must confront this criminal element with determination and unqualified resolve."
Since Independence in 1962, Jamaica has seen five state of emergencies. Three -- in 1988, 2004 and 2007 -- were hurricane-related. The state of emergency of 1966 and that called in 1976 resulted from political violence in the run-up to pending general elections.