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House approves extension of ZOSOs

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, December 13, 2018

DESPITE the breakdown in cooperation between the Government and the Opposition on the continuation of the states of emergency (SOEs) on Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved the extension of the two existing Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs).

The vote on the extension of the ZOSOs in Denham Town, West Kingston, and Mount Salem in St James was taken prior to that on extending the SOEs and, with no two-thirds majority required for its approval, a simple “aye/nay” vote was taken, which was not contested by the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).

During the debate, Prime Minister Andrew Holness informed the House that the Government will be providing funds in the second supplementary estimates, which will be tabled prior to the close of the current financial year 2018/19 on March 31, to improve the physical condition of lock-ups.

Holness noted that the decision was made following his tour of lock-ups and detention centres in Kingston, St Catherine and St James on December 8, to get a first-hand look at the facilities and the systems in place.

He said that he visited the Denham Town forward operating base, the Tamarind Farm detention facility and the Twickenham Park detainee processing facility, as well as the Freeport lock-up in Montego Bay.

“I reiterate the Government's commitment to protecting and safeguarding the human rights of all Jamaicans, while reducing the country's crime rate. At this time, in relation to the states of public emergency, we have 77 persons detained: 20 in St James, 36 in St Catherine and 21 in Kingston,” he said.

“My assessment is that we have to consider improving the dietary provisions, and I have given a directive to the minister of finance and public service, in the upcoming supplementary budget, to make an allocation. The bathroom facilities are always in a position where they can be improved, so we will be looking at making some improvements, as we can, to many of them,” he added.

The prime minister said that he is satisfied that the security forces are “implementing the agreed systems of accountability for having in custody Jamaican citizens who are detained”.

Based on the result of the vote, the ZOSOs in Mount Salem, St James and Denham Town in West Kingston will be extended by a further 60 days. The extensions are for up to February 16, 2019 in the case of Denham Town and March 7, 2019 for Mount Salem.

Holness said that the ZOSOs are currently in the build phase, where there is a focus on intervention.

He said that, by design, the current phase is being implemented in three stages, on a road map that has been developed by the social intervention committee.

The first stage of social intervention focused on citizenship intervention. The second stage began with road rehabilitation, access to health services, water regularisation and sanitation, zinc fence removal, green spaces, and school rehabilitation.

He said that the new phase involves regularisation and housing. It will take an extensive period, far greater than 60-120 days, to give people titles, do surveys of lots and help them to reorganise communities.

He said that he had taken note of the progress of work on a number of projects during his recent tour of Mount Salem.

“You could see that the construction of the walls… just moving the zinc fences, paving the roads, [cleaning] the gullies, has transformed the physical environment. People just feel better about their community,” he noted.