JHTA meeting with top cop postponed

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Today's meeting between members of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association [JHTA] and Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson to discuss, among other issues, the spike in murders in St James has been delayed.

A new date is to be determined.

The meeting was reportedly postponed due to the unavailability of the police commissioner.

“We are concerned, especially the Montego Bay and Negril chapters, about the spiralling murders and robberies. Although the island overall is down there is a concern that especially Westmoreland and St James are not trending the way that we would like,” said Robin Russell, chairman of the Montego Bay JHTA chapter.

“We believe that when the SOE [state of public emergency] was on, we had a much better situation. And, we don't want to see our sacrifice go to nought. We sacrificed with the understanding that we would not be going back to the lawlessness that was there before,“ he said.

According to the latest police statistics, murders in St James have shot to 42 between January 1 and April 6, an increase of 82.6 per cent over the same period last year, while the parish of Westmoreland has seen a 12.5 per cent reduction.

But, while robberies have seen a 29.4 per cent reduction in St James over the same period, it has skyrocketed by over 414.3 per cent in Westmoreland.

Russell, who is also the general manager of Deja Resorts, a European Plan property located on the Montego Bay Hip Strip, was quick to emphasise that he was not in favour of the declaration of another SOE, citing that it would be a retrograde step.

“When you announce an SOE, you put a shock in the market because it is a state of emergency. And it did put a shock when we first did it. Now, the good thing is when you continue it doesn't get the headline with that shock effect. However, seeing that we did it and it was cancelled, to do it again would mean that we are moving backwards,” he said.

He is advocating for legislation to arm members of the security forces with powers similar to those under an SOE.

“Whether it is detention, whatever it is that the security forces need to be successful, I think it's the Government's and Opposition's responsibility to give the police the tools to work,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“We cannot allow 30 or 40 persons in MoBay to just send it back into anarchy. Unacceptable!” Russell said.

During a recent tour of the Freeport Police Station facility in Montego Bay, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said that the legislation to provide the security forces with similar powers to those they enjoyed under the SOE will be taken to Parliament soon.

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