No backing down

PNP defends decision to vote against SOE extension

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 14, 2018

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THE Parliamentary Opposition is not backing down.

In fact, the People's National Party (PNP) yesterday reiterated its position after voting against extending the state of public emergency in St James, St Catherine North Police Division and sections of Kingston and St Andrew, even as concerns from the private sector grow.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, who spoke at yesterday's PNP press conference, insisted that security measures that currently obtain under the state of emergency (SOE) can continue, but without infringing on the rights of citizens.

“There's nothing that we have done that can stop the measures. The only thing that could not be done is the long-term detention of citizens, without giving them access to the courts. Everything else can continue,” the Opposition leader said at the party's St Andrew headquarters.

Phillips noted that the Opposition embarked on a consultative process, taking into account the views of the residents impacted by the SOE.

A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions that it would normally not be so permitted. A government can declare such state during a disaster, civil unrest, or armed conflict.

“We didn't arrive at our decision lightly. We are aware of all the political risks that are involved, but there comes a time when you need to do the right thing, the lawful thing, the constitutionally approved thing, rather than simply act in pursuit of political expediency. So we have taken the decision, we didn't take it lightly, but we took it after careful consideration and consultation. We even reviewed when the prime minister asked us to reconsider our situation in the Parliament. We withdrew, we considered it again and we took the decision because we believe that all things considered, the fact that no troops or police personnel have to be reduced, that nothing in the normal toolbox of crime-fighting measures has to stop. The fact that the results and the effectiveness are as you have seen, when we took all of that into account, we think we did the right thing by the citizens of the country.

“There is an illusion, if you will, that the ending of the state of emergency means that all the police have to pack up all their equipment and send them back to Harman Barracks in town or Up Park Camp. It is not true. Nothing has to change, except that if you detain someone and you want to keep them for over a week, you have to go to the courts and explain why. In fact, that provision of being heard by a tribunal separate from the court was made in the regulations, but in practice, the citizens have not been able to get access to this tribunal. Why? Because the detention orders that are required are not being signed.

“Jamaica has to learn that if we want a different future from the one that we have had, from the experience that we have had in the past, we are going to have to start respecting the rights of every single citizen, and the rights of poor citizens are not any less than the rights of well-to-do citizens,” the Opposition leader said, adding that the Opposition has a responsibility to ensure the protection of the rights of citizens.

In the meantime, Phillips yesterday met with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) to “reinforce” the Opposition's position to withdraw support for the extension of the SOE.

Jamaica's three most powerful private sector lobby groups on Wednesday requested an urgent meeting with the leadership of both the Government and Opposition in order to address concerns and review the issues surrounding the Opposition's vote to end the SOE.

The call from the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, PSOJ, and Jamaica Chamber of Commerce came amidst growing public disappointment and anger at the position taken by the PNP that will result in the anti-crime measure coming to a halt on January 2 in St Catherine North; January 7 in sections of the Corporate Area; and January 31 in St James.


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