Vaz sceptical PNP support for SOE waning

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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BARRETT TOWN, St James — Government Minister Daryl Vaz is expressing scepticism about the Opposition People's National Party's (PNP's) further support of the extension of the state of public emergency in St James.

The SOE has been in effect in St James since January.

After its passage in the Lower House, Senate on Friday approved the extension of the enhanced security measure in the parish of St James until January 31, 2019.

Seventeen members of the Senate voted in favour of the motion Friday. Opposition Senator KD Knight abstained while three senators were absent.

Vaz, who is the Member of Parliament for Portland Western, argued that with Knight's abstention and Lambert Brown's initial reluctance to vote in favour of the motion, as well as recent concerns expressed by Queen's Counsel Valerie Neita Robertson — the PNP's standard-bearer for Portland Western — the writing is on the wall that the Opposition's support is waning.

“Hear me now, tek sleep and mark death, because I am here to tell you that this is a plot, so that the next time we come for the renewal of the state of emergency they are not going to want to support it,” Vaz, who is minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with responsibility for land, environment, climate change, and investment, said.

He recounted that when the PNP was in Opposition eight years ago, they refused to support the extension of a state of emergency.

“Memories are short. You remember 2010 when the [Jamaica] Labour Party was in power? There was a state of emergency in parts of Kingston and St Andrew and we wanted to extend it to St Catherine, and the PNP blocked it. And look at what an opportunity we had, at that time, to extend it and to get the same results that we are getting in 2018,” Vaz stated.

He was critical of the PNP for questioning the duration of the state of emergency.

“So hear me now, they keep asking the question, 'How much time you going to extend it because this can't be a permanent solution for fighting crime? This can't be a crime plan; this can't be a crime strategy.' Well let me explain something to you, in September 2001, when the United States had the terror attack — 9/11 — from that time till now, 17 years... and renewed by three presidents... there has been a state of emergency,” Vaz declared.

“So all I say to you is that we need to do what we need to do until such time as we feel that the lives of the people of Jamaicans are taken care of. And we are putting in the mechanisms to protect lives and properties,” he continued.

Vaz was speaking at the well-attended St James East Central Constituency Conference held at John Rollins Success Primary School in Barrett Town on Sunday. Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is the MP for that constituency.

Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, speaking after Vaz, told vuvuzela-tooting supporters, clad mostly in the traditional green colour of the JLP, that the SOE cannot be in perpetuity but that it has been successful in taming the parish's crime monster that left 335 murders in its path last year.

“We cannot have it forever, but under the state of emergency in St James, the number of murders this year is 78, last year it was 335 — 257 more people alive,” Dr Chang said.

“The Government of Andrew Holness is committed to protecting the lives of all Jamaicans. So when gun a fire, people a dead inna the ghetto; some man nuh worry because dem a mek dem money same way.

“This Government is committed to protecting all Jamaicans, that's our first responsibility and first right of every Jamaican — the first human right is the right to life and the pursuit of happiness. That's the first right you have and that's the right we are protecting as your Government,” Dr Chang said.

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