Regional

Wrong decision, PNP!

St James residents chide Opposition vote against state of emergency

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, December 13, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James —News that Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) voted on Tuesday night to end the state of public emergency (SOE) imposed by the Government in St James since January has not gone down well with stakeholders in the parish, which has seen a decline of over 70 per cent in murders since the declaration of the security measure.

Last year St James recorded an unprecedented 335 murders, but since the introduction of the state of public emergency, murders have dropped to 96 up to the start of this week.

Among the people disappointed with the People's National Party's (PNP) withdrawal of support for any further extension of the security measure, which expires January 31, 2019, is Senator Charles Sinclair, councillor for the Flanker Division in St James.

Sinclair declared that the PNP should be blamed for any killings in the parish after the SOE is lifted.

“Any death of any person in St James or any maiming of person in St James after the expiration of the existing state of emergency is going to be blood on the shoulders of Peter Phillips, Peter Bunting, Mark Golding and every other member of the Opposition who voted 'no' yesterday (Tuesday),” Sinclair argued yesterday.

“Basically, I must say that I am disappointed and I speak on behalf of many persons who have spoken to me.”

Gloria Henry, president of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), expressed hope that the SOE will be replaced by an equally effective crime-fighting strategy.

“Certainly, I wouldn't like to return to the dark days in Montego Bay. Those days meant workers within the sector being scared to travel throughout their communities at certain hours at night, and we wouldn't want to see the kind of activities that was threatening, tarnishing and eroding the reputation of Montego Bay. So I trust that some kind of measure will be put in place to sustain the effort and the gains that we have realised under the SOE. Something of equal importance it would have to be,” she argued.

Meanwhile, Sinclair said that the policing strategies that have been enforced since 2012 up to the time of the declaration of the SOE were ineffective in curbing the spate of killings which shadowed the parish.

“The premise on which the Opposition took the declaration decision is a faulty one, because what I heard being said by Peter Phillips about activities being carried out without a state of emergency, all those activities were activities that were carried out under the previous Administration between 2012 and 2016 — curfews, police and soldiers being in the space working without a particular legal framework, and the murders that took place between 2012 to 2016 in St James. You saw an increase every year in the murder rate by about 20 per cent until it got to where it got to just prior to the state of emergency,” Sinclair pointed out.

And, speaking at the Mayor's Charity Ball on the lawns of the historic Rose Hall Great House earlier this month, Mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Homer Davis voiced his desire to see the extension of the security measure in the wake of the significant reduction in killings since it was declared.

“I am saying I don't think it's time for us to lift the state of emergency in this parish,” Mayor Davis emphasised.

“I have been in the parish for over 40 years, seeing what was happening, seeing the steps that were taken, seeing the results ... we are seeing some 209 murders less this year than at this same time last year.”

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce Winston Lawson told the Observer West late yesterday that the matter will be discussed during a board meeting scheduled for last night.

In April Lawson suggested that members of the Jamaica Defence Force should remain in St James after the expiration of the security measure.

“We are not naive. We know it is going to end. When it is going to end, we are not sure. [But] we do not want it to end unless we have adequate alternatives in place. My thinking of adequate alternatives must include adequate resources, boots of our security forces on the ground. So if they are going to pull the state of emergency... I don't know if there can be some sort of hybrid state of emergency where we still have some [of] our soldiers to work along with the police force,” Lawson said then.

The PNP also voted against the extension of the states of public emergency in St Catherine North and sections of Kingston and St Andrew.


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