MEMBERS of Parliament on both sides of the aisle on Tuesday joined in one strong united voice to condemn the murder of two students of the Chetwood Memorial Primary School in St James on Monday.
In a statement to the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Andrew Holness described as “barbaric” and “a most gruesome act”, the killing of three Jamaican citizens, including the two young boys in Salt Spring, St James.
“I think the Parliament should stand in condemnation of this. It is important that each time that this happens we declare and reinforce that our nation does not stand for this; it doesn’t reflect us. I know that there can be some frustration, because it has happened before. This would be the second time this year that I would have called upon the Parliament to make a statement,” he said.
He said that this latest killing arose from a gang feud, noting that the people who are responsible are gang members and used high-powered weapons to fire indiscriminately in a public space “with what can only be assumed to be the intention to create fear and panic in the country, to create outside of the locality of the event, a national fear.
“In my opinion, it is the equivalent of a terrorist act and these criminals ought to be described and treated in that form,” he said.
The prime minister said that information from police sources is that a gunman alighted from bushes and shot up a taxi. The individual who was the target of the attack was killed.
“But two innocent young Jamaicans – one nine years old, one seven – who had nothing to do with any conflict and are not a part of any dispute – just innocent children going about their own business, looking forward to their lives, their future, and they were gruesomely cut down,” Holness lamented.
He urged residents of Salt Spring and adjoining communities who may have information on the whereabouts of the perpetrator to pass it on to the police.
“I urge the police to ensure that the swiftest justice is applied. I urge the police to ensure that the entire area is brought under control and we will give them the necessary powers and authority to carry out their duties within our constitution, respect for human rights and the dignity of the people of the area,” he said.
In his remarks, Opposition Leader Mark Golding agreed with the sentiments expressed by the prime minister, also condemning “in the most profound terms, the act of extreme violence, the depravity with which those two young Jamaicans, primary school boys, lost their lives.
“Each time we rise to speak on a subject like this, one has to wonder when will it be the last time that we have to so,” he said.
“Too often in Jamaica, innocent people who have nothing to do with any wrongdoing of any kind, end up either losing their lives or being permanently paralysed or otherwise impaired physically, no doubt emotionally, as a result of this kind of violence. Multiple murders are becoming prevalent. We’re told that murder numbers this year are down versus last year, but the atmosphere in which we live suggests that we are still living in a terrible crisis of violent crime,” he said.
Golding said that in expressing horror about the killings and expressing condolences to the families who are grieving, legislators should use this opportunity to recommit ourselves to working in the best interest of Jamaica to try and solve this problem.
In the meantime, Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams said her heart was heavy in light of the recent tragic attacks on children, and expressed the “harshest of condemnation on those who committed these acts”.
“The pain and sorrow that our communities are enduring [is] immeasurable and my thoughts and prayers go out to the affected families and friends who are grappling with these unfathomable losses. Our hearts grieve for two of our male students from Chetwood Memorial Primary and an adult who were shot and killed in a car on their way home,” Williams said.