MoBay deputy mayor calls for return of SOE after students killed in Salt Spring
ST JAMES, Jamaica — Rattled by Monday evening’s slaying of two young boys and a man, the latest in a string of killings in St James, deputy mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Richard Vernon is calling for the return of a State of Public Emergency (SOE).
His appeal came during a visit to the Chetwood Memorial Primary and Infant School in Montego Bay on Tuesday morning, a day after two of its students — seven-year-old Justin Perry and nine-year-old Nahcoliva Smith — were shot and killed in Salt Spring while on their way home in a taxi.
Twenty-six-year-old Tevin Hayle, a labourer from Salt Spring – who is alleged to be the target of the armed thugs – was also shot and killed during the incident.
The use of SOEs as a crime-fighting tool has long been controversial. The Government insists that they work, however, the Opposition and sections of civil society have argued that they are ineffective and trample on individuals’ rights. While the Government is allowed to declare an SOE for an initial two weeks, it needs a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Parliament to have the measure extended beyond the initial 14 days, and for up to three months at a time.
Vernon was firm in his stance that one is needed in the parish.
“You call a state of public emergency when you have an unprecedented situation, and our particular unprecedented situation is a culture of crime. It is not something that happened suddenly, it happened over time, a culture is built over time,” he told reporters.
“A state of public emergency would be useful to bring the situation under control, but, of course, it must be properly monitored so that there is no breach of human rights; because that is the major concern,” he explained.
Like his peers within the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, the deputy mayor said there is evidence that this and similar types of security measures can reduce crime.
“I believe that Mount Salem is a good example. Even though we have had several flare-ups over the past two years or so, it is still a good example. Because what obtained before the state of public emergency— then the zones of special operation — is significantly more egregious compared to what is happening now,” he insisted.
Vernon bemoaned Monday’s attack.
“Just to think that there is a conflict and the best way to solve the conflict is to shoot up public transportation; that’s a terrorist act,” the deputy mayor stated.
In addition, Prime Minister Andrew condemned the killing of the two students, asserting that “violence in all its form is abhorrent and must be strongly punished.”
“…When violence touches our innocent children, who have their entire lives ahead of them, and robs our country of their potential, all of society must stand up and say, ‘enough is enough!’