KINGSTON, Jamaica— Prime Minister Andrew Holness has described as “reprehensible” the behaviour of two men who were caught on a now viral video, attempting to break the locks on the gates at Dam Head that leads to the Bog Walk Gorge in St Catherine.
Holness, who was speaking in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, said “the police have been directed to do a thorough investigation and the persons involved should face the full force of the law”.
The gates at both ends of the Gorge are usually closed during adverse weather conditions where there is potential for the Rio Cobre to overflow its banks. On Monday, as the island was being pelted by heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Ian, the same measure was taken.
The prime minister said the decision was taken to close the gates after consultation with the relevant agencies including the police, fire brigade and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. He also pointed out that people have had to be rescued in the Gorge in previous weather-related events and people have died.
The prime minister noted that the public would have seen the video of the men travelling in a van who were attempting to break the locks.
“What the public has not seen is that the locks were actually removed and the gates opened. Persons were successful in removing the locks and therefore persons entered that space, notwithstanding the public warning that was given and the physical barrier that was placed at the location,” Holness said.
“This kind of behaviour is reprehensible and should not be tolerated,” he added.
“We cannot, and we will not condone this kind of behaviour. It not only places the lawbreaker at risk, but every other citizen who would traverse that area would now be at risk,” Holness continued.
Regarding how persons who live in the area are able to access their homes when the Gorge is closed, the prime minister pointed out that there are circumstances when it would be too deadly to do so.
“When we close the gates, it is because we have assessed that it is dangerous to move so it is for their safety,” he stressed. Additionally, Holness stated that before the gates were constructed, consultations were held with members of the community along the Gorge.
He said it was understood that where the gates were finally located were the most suitable locations. He pointed out that no vehicle is to get beyond Dam Head when the gates are closed. When residents of the community get to that point, the agreement is that they would use a road that runs behind the Gorge to access their homes. That road is accessible to pedestrians only.
The prime minister emphasised that the gates are there for everyone’s safety. “It’s not about locking out or locking in anyone, it is for the protection of every Jamaican who happens to use that area,” he said.