The Patriots, the young professional affiliate of the People's National Party, has taken note of the declaration of a state of emergency (SOE) in St James.
However, we are concerned that the gazetted regulations have not yet been published. These regulations are crucial to the successful operation of any SOE as they dictate the powers of the officers and members of the security forces on the ground. We are also worried about the Government's insistence on using this measure as it has not yet proven to be a successful crime-fighting tool. Moreover, it is a burden on the taxpayers of this country.
Our stance is that individuals who commit crimes should be prosecuted and penalised in a timely manner. However, we strongly believe that innocent individuals should not be detained or punished based solely on their place of residence. Consequently, we urge the prompt release of the gazetted regulations and the establishment of a tribunal to consider applications from those who have been detained.
It's important to note that we should avoid detaining innocent citizens for extended periods. This deprives them of their freedom and ability to make a living, which has happened numerous times in the past with SOEs.
The Government declared four SOEs for St James between 2022 and 2023, but there has been no decrease in the number of murders in the area or any other western parish where SOEs have been implemented. During that period, almost 200 individuals were detained, many of them released without charges. This indicates that the measure has failed as a crime-fighting tool and the real criminals are still at large.
We urge the Government to publish the full details of individuals charged after being detained under the SOEs. We also remind the Government of the zones of special operations (ZOSO) legislation, which can be used as a more effective crime-fighting tool. It has a social intervention aspect proven to reduce and eliminate crime in inner-city communities.
Also, SOEs have been a tax burden on our citizens, and the Government has faced legal action for their unlawful use. Judgments have been made in favour of the citizens who were unlawfully detained, and we urge the Government to disclose whether they have paid the awarded sums. If not, they should state how much has been paid to date and what amounts are outstanding.
We also request that the Government make public the number of arrests and prosecutions for major crimes during these SOEs, and we strongly emphasise the urgent need for a well-planned and effective strategy to combat crime and violence in our society.
This issue has escalated under the current Administration, resulting in the loss of innocent lives every day. It is imperative that we take action now to address this problem and ensure the safety of our communities.