Chang says security forces to change strategy at end of SOE
Soldiers patrol Spanish Town, St Catherine on June 17, the first day of the State of Emergency in the parish.

THE Opposition Tuesday refused to budge from its stand against prolonging the current state of emergency (SOE) in St Catherine, forcing the Government to withdraw the controversial regulations tabled in the House of Representatives last week.

In the meantime, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang said the security forces have been very professional in the execution of their duties where the SOE had been declared.

He informed the House of Representatives that the sudden rise in gang violence in the parish’s capital, Spanish Town, has decreased since the SOE was effected on June 17. The situation in St Catherine, he said, has improved significantly, and while over the 10 days preceding the declaration of the SOE there were 15 murders in the parish, there have only been four since the declaration and in the last few, absolutely no murders.

However, despite the performance of the security forces, the SOE will end on Friday, July 1, when the proclamation which heralded its assignment expires.

“They will naturally make changes to the strategy and the deployment, and we expect to maintain this status quo, which is the stability gained [over] the last 14 days, and if there is any significant changes the Government will be prepared to act to protect the citizens of St Catherine and wherever it happens in Jamaica,” Chang told the House of Representatives.

“We have so far responded formally, both orally and in writing. The Government is of the considered view that, although both sides of the aisle are practically agreed on changes to the debate, more time is required to do a thorough review of the emergency power regulations and ensure that they are in keeping with the constitution,” the minister told the House.

Chang also told the House that the Government had also taken note of the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which awarded close to $18 million in damages to a St James taxi operator, Roshaine Clarke, for unlawfully being detained for seven months under an SOE effected in St James in January 2018.

He said that the Government, however, welcomed the findings by the court that the SOE and, by extension, the regulations were aimed at preventing and curtailing the increased crime rate in St Catherine.

He said that there is still no greater concern among the public than the escalating crime rate, and it was the conclusion of the court that the aim of the Government in creating the SOEs was a legitimate aim to deal with serious crimes, and the Government welcomes the sentiments.

However, he noted that, at the same time, the court also noted that some of the regulations were too wide and therefore were not reasonably justified for the aim, and consequently declared them to be not constitutional.

He said that the Government, in the meantime, has consulted the Opposition and thanked its leader, Mark Golding, for his written comments to the Attorney General.

Responding to the minister, Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding said that the ruling of the Constitutional Court was a profound juncture in terms of jurisprudence.

Noting that since the tabling of the regulations the Opposition has met with heads of the security forces, Golding recalled that the Charter of Rights were approved by a consensus between the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration under former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, and with the support of former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

He said that violating that input by unconstitutional measures is a “risky” way for the State to proceed because the compensation arrangements are such that it could be a huge cost to the public purse.

“I am glad that the Government has decided to spend the time to get the regulations in a form that will be compliant with the constitution going forward, and I welcome that decision,” Golding said.

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