'Even until Christmas'
Some Salt Spring residents want SOE extended
A security post set up in McGhie Top, Salt Spring as part of the ongoing SOE that ends Wednesday.

SALT SPRING, St James — McGhie Top in Salt Spring, St James, felt lighter during a visit on Monday. Residents interviewed still asked not to be identified by name but they were visibly happier than the days immediately after two little boys were gunned down as they travelled in a taxi on November 6.

There was even a group of men enjoying a beer in the morning sun.

"Couldn't do this two weeks ago, had to be listening out and ready to lock my business place," one man said as he sipped his cold beverage.

He and others credit the state of public emergency (SOE) declared by the Government on November 8 for the life-saving calm.

But now they are worried about what will happen if it ends on Wednesday. The SOE can only be extended if the Parliamentary Opposition votes with the Government. That is unlikely as the People's National Party (PNP) has consistently opposed the use of SOEs for the long term.

The McGhie Top resident enjoying his beer on Monday is among those who think 14 days is not enough time.

"Yeah man, it can go up till Christmas man — two weeks too short," he said.

"Don't have any problem with [the security forces stationed in the community] because we sleep good at night-time," he added.

For one shop owner in Repasture, where one of the slain little boys lived, the SOE has been bad for her business but she also wants it extended. If it ends on Wednesday, she said, she may have to keep her granddaughter from attending school.

"If them lift up now I won't be sending her back up to school then. Don't want to be at the wrong place at the wrong time," said the woman.

She is terrified at the thought that her granddaughter could meet the same fate as seven-year-old Justin Perry and nine-year-old Nahcoliva Smith. The boys were on their way home when the bullets from a heavy-duty assault rifle ripped through the body of Tevin Hayle and killed them.

"Suppose as we are going up there we are the wrong person in a car that get shoot up? We have to think about those things," said the worried grandmother.

For her, the choice between economic survival and safety is an easy one to make. Under the SOE, business places like hers are shuttered earlier than usual, and she has been feeling the pinch.

"I've been suffering under it [the SOE] with my shop, that's where I do my business. My job is this — to run my business — so when them lock me 8:00 pm I don't have any control; I have to work with the Government," she stated.

She pointed out, though, that without the security forces marauding gunmen could also have forced her to close early.

"We just want a little more time [for the SOE]; we uncomfortable but I will live with it," she said.

"It shouldn't stop because what is happening can't cool down for two weeks, it can't cool down for two weeks. They haven't found any guns, no men haven't been found in here. Them say they find two men — one in Barrett Town and one in St Elizabeth — but where are the others?" she asked.

She is hoping the SOE will remain in place long enough for them to feel safe during the holiday season.

"Give us until in the Christmas week. Give us some more, even two more week or three more week, [and then] we can see what's going on from there," the Repasture resident appealed.

A third resident who said the police presence makes the children feel safe, also said he wants the SOE extended.

"We feel secure because the thing kinda calm down and the people feel free to go to work and come in and feel safe," he explained.

In responding to the residents' call for an extension, assistant commissioner of police in charge of Area One, Clifford Chambers chose his words carefully.

"Anything that results in no crime being committed or a major reduction in crime is something that I subscribe to," he told journalists during an open day activity for divisions in the area that was being held at Jarrett Park on Monday.

"Not only that, any legislation that provides our law enforcement members with legislative latitude to act legally, and adds to crime being reduced and perpetrators being arrested and being confined in a geographic space that adds value to the team going in and doing their work, I will subscribe to it," he added.

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