House to extend life of ZOSOs todayTuesday, October 13, 2020
THE House of Representatives is expected to approve orders extending the four Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) on which current crime control measures are resting when it meets this afternoon at the Jamaica Conference Centre.
Although it has not been confirmed by either major political party, and despite weaknesses raised by the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) in the debates regarding their 60-day extensions since 2017, both PNP and ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) sources have expressed confidence that they will be extended, with probably more ZOSOs as suggested by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, last year.
The four current ZOSOs are Mount Salem in western St James, which was introduced in September 2017; Denham Town in western Kingston, which came into operation a month later; Greenwich Town in St Andrew South Western, which followed on July 1, 2020; and August Town, St Andrew Eastern, which has been operating since July 2020.
Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has insisted that, despite the limited resources available for social intervention through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), they had been effectively working in tandem with the states of emergency (SOEs) to reduce the level of crime being perpetrated by criminal gangs.
“When the citizens feel safe, it will increase their cooperation with the police. They [security forces] will be able to disrupt the gangs, find them, prosecute them and get them off the streets,” Chang said.
On the other side of the House, MPs for St Andrew South Western and St Andrew Western, the PNP's Angela Brown Burke and Anthony Hylton, have consistently welcomed the presence of the security forces under the ZOSOs, despite criticising the level of social intervention.
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips expressed similar sentiments during the debates, including warning last March that if his party was successful in the September 3 General Election the ZOSOs would remain. He said that the ZOSO legislation, which blends hard policing and the social intervention strategies, could be useful in tackling the crime problem.
“There is scope for the ZOSO legislation to be used,” he said, while other provisions were contemplated.
The SOEs all came to a halt on September 3, based on an agreement between the two parties prior to the election and fulfilling a commitment by the Prime Minister not to hold an election under a state of emergency.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has not addressed new crime-fighting measures his Government intends to pursue in its new term in office. However, he is expected to speak to the issue during today's debate on extending the four ZOSOs when the House meets again at the Conference Centre, the temporary meeting place for Parliament.
In December, Holness had outlined a number of measures, including extending the ZOSOs. In addition, a release from the Office of the Prime during the first week of December had suggested that the Government was contemplating reintroducing the SOEs later this year. However, it is unclear how such a move would fit in with the Consensus 20 report from the Crime Monitoring and Oversight Committee, an independent body under the non-partisan private sector stakeholders team, to which both political parties committed just prior to the general election.
Under Consensus 20, the Government would need to complete its programme deliverables within the timelines stated in its schedule.
— Balford Henry