SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Blaming ongoing gang warfare for the less -than-impressive turnout at a People's National Party (PNP) conference held at the Godfrey Stewart High School in Westmoreland recently, the party's aspirant for the Savanna-la-Mar Division has made an impassioned plea for peace.
"There could be many, many other people in here this evening. Answer me! Why, war, war?" Julia Chang asked before signalling the disc jockey to play the song One blood.
"Some people came and they left because they saw some people that they don't want to see. River Top came, Dexter Street came, Harmony Town came, Russia came and Twelve Street," she said at the event held on July 2.
The fighting, she said, has impacted the entire division.
"Every single Comrade, every single person sitting here has lost someone because of the war. A father, a grandfather, a cousin, a uncle, a niece, a nephew," added Chang.
She called for a moment of silence to remember the dead.
"I want to ask every single… Comrade here to stand on your feet and we are going to observe a moment of silence for all those who have lost. Let us start here with love, rise to your feet," she urged.
Over the years, there have been clashes between the Dalling Street and Dexter Street gangs.
Last year, Westmoreland had the distinction of being one of the police divisions with the highest murder figures. In January of this year, as the violence intensified, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared communities including Russia, Dalling Street and Dexter Street a zone of special operations (ZOSO).
Speaking at the PNP event, Chang bemoaned the continued bloodshed, despite the ZOSO.
Among the latest incidents that have occurred within the area that has an increased police and military presence is the June 30 murder of a 17-year-old boy who was shot dead in a yard on Ricketts Avenue, in Savanna-la-Mar.
Chang, who said crime is crippling the community as it impacts commercial activity, called for a solution to the gang feud.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer after the event, Chang said work has begun, with lines of communication open between residents and the police.
"We have actually had a series of meetings with people who have been affected and the deputy superintendent [of police]. We've had persons coming from the community, but they don't want to be named," she said.
— Kimberley Peddie