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Voting against SOE was matter of conscience, says Peter Bunting

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Voting against SOE was matter of conscience, says Peter Bunting

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-Large
South/Central Bureau
myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Peter Bunting says he was a “little lonely” when he ended up being the only member of the House of Representatives to oppose the recent extension of a State of Emergency in St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland.

Bunting, the Member of Parliament for Manchester Central, told hardcore People’s National Party (PNP) supporters at a divisional conference in Mandeville last Sunday that he felt “a little better” days later, when he got support in the Senate.

Opposition senators Damion Crawford and Floyd Morris voted against the resolution for a 90-day extension which was passed by the Government with support from three Opposition senators.

Bunting applauded Crawford — who was the guest speaker at the divisional conference — for going to the Senate armed with “evidence and statistics” to illustrate why the government’s insistence on states of emergency to fight crime was flawed.

Bunting, a former National Security Minister, explained to constituents on Sunday night that his decision to vote against the government’s resolution was “a matter of conscience” because he felt the approach, which gives the military and police extra powers, was wrong and unconstitutional.

He told the Jamaica Observer following the meeting that his decision had come as no surprise to the Peter Phillips-led PNP since it had been discussed at an executive meeting the night before the May 7 vote in the House of Representatives.

“I made my position clear (to the PNP executive), that for me it was a matter of conscience, because I sincerely believed that the way it (state of emergency) was being used was unconstitutional, and no one asked me to change my position. So it was not a surprise to anybody,” said Bunting.

The current state of emergency (SOE), set to last until August in the three western parishes, came into effect on April 30. It followed what the Andrew Holness-led government said were intolerable levels of criminal violence.

Phillips and his opposition PNP have warned that the party will not support extensions of the SOE indefinitely. They have repeatedly warned the government against “normalising” the measure as a crime-fighting strategy.

Previous states of emergency, since early 2018, in St James, parts of west Kingston and St Catherine ended earlier this year, after the Opposition withdrew its support. The government needs two-thirds parliamentary support for extensions to stand.

Bunting told Comrades Sunday night that having spent four years as national security minister, he knew that fighting crime required far more than just action by the security forces.

He called for more social intervention initiatives such as his Unite for Change project which had experts working alongside the private/voluntary groups such as the Peace Management Initiative to help communities turn their face against crime.

Bunting credited such initiatives for what he said were far fewer murders when he was minister.

“Under our (PNP) Administration, 2012-16, we had 300 fewer murders every year on average than the JLP Administration before and this current Administration now,” he noted.

He argued that Jamaica’s improved economic position in 2019, compared to seven years ago, after years of debt reduction and fiscal discipline spanning both Administrations, meant the current Government was better able to invest in anti-crime strategies.

“Horace Chang as minister has 10 times the capital budget this year than I had during my time as minister — $20 billion dollars this year. I never reached $2 billion dollars during my time as minister.

“Yet we had much better results than this JLP Administration is getting, (and) we had no states of emergency… I am not saying that we got (crime) to the level where it needed to be; I am saying we were getting much better results than we are seeing now,” Bunting argued.

He added that “from a constitutional perspective (a state if emergency) is not to be used lightly, but even from an operational perspective, if you use it as a routine tool it loses its effectiveness. The idea of a state of emergency is that when it is called, criminals must tremble because they know it is something radical… shock and awe.

“We pointed that out last year when they called a state of emergency. For the first few months it had an impact, but by month four or five it had started to taper off. And by the second half of the year, it was having no further impact at all,” said Bunting, adding that criminals were relocating to other parishes and restrategising.

He claimed a similar trend was showing up in the latest emergency measure.

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Hong Kong leader apologises as protest chokes city

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ABOUT two million protesters choked Hong Kong’s streets in a powerful rebuke of a reviled extradition law, organisers said yesterday, piling pressure on the city’s embattled pro-Beijing leader who apologised for causing “conflict” but refused to step down.

The show of force saw vast crowds marching for hours in tropical heat, calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam who was forced to suspend the Bill as public anger mounted.

Throngs of largely black-clad protesters snaked their way for miles through the streets to the city’s parliament, with the organisers’ estimate for the crowd size doubling an already record-breaking demonstration the previous Sunday in the city of 7.3 million.

The estimate has not been independently verified but if confirmed it would be the largest demonstration in Hong Kong’s history.

Hong Kong’s biggest protest to date was a massive rally in support of Tienanmen protesters in May 1989, before Beijing’s deadly crackdown, which sources at the time put at roughly 1.5-million strong.

Police, who historically give far lower estimates for political protests, said 338,000 people turned out at the demonstration’s “peak” Sunday.

Thousands were camping out overnight to continue the protest, including outside the legislature, with the police seemingly ceding the streets to the jubilant masses.

Critics fear the Beijing-backed law will entangle people in China’s notoriously opaque and politicised courts and damage the city’s reputation as a safe business hub.

Lam’s office put out a statement late Sunday admitting that shortcomings in how her Administration handled the law had “led to a lot of conflict and disputes” and “disappointed and distressed many citizens”.

It came a day after she announced she would postpone the law indefinitely.

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Massive South American blackout, 44 million left without power

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A massive blackout left more than 44 million people without electricity in Argentina and Uruguay yesterday, after an unexplained failure in the neighbouring countries’ interconnected power grid.

Authorities were working frantically to restore power but only about a half a million in Argentina had electricity restored by early afternoon.

Voters cast ballots by the light of cellphones in gubernatorial elections in Argentina. Public transportation halted, shops closed, and patients dependent on home medical equipment were urged to go to hospitals with generators.

“I was just on my way to eat with a friend, but we had to cancel everything. There’s no subway; nothing is working,” said Lucas Acosta, a 24-year-old Buenos Aires resident. “What’s worse, today is Father’s Day. I’ve just talked to a neighbour and he told me his sons won’t be able to meet him.”

In Uruguay power was being more steadily restored, with lights back on in at least three regions by early afternoon. Officials said they expected most of the country, of three million people, to have light restored by today.

Argentina’s power grid is generally known for being in a state of disrepair, with substations and cables that were insufficiently upgraded as power rates remained largely frozen for years.

The country’s energy secretary said the blackout occurred around 7 am local time when a key interconnection system collapsed, but the causes were “being investigated and are not yet determined”.

Brazilian and Chilean officials said their countries had not been affected.

Officials were not immediately available for comment, but many residents of Argentina and Uruguay said the size of the outage was unprecedented in recent history.

“I’ve never seen something like this” said Silvio Ubermann, a taxi driver in the Argentine capital. “Never seen such a large blackout in the whole country.”

Argentine energy company Edesur said on Twitter that it was “slowly beginning to restore” electricity, and power had been returned to 290,000 customers as of Sunday morning, at least some of whom were in the capital.

It said the failure originated at an electricity transmission point between the power stations in Yacyret and Salto Grande on the Argentine coast.

Uruguayan energy company UTE said the failure in the Argentine system cut power to all of Uruguay at one point and much of Argentina. The company said that some Uruguayan coastal cities had service by early afternoon, and blamed the collapse on a “flaw in the Argentine network”.

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Today’s Horoscope – June 17

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY for Monday, June 17, 2019: This year, you swing from one opinion to another and might often throw people off. This behaviour is not intentional, but rather the result of being able to see different perspectives and take them in with ease. Your understanding of problems and people grows by leaps and bounds. If single, you could be entranced by someone and think that you’ve met the one, only to feel disdain and dislike for the same person a month later. Make no commitments. If attached, you might be able to get where your sweetie comes from and create a more compassionate tie. SAGITTARIUS knows how to energise you.

 

 

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Check out an opportunity in the am. Give yourself the space to decide whether you want to be involved. An unexpected development could change your focus. Your determination to have what you want comes through. Tonight: A must appearance.

 

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Although you might not anticipate a situation, responding to what goes on could be important. A close discussion, in which you and the other party can relate more openly, proves to be more important. Tonight: Opt to be a duo.

 

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): You might not want to put off an important discussion. You cannot seem to come to terms with an associate’s or friend’s ideas. For now, make a decision to go along with this person’s thinking. You could easily see the benefit later. Tonight: Dinner for two.

 

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Your feelings are often more apparent than you think they are. Push comes to shove when dealing with a friend who does the unexpected or surprises you. You might not want to be distracted, but you are anyway. Tonight: As you like.

 

LEO (July 23-Aug 22): You need to pace yourself and take care of a problem when it turns up. If handled quickly, the issue could vanish easily. Touch base with a loved one or a partner you care about. You might be looking at a financial agreement. Tonight: Follow your heart.

VIRGO (Aug 23-Sept 22): Tension increases; you become uptight about all that you need to handle. Stop. Relax. Tap into your creativity. You’ll find an acceptable path. All will seem to dissolve away. Tonight: Acting as though there’s no tomorrow.

 

LIBRA (Sept 23-Oct 22): You could be tired from a busy weekend or recent conversation. You start the day energised but, sure enough, suddenly find yourself wanting a nap. Listen to your body; take a power nap. Tonight: A partner or associate stuns you with his or her words or actions.

 

SCORPIO (Oct 23-Nov 21): Curb your spending if possible. Know what you ultimately want from your budget. Midday, you could be distracted by what’s going on. Others seem unusually unpredictable. Maintain your sense of humour. Tonight: Visiting with a favourite friend.

 

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22-Dec 21): This morning you make a splash wherever you go. This afternoon you might be confused by another person’s reaction. Stay more on target; know what you want and desire. Tonight: Keep to your budget.

 

CAPRICORN (Dec 22-Jan 19): How you feel in the am has nothing to do with how you feel in the pm. Midday, your energy starts changing, and you’ll feel far more dynamic and efficient. Use this period well. Tonight: Full of energy.

 

AQUARIUS (Jan 20-Feb 18): Use the am well. You might have important business or want to connect with a friend. You’ll find that others are more receptive than they will be later. You have a lot to think about. Tonight: Take a personal night.

 

PISCES (Feb 19-March 20): This morning, others seek you out. They need feedback from you or to share their feelings on a key matter. Open up to new concepts. If you personalise what’s happening, a meeting could create a lot of excitement. Tonight: Where the crowds are.

 

(c) 2019 by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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