House committee to discuss SOE findings with police, army today

House committee to discuss SOE findings with police, army today

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

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THE conditions under which detainees were held during the State of Public Emergency (SOE) in St James will be the at the centre of discussions at today’s meeting of the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament, where police commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson and Chief of Defence Staff Major General Rocky Meade will appear.

The meeting was scheduled in November to allow the head of the security forces and their teams to respond to some of the concerns raised in a report by Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry on the SOE in St. James.

Committee Chairman Fitz Jackson insisted that the intent was to also include in the discussions findings and data from the just-ended SOE for St Catherine North, and parts of Kingston Western, Kingston Central, and St Andrew South.

However, Jackson, St Catherine South Member of Parliament, data on the Corporate Area SOEs were not available up to last week for analysis by the public defender in time for the January 8 meeting.

He said in light of this he had sought to get consensus for an extension of today’s meeting, but this was not supported by Government members. “By virtue of the Standing Orders, any change in the scheduling or agenda would require a majority of the committee and not just the chairman,” Jackson said.

“When we met the last time, in light of what we had gotten from the public defender regarding the treatment of the detainees, we felt it would be fair and reasonable to allow the head of the security forces to come and present their responses, before we proceeded to a do a final report on the subject,” Jackson said.

He noted that at the time the report was only based on the St James SOE, as Harrison Henry had not received any information on the Kingston Western and St Catherine North operations.

Meanwhile, Government MP and committee member Leslie Campbell told the Jamaica Observer that he noted the “attempt to postpone the meeting”, but argued that there were no exceptional circumstances that warranted such action.

“I received correspondence from the committee clerk indicating that the chairman was proposing a postponement, [but] decisions aren’t taken by the chairman. The committee operates on the basis that we reconvene, based on the date set at that meeting. They (police an army) were asked to come to answer questions in relation to what was submitted by the public defender. The adjournment was being sought on [the]basis that the public defender had not had an opportunity to prepare something in relation to St Catherine North and Kingston. That has nothing to do with the issues that are currently before the committee,” he asserted.

Campbell stressed that the report on St Catherine North and parts of the Corporate Area could be dealt with in an additional report.

The SOE for St Catherine North expired on January 2, and yesterday for parts of Kingston Western, Kingston Central, and St Andrew South police divisions. The St James SOE expires on January 31.

The public defender’s report to the committee in November and has since been the subject of public discourse, with the St James police refuting the findings, including detentions and lock-up conditions, which Harrison Henry had categorised as unconstitutional.

— Alphea Saunders

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