Mixed reactions in western Jamaica to decision to end SOEs

Mixed reactions in western Jamaica to decision to end SOEs

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, August 15, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — At least two custodes in western Jamaica say they are not disappointed with Parliament voting to end the states of public emergency (SOEs) in order to facilitate the September 3 General Election.

Following a vote to end the current SOEs on August 17 in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the Senate approved the resolutions on Wednesday, thereby allowing Prime Minister Andrew Holness to fulfil an earlier pledge not to hold a general election amid the emergency powers.

Reverend Hartley Perrin, custos of Westmoreland — which accounted for the second highest number of killings in western Jamaica two years ago — did not have a problem with the decision.

“I don’t mind. I am not going to complain… All I would complain about is if there is a resurgence and no one does anything [about it],” said Perrin, adding, “It [SOE] could not be indefinite. It could not be that years are going to pass and they [Government] have soldiers in every community patrolling and so on, no.”

In the neighbouring parish of Hanover, for which violent crimes were once a concern to the security forces, the Government and residents, Custos Dr David Stair argued that he was more in favour of a comprehensive crime plan.

“I tell you the honest truth, I was never a big fan of SOEs, but they do serve their purposes in cases of emergency. But, I think going forward, we need a long-term strategy to deal with criminal elements in Jamaica.

“I am hoping that there will be no flare-up in crime, but I think much more could be done in terms of policing… I think that we need to find strategies of removing some of these criminal elements and their sources of supplies, because if you don’t get to the root of the problem, we will always need a lot of resources to try to put a lid on these things, when we really should be trying to address the fundamental root causes of these problems,” Stair said.

Meanwhile, Mayor of Montego Bay Homer Davis, who has always batted for the continuation of the SOE in St James, which has recorded the highest number of murders in the western region, noted that “the parish is coming from afar, and the wish is for it to continue, and for the parish to see a greater reduction in crime”.

At the same time, Davis, who is also the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate for the St James Southern constituency, expressed confidence in the ability of the security forces to handle any eventuality.

“Both the JDF [Jamaica Defence Force] and the JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force] are building out their capacity in a very nice way, and the capacity can respond to any flare-up of crime and violence across the parish. I trust their capacity to deal with any escalation of crime and violence.

“If any group or persons, by virtue of the lifting of the state of emergency, see it as an opportunity to create mayhem, I am sure that the security forces will not sit by and allow them to create mayhem across the parish of St James. And, I am sure that the citizens of this parish are not prepared to sit and see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing,” he said.

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Janet Silvera echoed Davis’s sentiment.

“With the reform that is being touted for the Jamaica Constabulary Force, with the restructuring of the Inspectorate and ensuring that they have the kind of equipment to work with, we feel that those are some of the things that will help to reduce crime in Jamaica,” Silvera said.

The SOE was first implemented in St James in January 2018, and the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland were added on April 30, 2019, following a surge in murders. The SOEs have been extended on numerous occasions, with the latest extension coming on June 21, 2020. The June renewal was scheduled to end on September 3, but the Houses of Parliament voted to end the current SOEs on August 17.

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