“Jamaica has to learn that if we want a different future from the one that we have had, from the experience that we have had in the past, we are going to have to start respecting the rights of every single citizen, and the rights of poor citizens are not any less than the rights of well-to-do citizens.” -Phillips
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, who spoke at yesterday's PNP press conference, insisted that “There's nothing that we have done that can stop the measures. The only thing that could not be done is the long-term detention of citizens, without giving them access to the courts. Everything else can continue,” the Opposition leader said at the party's St Andrew headquarters.
Dr. Peter Phillips told the media briefing that careful consideration was given to the decision, and voting for a further extension would be unconstitutional given the situation which now exists in areas where States of Emergency were declared. He said the denial of rights of the detainees is not justifiable.
"We have to remember that the original law giving rise to States of Emergency and their declaration preceded the Charter of Rights, and the Charter of Rights says that you can't take away any citizen's rights on any basis other than that which would be demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society," he asserted.
“We didn't arrive at our decision lightly. We are aware of all the political risks that are involved, but there comes a time when you need to do the right thing, the lawful thing, the constitutionally approved thing, rather than simply act in pursuit of political expediency. So we have taken the decision, we didn't take it lightly, but we took it after careful consideration and consultation. We even reviewed when the prime minister asked us to reconsider our situation in the Parliament. We withdrew, we considered it again and we took the decision because we believe that all things considered, the fact that no troops or police personnel have to be reduced, that nothing in the normal toolbox of crime-fighting measures has to stop. The fact that the results and the effectiveness are as you have seen, when we took all of that into account, we think we did the right thing by the citizens of the country.
“There is an illusion, if you will, that the ending of the state of emergency means that all the police have to pack up all their equipment and send them back to Harman Barracks in town or Up Park Camp. It is not true. Nothing has to change, except that if you detain someone and you want to keep them for over a week, you have to go to the courts and explain why. In fact, that provision of being heard by a tribunal separate from the court was made in the regulations, but in practice, the citizens have not been able to get access to this tribunal. Why? Because the detention orders that are required are not being signed.
“Jamaica has to learn that if we want a different future from the one that we have had, from the experience that we have had in the past, we are going to have to start respecting the rights of every single citizen, and the rights of poor citizens are not any less than the rights of well-to-do citizens,” the Opposition leader said, adding that the Opposition has a responsibility to ensure the protection of the rights of citizens."
Phillips noted that the Opposition embarked on a consultative process, taking into account the views of the residents impacted by the SOE. A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions that it would normally not be so permitted. A government can declare such state during a disaster, civil unrest, or armed conflict.
The Opposition has been facing intense criticism from various quarters since it decided on Wednesday not to support further extensions to the emergency security measures in St. James, the St. Catherine North Police Division and sections of the Corporate Area.
Meanwhile, the Peace Management Intiative (PMI) has joined the discussion on the States of Emergency ending next month. It is suggesting that the government and stakeholders focus on developing strategies to ensure that the achievements made under the anti-crime measure are maintained.
PMI Executive Director Damian Hutchinson while lauding the effectiveness of the States of Emergency, says the reduction in the crime rate can continue without the measures, with the help of social intervention programmes including the PMI itself.
Mr. Hutchinson argued that the Kingston Central Police Division is experiencing a near 70 per cent reduction in murders without a State of Emergency.
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