The Prime Minister made his displeasure known in Parliament on Tuesday when, in perhaps a last minute bid to have the opposition change its mind, he lamented that "Jamaica currently has a murder rate of approximately 47 per hundred thousand. This is almost 3 times higher than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean which has the highest homicide rate globally of 16 / 100,000 of the population,"he declared.
Holness told Parliament,"we are at approximately 8 times higher than the global average of 6 / 100,000. Bear in mind, that New York, a metropolis of more than 8 million people had a murder rate of 3.3 / 100,000 or 289 murders in total."
"On average approximately 18,000 deaths are registered in Jamaica yearly. By 2014 data, 67% of deaths in the population 5 years and older were due to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)," he said.
"However, in the age group, 15 to 35 violence is the main cause of death accounting for a 1/3 of all deaths in this age group. Violence is the second leading cause of death in the age group 35 to 45.These are the most productive years of our citizens. If this were a disease, epidemiology would classify this has a health emergency," the prime minister pointed out.
Prime Minister Holness went on to outline to parliament, the crime statistics pointing out that as of January 7, 2019; Twenty (20) murders have been recorded; compared to forty-five (45) in the previous year.
In St. Catherine North, for 2018, murders decreased by 28.5% and shootings by 40.9% respectively compared to 2017. In St. James, for 2018, murders decreased by 70% and shootings by 58.6% respectively compared to 2017.
"Though we have made significant gains in the reduction of violent crimes, we are not out of the woods. The criminal elements still retain the capacity, capability and the intent. Through the employment of the States of Public Emergency and Zones of Special Operations, we have been able to reduce the opportunities to commit crimes and reduce the capability of some criminals. However, the threat they pose still exists and are above the capacity of regular law enforcement," the prime minister pointed out.
Holness told parliament: "the statistics highlight that there are some areas of a specific cause for concern. We note that both Kingston and St. Andrew accounted for eleven (11) out of the Twenty (20) murders.
"With the resources at our disposal; we will continue to focus on containing the gangs; maintaining a presence as best as possible in order to reassure the public using all the powers available under the JCF Act to ensure the maximum level of security possible for our citizens. We have been doing so by using curfews and other methods at our disposal," he informed."The Government continues to allocate an increasing amount of resources to enhance the capacity of the criminal justice system and law enforcement to be able to respond effectively to the growing and multiple threats to our national security and our community peace and safety."
In a clear reference to the government's crime plan much of which was crafted in a two day retreat last week, Holness said "the government is well advanced in executing 'Plan Secure Jamaica', which will see the reduction of murders to below the regional average of 16 / 100,000 (under 500) within the next decade. This will take time and the development of the unity of purpose within the Parliament, the whole of the Government and the entire country around crime management strategies and methods.'
"To this end, I have continued outreach and dialogue to the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition and myself had a one on one meeting on January 2, 2019. Last night (January 7, 2019), we had follow-up discussions with a team of persons from both sides,' Holness concluded.
The Opposition said it was remaining firm on its position of not supporting any further extension of the State of Emergency, which was arrived at after careful consideration of all the constitutional and human rights issues as well as the usefulness of States of Emergency over an extended period.
The Opposition has maintained that that all security operations carried out during the States of Emergency, with the exception of arbitrary detention without recourse to the courts, were possible under existing legislation. The Opposition Leader said that the Emergency Powers Act could not be extended without violating the Constitution as the prescribed conditions do not exist.
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