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JAMAICA | PNP Leader opposes mass detention approach to crime fighting

Opposition Leader and President of the Peoples National Party (PNP) Dr. Peter Phillips Opposition Leader and President of the Peoples National Party (PNP) Dr. Peter Phillips
MONTEGO BAY, April 30, 2019 - Against the background of today's announcement of states of emergency (SOE) to be reimposed in St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland due to an upsurge in murders, the Peoples National Party (PNP) remains firmly opposed to its reintroduction primarily due to the SOE’s dependence on mass detention of young men as the basis of its crime suppression strategy.

In a Jamaica Gleaner editorial contribution, Opposition Leader and President of the PNP Dr. Peter Phillips said “we support a different, targeted approach aimed at the ringleaders of crime and based on strengthening our investigative capacity.

“The current policy of indiscriminate use of mass detention, facilitated by a prolonged state of emergency (SOE), is at the heart of the suppression strategy. It is a dangerous and unconstitutional one, and Jamaica will certainly reap the whirlwind if we continue down this road,” Dr. Phillips warned.

He continued : “More than 10,000 people, not including, those in Kingston and St Andrew, have been detained for extended periods, with the vast majority released without charge. The continuation of this wanton abuse of their human rights is guaranteed to leave thousands of young people with a sense of grievance against society. In trying to overcome crime, the Government is, in fact, sowing the seeds of a broader hostility by alienating our youth population and deepening social divisions.”

The Opposition Leader warned that “further, prolonging the SOE in a manner not provided for in the Constitution severely discriminates against small and medium-size business people who have their enterprise as their only means of income. Larger enterprises function freely, while smaller businesses are discriminated against and shut down. The only sustainable, long-term approach to crime fighting secures the broad support of citizens, especially those from low- and middle-income communities.”

The PNP President observed that “prolonged mass suppression is not only socially dangerous, but is unconstitutional. A medium- to long-term SOE is destructive of the rule of law for all citizens, not just the people detained.”

He said “Jamaica's Constitution states clearly that the suspension of citizens' rights, including the right to liberty, should only take place as a temporary measure in the context of an emergency that imperils the survival of the State or substantial section of the society. The Constitution does not provide for medium- to long-term suspension of rights as a routine part of fighting crime.”

Dr. Phillips cautioned that “lawmakers should never be lawbreakers. Upholding the Constitution is not just legalistic frolic indulged in by constitutional lawyers. It is fundamental for the regulation of our everyday lives, including commercial transactions. Lightly dismissing constitutionality has grave and broad implications for a society already plagued by disorder and indiscipline.”

Furthermore, he said “ the effectiveness of the SOE began to diminish after the initial shock and awe. Indeed, the JCF Periodic Serious and Violent Crimes Review, January 1, 2018, to December 30, 2018, shows that the impact of the SOE on the national murder rate is already experiencing diminishing returns. There was a clear downward trend between January and June 2018 in the number of murders occurring each month. However, that number has levelled off since July, and there has been no further decline.”

In addition, other measures of policing effectiveness have gone in the wrong direction. With the suppression model of the security forces in 2018, there were significantly fewer arrests, as well as fewer guns and less ammunition seized compared to 2017.

Dr. Phillips said he “strongly recommend a more fine-tuned strategy focused on targeting the leaders of the 300 crime gangs in Jamaica. It is these gang leaders who control crime and are responsible for our high homicide rate.”

The latest call for the re-introduction of the State of Emergency came last Saturday night, when Montego Bay's Mayor Homer Davis told an awards dinner put on by the Custos of St. James, that in light of an 80 per cent increase in murders across St James since the lifting of the state of public emergency (SOE) at the end of January this year, he urged an immediate reintroduction of the enhanced security measure to the parish.

'A state of emergency was imposed in St James in January 2018, which is touted to be responsible for a 70 per cent reduction in murders over the previous year. Last year, the St James police recorded 102 murders, down from 341 in 2017.

Last modified onTuesday, 30 April 2019 19:02
  • Countries: Jamaica

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