JAMAICA | Gov't to reintroduce Emergency Powers as part of Crime Plan

JAMAICA | Gov't to reintroduce Emergency Powers as part of Crime Plan

SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland, April 7, 2022 - Despite widespread criticism of his government’s use of the States of Emergency as a primary tool for crime fighting, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is not backing down and has announced that special legislation known as the Enhanced Security Measures Act (ESMA) will be brought before Parliament and made public shortly, as a strategy to assist in the fight against crime. 

 Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Little London police station in Westmoreland today Prime Minister Holness said special emergency powers are required as part of the crime fighting strategy and plan.

“I do hope that a wise position will prevail on the use of the emergency powers. It is an important tool to give communities at war a sense of peace”, said Prime Minister Holness.

Government will continue to use emergency powers, when necessary, as a strategy to assist in the fight against crime, Holness declared, pointing out that it is one of the planks in his administration's crime plan. 

Reiterating that those who oppose this approach are in denial about the extent of the problem facing the country, Holness stressed that there is an emergency in the country and the Government and Judiciary must be cognizant of same. 

"The opposition to the use of emergency powers is a denial of the reality that we have an emergency in the country. It cannot be that we consider normal over 1,000 murders yearly. It cannot be considered normal that Jamaica is in the top five countries for homicide rate. We cannot consider it normal that young men can take a car, drive furtively along a road, roll down their windows and spray a street corner of innocent civilians," Holness argued.

"They may be caught and then they may get bail and then they are back at it again," he added.

He emphasized that generally,  the perpetrators and victims of crime are young men between the ages of 16 and 24. He underscored that the ESMA will place specific focus on this area.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister indicated that the Government has taken a comprehensive approach to crime fighting through Plan Secure Jamaica; a component of that is the use of emergency powers.

“It is a broad plan. It involves, for example, the use of emergency powers to address situations that are over and above the capacity to offer regular law enforcement. That arm of the plan has come under some question. It is before our courts. I don't want to go too much [into that] because it is a source of political contention. The Opposition opposes it," said Holness.

“When we used the emergency powers in the parish of Westmoreland, it worked. We cannot deny the history of the use of emergency powers. If any government should fear the use of emergency powers, it should be this government. And when we decided to use it as a strategy, we didn’t just immediately implement,” said Prime Minister Holness.

He further said:“As we pursue the use of emergency measures, our police force, our military understand that any power they have,  must be used within the law and with respect for the citizens;  I believe we have shown that and done that.”

Prior to the implementation of the SOE, the Prime Minister said the Government had gone through a thorough process of training the security forces to effectively use force without violence while carrying out their duties.

Finally, the Prime Minister announced that the Government is moving toward a compulsory national service programme to be rolled out in short order through the Jamaica National Service Corps, JNSC.

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