JAMAICA | No need for States of Emergency to Control Crime says Opposition Leader Golding

JAMAICA |     No need for States of Emergency to Control Crime says Opposition Leader Golding

KINGSTON, November 16, 2021 - People's National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding says the government does not need to implement States Of Emergency in order to control crime, as the government has within its arsenal, legislation  to move police and army personnel to various communities and locations across the island without imposing SOEs.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Golding pointed out that  “It is just a question of how you organise your security forces, which has been going on for years. We do not need states of emergency to have police and soldiers on the ground in our communities. 

There can be curfews, they can be called in on searches without a state of emergency. These tools exist under ordinary legislation and it is a dangerous falsehood, fake news spread by this Government to suggest that having security on the ground means you have to have states of emergency. Nutt'n nuh go so,” argued the opposition leader.

 Peoples National Party spokesman on national security, Member of Parliament  Peter Bunting argued that the Government is perpetuating a “big lie” by using SOEs to allow the deployment of police and soldiers in adequate quantities in communities where there is a surge in murders. Peoples National Party spokesman on national security, Member of Parliament Peter Bunting argued that the Government is perpetuating a “big lie” by using SOEs to allow the deployment of police and soldiers in adequate quantities in communities where there is a surge in murders.“This SOE allows police to detain anyone w/out charge for up to 90 days. The reason for detention can even be quite trivial, like being outdoors during a curfew. With the renewal of this approach to controlling the population, Jamaica is increasingly becoming a police state,” Golding lamented

The Opposition Leader suggested that a balanced approach involving the strengthening of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) islandwide could be used instead of states of emergency (SOEs) to eliminate violent crimes.

“We believe in a national programme to save at-risk youth from turning to badness and the gun. The education system has failed so many of our youths. This programme must be well-funded and include mentorship, remedial education, vocational skills training, life skills coaching, preparation for the world of work and job placements,” Golding told the media..

Noting that the Government has effectively abandoned the use of the PMI, Golding said his party believes in the initiative, along with using community influencers as violence interrupters who are on the ground to intervene in conflicts and prevent a spiral of reprisal killings.

“Why is the Government going backwards?” Golding asked of the government. “Clearly, their tool box is empty. I must remind Jamaica that states of emergency were used for three years from 2017 to 2020 — they failed. Gangsters migrated to other areas of the country and murders he continued…”

“No long-term improvements were achieved by 3 yrs of SOEs. Violent crime still plagues our nation. The #SOE is a drastic short-term emergency response, not a sustainable strategy to reduce crime. No accompanying measures to turnaround Jamaica’s crime problem have been introduced,” he said.

Golding was supported by the party's spokesman on national security Peter Bunting, who argued that the Government is perpetuating a “big lie” by using SOEs to allow the deployment of police and soldiers in adequate quantities in communities where there is a surge in murders.

“Because they need to maintain the big lie — the big lie they've been telling for the last four to five years — they came to Parliament with what was relatively a superficial amendment to the Emergency Powers Act to pretend that somehow they had addressed the fundamental concerns that were raised in the challenge of Everton Douglas, et al to their attention and to the state of emergency more generally,”argued Bunting.

His reference was to a Supreme Court ruling last September that the lengthy detention of five men — Everton Douglas, Nicholas Heat, Courtney Hall, Gavin Nobel, and Courtney Thompson in the case of Everton Douglas et al v the Ministry of National Security, the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General — under the SOE was unconstitutional.

If the young men being detained under the states of emergency (SOEs) were children of privilege, the outcry from Jamaican citizens would be so strident that the Government would be forced to immediately revoke them, Opposition Spokesman on National Security Peter Bunting charged.

Citing an extract from the ruling by Justice Bertram Morrison that the prolonged detention of five men under states of emergency was unlawful, Bunting said that the country’s poorest would be unfairly targeted by the security measure.

“If two dozen young men, the sons of the leaders of the private sector or the sons of those living in upper St Andrew were detained without charge for one week in this country, we would have no more states of emergency. It would not be tolerated,” Bunting said, declaring that access to liberty was the most fundamental right guaranteed in the Jamaican Constitution, Bunting, a former minister of national security, emphasised that the law must be respected.

“The Government is so committed to the big lie that they have totally misallocated resources between the JDF and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). The JDF has seen 100 per cent increase in their recurrent budget in the last few years compared with only a 30 per cent increase of the JCF,” Bunting said, adding that there needs to be a state of emergency to address corruption, social conditions and social investments in communities.

Opposition Senator Donna Scott-Mottley who shadows the justice and gender affairs portfolio, said that in 2018 when SOEs were first declared, more than 3,000 young men were detained and only four per cent of them were charged, many with minor offences.Opposition Senator Donna Scott-Mottley who shadows the justice and gender affairs portfolio, said that in 2018 when SOEs were first declared, more than 3,000 young men were detained and only four per cent of them were charged, many with minor offences.Opposition Senator Donna Scott-Mottley, who shadows the justice and gender affairs portfolio, said that in 2018 when SOEs were first declared, more than 3,000 young men were detained and only four per cent of them were charged, many with minor offences.

“We come now to 2021 and we have no guarantees that this will not happen again, because this Government governs in panic mode. So when things seem to reach a crisis in terms of murders, what they do is reach for the only tool that they have, which is the SOE,” she said.

Scott-Mottley said that the democratic foundations on which the Constitution was framed made it very clear that an SOE should only be called under certain circumstances.

On Sunday, the Government declared seven SOEs across St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, and the Kingston Central, Kingston Eastern, St Andrew South, and Kingston Western police divisions in the Corporate Area. This was in response to brutal murders and other incidents of violent crimes across the island.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte said  that the government  has the power to hold persons without proferring charges as a pre-emptive mechanism to prevent crime. 

However, she advised that detentions as long as one year without charge would not be tolerated in the newest iteration of the security measure that was last used in August last year.

Her  comments came against the background of a reminder  of a pending ruling on the constitutionality of specific detentions under states of emergency (SOE).  “When the regulations are laid in the Parliament, you’ll see the new detention provision. You’ll see the time period that is permitted for preventative detention where it is reasonably necessary to detain a person from preventing him or her from committing an offence, the time period, and the time period for when a review is done,” Malahoo Forte said.

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