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'Keep your distance' - party supporters may be asked to stay 200 yards from Parliament

Published:Wednesday | March 16, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Robert Montague, minister of national security.
Police try to control People’s National Party supporters during the swearing-in of members of Parliament at Gordon House, Duke Street, last Thursday.
A police inspector tries to calm Jamaica Labour Party supporters outside Gordon House last Thursday.

National Security Minister Robert Montague says that while Jamaicans must be encouraged to turn out and cheer on their members of Parliament (MPs) during the House opening, the Jamaica Constabulary Force must ensure that there is no gathering within 200 yards of the building.

His comments come against the background of two incidents last week during the opening of Parliament, where supporters of the People's National Party gathered at the intersection of Beeston Street and Duke Street and hurled insults at government members of Parliament. At the same time, supporters of the Jamaica Labour Party breached the barrier set up at the intersection of Charles Street and Duke Street and encroached on the periphery of the Parliament building.

"The laws of the land say there should be no gathering within 200 yards of Gordon House," Montague noted, adding that the police had placed a barrier at Gordon House.

"This administration supports the rights of Jamaicans to support their party and to come out and make merry. It's a part of our culture," Montague said, but he made it clear that the rules must be observed.


In a Gleaner interview, the national security minister indicated that the placement of the barrier where Charles Street intersects Duke Street could have sent a signal to party supporters that they are allowed to gather there.

"They know the rules and know where to gather, so I know they were surprised when they saw that officialdom was saying they should come up," Montague said of the supporters who had assembled at Charles and Duke Streets.

"And when you heard the news reports, you heard the sound disrupting the highest court of the land. You started out maybe to embarrass the commissioner, but you embarrassed Jamaica," Montague said.

With the ceremonial opening of Parliament expected next week, Montague insisted that the crowds must be kept at least 200 yards from the building. "I am confident that my commissioner will ensure that everybody will have an enhanced customer experience when they come, whether you are a diplomat, MP, or whether you come with the vuvuzela to blow because Parliament cannot open without the man and his vuvuzela and his bell and his tangerine and green shirt."