'Montego Bay under siege' - justice minister
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has expressed alarm at the rampant murders that have rocked the parish of St James in recent times, with 20 murders being recorded since the start of September, out of the more than 180 recorded in the parish since January.
"Since September this year, you have had 20 killings in St James alone. Montego Bay is clearly under siege," Chuck opined, while addressing justices of the peace (JPs) for St James in a town hall meeting held at the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists in Mount Salem, Montego Bay, yesterday.
Work with cops, gov't
The minister argued that the JPs of St James, and the parish's other residents, by extension, must get proactive in arresting the spiralling crime rate instead of leaving the business of crime-fighting to the police and Government alone.
"The question is, are the citizens of St James going to yield and surrender, or are you going to work with the police, work with Government, and work with one another to fight back?" asked Chuck. "Because we cannot surrender. We just cannot yield to those who would want to destroy your parish and to destroy Jamaica. I am begging you to be part of the solution."
Chuck added: "The violence overtaking St James is not something that can make St James and Jamaica proud. If we are going to fight back against the criminals, it cannot just be police work. Everyone of us must play a part. This is your community, and you need to recover it from the evildoers because if you do not, who will?"
Adopt proactive stance
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice Carol Palmer said that a proactive stance must be adopted in order to reverse the murder rate in St James and the wider Jamaica.
"We want to start our campaign for peace in our beautiful island. We cannot throw our hands in the air, and we cannot lie down and die. We have to stand and fight," said Palmer. "We can make a contribution to getting back to peace and tranquillity in this parish. We have work to do."
St James has suffered a significant flare-up of violence in recent days, which left eight persons dead last week and at least another three killed up to Wednesday of this week.
The outbreak of violence has led to a renewed call from minority leader in the St James Parish Council Charles Sinclair for the police to institute a state of emergency in the parish as a means of bringing the murder rate in check.