PNP denies crafting new anti-crime plan
The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is rejecting an assertion from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that a proposed law to give the security forces powers to search places, vehicles, or persons within specific areas without a warrant was drafted under the previous Portia Simpson-Miller administration.
During his Budget Debate presentation in Parliament on Tuesday, Holness said that the Zones of Special Operations, Special Security and Community Development Measures Act, 2017, would give him, in consultation with the National Security Council, the power to declare any geographically defined area within a single continuous boundary a zone of special operations for up to two months.
He said that the legislation was drafted under the previous Government, but his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration was now taking steps to implement the law.
However, in a statement yesterday afternoon, the Opposition said that it was "disturbed" that Holness had "falsely" attributed the genesis of the legislation to them.
According to Mark Golding, the opposition spokesman on justice and governance, by making the claim, it was "as if he (Holness) is seeking to divest himself and his Government of responsibility for what will transpire in its wake".
WILL CURTAIL CIVIL LIBERTIES
"The Opposition is placing on record that this legislation, which will provide for so-called 'zones of special operations' in which basic civil liberties are curtailed, is entirely the creature of this JLP Government. It was not conceptualised, approved, or developed by the previous PNP administration," Golding stated.
"It is clear that this Government is determined to traverse, once again, the failed pathways of the past by pursuing measures that restrict important safeguards designed to protect the people from excessive and arbitrary use of state power."
The Government has been under pressure to reveal its anti-crime plan to stem rising murders, and last year, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo-Forte argued that rights might have to be "abrogated, abridged, or infringed" to address the problem.
Reacting to the legislation on Tuesday, Opposition Spokesman on National Security Peter Bunting said that it could violate the constitutional rights of Jamaicans. But that was dismissed by Malahoo-Forte, who declared that the bill is "as constitutional as it gets".
Meanwhile, at a press conference yesterday, the prime minister insisted that the measure was lawful, that peoples' rights would be given priority, and that the actions of the security forces would be held accountable.
The legislation is to go before a joint-select committee of Parliament, but Holness has urged his colleague lawmakers to ensure "its quick passage so that we may save innocent Jamaicans".