Zones of special operations absolutely necessary - Burke
Paul Burke, former general secretary of the People's National Party (PNP), yesterday supported legislation to empower the prime minister in council to declare zones of special operations as a far-reaching measure to stamp out rampant criminality in communities overrun by crime.
In a submission to a joint select committee considering the bill, Burke said that the zones of special operations are "absolutely necessary" with provisions for the security forces to focus on specific communities to save lives, and remove fear that is gripping residents.
Emphasising the need for the new law, Burke said that his rights and those of many other Jamaicans have been taken away by criminals. "I have witnessed first-hand the level of fear, people having to move out (of volatile communities); people having to be subjected to all manner of things; people having to allow their daughters to satisfy these criminals at night and cannot open their mouth."
Describing himself as a community activist, social justice advocate, political functionary, mediator and member of the Peace Management Initiative in the early 2000s, Burke said that the serious crime wave and its impact have made him reluctant to visit with friends in various communities at nights.
"I don't want to throw words, but many parliamentarians don't have that situation because they have their firearms; they have their CPOs (close protection officers); they don't understand and truly appreciate that level of fear."
"We should all want to see (crime) in the country reduced in the first instance and subsequently defeat the monster of violence regardless of which administration is in office."
However, Burke shared a major concern of the parliamentary Opposition that there was the potential for human-rights breaches and that it could be used in a partisan way.
He suggested that the legislation needs to be evaluated after two years to determine its strengths and weaknesses or whether it should be repealed.
Burke said that the legislation should facilitate compensation for persons who are detained for inordinately long periods without any evidence of wrongdoing.
He contended that for the zones of special operations to be extended, it should have two-thirds majority of parliamentary approval.
The former PNP executive recommended the establishment of a citizens' rights committee in each area where zones of special operations have been established. "This establishment is not for cosmetic purposes only, but would be empowered to bring actions against members of the security forces who carry out abuses and to recommend compensation and redress for the aggrieved persons."