Security forces should decide areas for special zones - Sinclair
While fully supportive of the proposed Zones of Special Operations Bill, which is expected to significantly affect St James, the nation's undisputed murder capital, government Senator Charles Sinclair says that he has no desire to single out any particular communities in the parish for immediate attention.
Sinclair, the councillor for the volatile Flanker Division in the St James Municipal Corporation, says that the decision as to where the police and military should go must be dictated by their own analysis as well as whatever intelligence they garner through investigations.
"I don't believe any politicians should be making recommendations as to where the police and military should go or not go ... . To do so would create a perception of bias," said Sinclair, who is a former mayor of Montego Bay. "I believe the police are adequately equipped with the resources to get whatever intelligence is required, and they should use those capabilities."
Sinclair, who was like a lone voice in the wilderness calling for a limited state of emergency when the crime situation in St James reached catastrophic levels between late last year and early this year, believes that the special zones initiative has the capacity to address the concerns he opined a limited state of emergency would have addressed.
"I believe it is a good bill. It has enough safeguards to protect human rights," said Sinclair. "There are enough checks and balances in it to prevent abuse by the security forces. The prime minister has made accountability a high priority, so I have no reason to believe that citizens should fear this initiative."
Insofar as Montego Bay is concerned, Sinclair said that during the time that he was calling for a limited state of emergency, Prime Minister Andrew Holness visited the western city and met with critical stakeholders. He said that after listening to their concerns, he gave a commitment to finding a fix for the crime problem.
"I believe this special zones initiative is the answer to the commitment that the prime minister gave to the stakeholders," noted Sinclair. "I am confident that through this initiative, he will be able to keep his promise to find a workable solution to address crime."
... Important prerequisites needed for initiative
Before the new zones of special operations are implemented, Senator Charles Sinclair says that he wants to see two important prerequisites put in place to ensure smooth implementation. He wants justices of the peace (JPs) to be properly trained in order to play a supporting role, and he also wants to see a major sensitisation campaign launched to educate the public on how the provision would affect their lives.
"The JPs will have to be specially trained as they will be required to keep records of matters such as citizens' complaints, among other accountability matters," said Sinclair. "Proper oversight will be needed to ensure that all the actions taken are up to acceptable standards."
With regard to the sensitisation of the citizenry to the special zones initiative, Sinclair said that it is important to educate people so that they would understand what to expect and how to conduct themselves.
"The people will need to know that their homes and properties can be searched in accordance with the powers given to the police and military and that that is nothing to fear - once they are law-abiding," said Sinclair. "I believe once this measure is implemented with the requisite safeguards, it should have the desired result of curtailing the crime, which has been hurting St James so badly."
Last year, St James emerged as the nation's murder capital after registering a record 268 murders. To date, the parish has had 143 killings.