Thu | Nov 23, 2017

St James PMI still committed to supporting ZOSO

Published:Thursday | October 5, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas

WESTERN BUREAU:

Despite the distraction caused by recent statements from Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) managing director Omar Sweeny, which infuriated some residents of Mount Salem in St James, the parish's Peace Management Initiative (PMI) office will continue to engage in the social intervention programmes planned for the community.

Reverend Everton Jackson, who heads the PMI in St James, said that his organisation would always be on standby to partner with other agencies to work in Mt Salem for the duration of the zone of special operations (ZOSO), which Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared in the community on September 1.

"Yes, there is an area of concern, but we don't want to comment on it at this point in time," said Jackson in reference to the situation with Sweeney.

"What I can comment on is the openness of the PMI to partner with all agencies in the delivery of the social intervention programmes in Mt Salem. We stand ready, and whenever we are called upon, we will respond accordingly."

 

Residents up in arms

 

Residents of Mt Salem were up in arms over the weekend after Sweeny reported that 85 per cent of young women in the area were involved in prostitution. The JSIF later clarified that the figure was actually 70 per cent and said it was based on a January 2016 study with a focus group of 46 residents.

Prior to Sweeney's clarification, which also earned condemnation as a result of the small sample used in the survey, residents staged a demonstration, calling for a public apology from Sweeney. He has since visited the community and apologised to the residents.

The overall ZOSO initiative has not been a good one for Mt Salem as the residents believe that the community has been badly stigmatised by the initial data that was used to declare the ZOSO and then by Sweeney's comments.

When Holness announced Mt Salem as the first ZOSO, he declared that the community had selected itself based on the erroneous data he was given, which stated that the community had 54 murders since the start of the year and one street - Crawford Street - had had some 16 murders. The Jamaica Constabulary Force later announced that the murder figure in Mt Salem at the time of being declared a ZOSO was in fact seven.